10 May


Louise Annarino

May 10, 2012


I received the following e-mail tonight: “Louise: Thank you for all the e-mails with information on the campaign you have sent us and others over the past 4 years. You kept us well informed. Unfortunately, Pres. Obama publicly admitted today his preference for same-sex marriages, (emphasis mine) which prevents us now to vote for him. So, please take us from your distribution list.” I must not have understood President Obama. I did not hear him say he preferred same-sex marriage. I am certain Mrs. Obama would have been surprised to learn of her husband’s preference, from these former Obama supporters. http://www.cnn.com/2012/05/09/politics/obama-same-sex-marriage/index.html


The President, like many others, has struggled with his own perceptions, misconceptions, and stereotypes of those who are gay,lesbian,bi-sexual or transgender (LGBT), His past reluctance is even more poignant given his racial heritage. There are those who say he should have known better, having experienced prejudice himself. Others are grateful he was willing to openly engage in the struggle to face down his own prejudices. His journey is one we can all learn from.


It is 2:34 a.m. I could not sleep and decided to write. I found the above note as I first sat down at my computer. I had not intended to write about the president’s announcement. I had been thinking I would write about the similarities between the way we treat President Barack Obama and how an abuser treats his victim. The above e-mail fits right in to the puzzle that is abuse.


Few of us are strangers to abuse and bullying. If we have not personally been abused, we are close to someone who has been. It is never easy to be the victim, nor to be close to a victim. An abused person seeks to escape the abuse in many ways: denial, deflection, perfection-seeking, appeasement, depression, hostility, violence against self and against others, even suicide. To get close to a victim and stay close is a struggle indeed. It is hard to watch someone be slapped mentally, physically, emotionally – often all three. It is harder to the one slapped.


So many have told me over the past few months that they can no longer watch television news programs, nor read the newspaper, nor read on-line missives which contain one demeaning slap against President Obama after another. Even liberal commentators on MSNBC spend much of their programming discussing the attacks. There is no escaping the hateful distortions of his record, personal beliefs, character and leadership. There is no escaping the outright lies meant to undermine the country’s confidence in him. The bullies cannot even credit him with the death of Osama Bin Laden, the resurrection of the auto industry, the steady creation of jobs, the lower cost of health care, the investment in green energy, the increased production and glut of oil and gas since he took office. These abusers credit him with nothing, not even his humanity. They hide their racism behind their abuse. No wonder it is hard to watch. No wonder we cringe in distaste.


Obama supporters know the attacks are meant to not only act as cover for those who oppose the president, and seek to destroy his presidency and his historical record; but, are also meant to turn his supporters away from him, to make any close contact with him so unbearably hard to stomach that even his supporters cannot approach him or his campaign. This is classic abuser behavior: Separate then attack,repeat,repeat,repeat. We see it. We know it. We hate it. We avoid it; and, in so doing doing we fail our president, our country and our selves.


An abuser is charming. He disarms any potential supporters of his victim with a story-line upon which he acknowledges a commonality with the victim’s friends and family. His remarks appear innocent; hidden behind his smile and slight chuckles is a comment assuming shared agreement with the victim’s poor behavior. He assures friends and family he does not blame them for the victim’s shortcomings. At the beginning of the abusive relationship, both the victim and supporters strive to please the abuser, catering to his whims, reaching “across the aisles” to make everyone feel better about what is fast becoming a “situation”, a falsity created by the abuser to separate the victim from his support group. By the time the supporters get suspicious, and uncomfortable enough to express their doubts about the abuser’s veracity, supporters have already ostracized the victim. Media personalities awoke too late to the abuse game being played out in public view.


African-Americans, Native-Americans, and others are not so easily duped. After all, they have been victimized by abusers for over 200 years. They understand the methodology of abuse and oppression. When I voice my outrage to white supporters they too often express a desire to avoid the election entirely. When I express my outrage to African-Americans they often tell me “shoot, this is nothing new; if my people got this upset every time, they would have committed mass suicide! You got to be tough.” They offer this wisdom, “Only white people can afford to get upset; we got to survive!” Those who think African-American voters will avoid voting for President Obama because of today’s announcement, do not understand the strength and wisdom of African-Americans to face down abusers. White supporters need to “get tough” and face them down, too.


We are right to feel uncomfortable. We are correct when we acknowledge the abusive behavior. We are justified in saying, “I can’t stand anymore of this!” but, we are wrong to abandon the victim so we can feel comfortable again. None of us should feel comfortable so long as any of us is being abused. That is why President Obama changed his position regarding same-sex marriage. Knowing members of the LGBT community continue to be abused made him more uncomfortable than his own discomfort with same-sex marriages, and his concern of potential political fall-out. He put aside his discomfort and chose to take the courageous path. It is time we all do so.


It is time we all acknowledge the abuse of others sanctioned by law, the ongoing victimization occurring daily in our local communities, and the abuse being heaped upon a president who continues to “do the right thing” while abusers attempt to undermine and destroy his every effort on our behalf, his personal integrity, even his personal safety. If you have ever suffered abuse or bullying you can see it as clearly as I can. It can keep us up at night, but it cannot stop us from supporting the LGBT community and President Obama.




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