Are Americans Too Broken for the Truth to Set Us Free?
Sometimes, living in the U.S. is like being in an abusive relationship, says Dr. Bruce E. Levine. Constant disappointment has led to a spiral of disillusionment—even depression. What can we do about it?
Can people become so broken that truths of how they are being screwed do not “set them free” but instead further demoralize them? Has such a demoralization happened in the United States? Do some totalitarians actually want us to hear how we have been screwed because they know that humiliating passivity in the face of obvious oppression will demoralize us even further? What forces have created a demoralized, passive, disCouraged U.S. population? Can anything be done to turn this around?
Can people become so broken that truths of how they are being screwed do not “set them free” but instead further demoralize them?
YES. It is called the “abuse syndrome.” How do abusive pimps, spouses, bosses, corporations, and governments stay in control? They shove lies, emotional and physical abuses, and injustices in their victims’ faces, and when victims are afraid to exit from these relationships, they get weaker; and so the abuser then makes their victims eat even more lies, abuses, and injustices, resulting in victims even weaker as they remain in these relationships.
Does the truth of their abuse set people free when they are deep in these abuse syndromes? NO. For victims of the abuse syndrome, the truth of their passive submission to humiliating oppression is more than embarrassing — it can feel shameful; and there is nothing more painful than shame. And when one already feels beaten down and demoralized, the likely response to the pain of shame is not constructive action but more attempts to shut down or divert oneself from this pain. It is not likely that the truth of one’s humiliating oppression is going to energize one to constructive actions.
Has such a demoralization happened in the U.S.?
In the United States, 47 million people are without health insurance and many millions more are underinsured or a job layoff away from losing their coverage. But despite the current sellout by their elected officials to the insurance industry, there is no outpouring of millions of U.S. citizens on the streets of Washington D.C. protesting this betrayal.
Polls show that the majority of Americans oppose U.S. wars in Afghanistan and Iraq as well as the taxpayer bailout of the financial industry, yet only a handful of U.S. citizens have protested any of this.
Remember the 2000 U.S. presidential election? That’s the one in which Al Gore received 500,000 more votes than George W. Bush. That’s also the one that the Florida Supreme Court’s order for a recount of the disputed Florida vote was over-ruled by the U.S. Supreme Court in a politicized 5-4 decision, of which dissenting Justice John Paul Stevens remarked: “Although we may never know with complete certainty the identity of the winner of this year’s presidential election, the identity of the loser is perfectly clear. It is the nation’s confidence in the judge as an impartial guardian of the rule of law.” Yet, even all this provoked few demonstrators.
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