If you heard of a relationship in which one person refused to let the other go to work, go shopping, or travel freely, what would your reaction be? Would you call that a healthy relationship? Probably not. Those who have lived through the nightmare of domestic abuse would instantly recognize that these are bright red flags, warning that worse abuse is happening, or is on the way. Add to these gaslighting, blaming, shaming, and name-calling, and you have all the hallmarks of severe emotional abuse. Yet this is the nature and quality of “service” offered by governments to their people all over the world—even in parts of the United States.
I took the following questions from an online article about domestic abuse. I modified them only by replacing the word “partner” with “government.” They were written for the purpose of helping people determine if they are in an abusive relationship.
- feel afraid of your [government] much of the time?
- avoid certain topics out of fear of angering your [government]?
- feel that you can’t do anything right for your [government]?
- believe that you deserve to be hurt or mistreated?
- wonder if you’re the one who is crazy?
- feel emotionally numb or helpless?
Your [government’s] belittling behavior
Does your [government]:
- humiliate or yell at you?
- criticize you and put you down?
- treat you so badly that you’re embarrassed for your friends or family to see?
- ignore or put down your opinions or accomplishments?
- blame you for their own abusive behavior?
- see you as property or a sex object, rather than as a person?
Your [government’s] violent behavior or threats
Does your [government]:
- have a bad and unpredictable temper?
- hurt you, or threaten to hurt or kill you?
- threaten to take your children away or harm them?
- threaten to commit suicide if you leave?
- force you to have sex?
- destroy your belongings?
Your [government’s] controlling behavior
Does your [government]:
- act excessively jealous and possessive?
- control where you go or what you do?
- keep you from seeing your friends or family?
- limit your access to money, the Internet, phone, or car?
- constantly check up on you?
Maybe a few of these questions don’t quite make sense. However, in light of the events of the past two years, don’t you find that too many of these questions make altogether too much sense when applied to governments around the country? Around the world? What about you, New York, Los Angeles, New Orleans? What about you, Philadelphia, Seattle, DC, Chicago? Boston, Minneapolis, St. Paul? What about you, Austria, Lithuania, Canada, the Philippines, Australia? What about you, China? Between lockdowns, vaccine mandates, vaccine passports, forced quarantine camps, mask fines, censorship, and the nasty and mean spirited name-calling and accusations—or worse—leveled at anyone who dares question government policy, we have more than enough red flags to indicate widespread abuse of power in cities, states, and nations around the world.
Abuse is Abuse is Abuse
It’s time to call a spade a spade. Governmental abuse is just another kind of abuse. We call it the “abuse of power,” but of course it isn’t power that is being abused, it is people. Power, whether delegated or usurped, is the weapon of that abuse. It turns out, too, that perpetrators of abuse have a lot in common among themselves. Tyrants and wife-beaters, like snakes with distinctive patterns on their skin, have patterns of behavior that can serve to warn and forewarn us of likely abuse, if we are paying attention. Governmental abuse is as vicious and mean-spirited, as selfish and small-minded as familial or workplace abuse—whether physical, financial, verbal, emotional, or sexual—and it ought to be confronted and stopped with just as firm a hand. In those cases where it isn’t possible to stop the offender, steps should be taken to remove victims from the bully’s reach.
One common characteristic of abusers is to make excuses for their behavior when someone calls them on it. “We have to control people to protect them,” the government bullies say. “We’re in an emergency and drastic measures are required.” “If people would just cooperate we wouldn’t have to force the issue.” If you have ears to hear, you’ll notice that these same tired excuses have been trotted out a hundred thousand times in the service of cowardly and undisciplined men and women who torment spouse and offspring in scenes of domestic abuse. “I did it for your own good.” “I had a bad day at work and you should have known.” “Now look what you made me do!”
In movies and stories where bullying is depicted, the typical advice is simply to stand up to the bully. Bullies are cowards, we are told. They love to inflict pain and suffering on powerless people, but when someone stands up to them vigorously they will back down. Most truisms are based on truth, and this is no different. We can see with what excess of trembling and palpitations our own government officials speak of the “January 6th Insurrection,” and how they quickly called strong soldiers to their defense at the mere specter of citizens standing up for their rights.
However, the unfortunate truth about cowardly bullies is that they may be cowards, but they are also devious. Most grown-up bullies who still abuse people have learned how to bide their time. They learn to cover their tracks. If someone stands up to them once, they may back down, but then circle back around and get that person when they aren’t expecting it. This is why it isn’t always enough to stand up to a bully, especially not alone. More permanent solutions require a group effort, and must involve removing the abuser’s power in a more permanent way. Depending on the power dynamics, this may not always be possible. Sometimes the best thing you can do is cut them out of your life. Sometimes the best you can do is to get away.
People out there are struggling against lies and manipulation, against fines and threats and actual violence from their own government, yearning to breathe free. Some have already taken the plunge and thrown themselves on the mercy of the world, fleeing their homes as political refugees. Some are hesitating, counting the possible costs, and calculating if they can bear those costs alone. By taking the signs of government abuse seriously, we can show them that they are not alone. We can organize ourselves through voluntary action and be their bridge to a better world.
Getting People Out
Twice in my life I have been witness to, or involved in, getting someone out of an abusive relationship. The first time I was a teenager, and my parents were the ones who intervened on behalf of a young woman and her two-year-old son. Her grandmother reached out to my parents through our church, explaining that her granddaughter’s boyfriend was abusive. After speaking to the young woman and determining that yes, she felt she was in danger, and yes, she wanted to get out, my parents arranged with friends of ours, including a local police officer, to go to the young woman’s home while her boyfriend was away, gather what stuff she had, and get her and her son out of there.
The young woman had wanted to get out, but didn’t know where to go. She came to our home, along with her young son. They are part of our family to this day.
Through this experience I learned that emotional manipulation and control are close companions of abuse. Abusers want power. They do everything they can to gain and maintain their power over others. Even after this young woman had left the boyfriend’s house, he used every means at his disposal to get at her, often in the pettiest ways. Frequently, their young son was the weapon he tried to use to control her. He also spent a lot of money finding ways to harass her through legal actions in court. Only after years passed, and the boy grew up was she finally able to completely distance herself from her former abuser.
The second time, I was an adult, with a wife and children of my own. We met a woman, again through church, who had long been living in an abusive relationship. For many years she had simply suffered through her husband’s verbal and physical outbursts, but she had a grandson living with her, and she was determined to get out for his sake as much as for her own. Even so, she was still terrified of her husband, and struggled to decide whether the benefit of getting away was worth the risk involved if he should discover what she planned.
As in the first case, she didn’t know where to go. He had control of her money, even though she worked and he stayed home drawing disability. Without some kind of outside help, she would never have left, except perhaps through suicide, as many victims do. When we learned of her plight I thought back to the example of my own parents, and that young woman who has come to be as a sister to me. With this in mind, we intervened to help this grandmother and her grandson get out. For a time they came to live with us, and then they were able to move to a place on their own.
Even though she got away from her abuser, it took her a long time to work through the trauma that she had lived through for many years. We have stayed in contact, and remain friends with her to this day. Her grandson has since been reunited with his own mother, and he has grown into an independent young man, working and supporting himself.
Perhaps my experiences have primed me to be thinking along these lines, but it seems to me that a great many people are in immediate danger of being trapped in a terribly abusive relationship with their own government. If so, then like so many people before them who have found themselves in a similar abusive relationships, the current victims of government abuse are likely to need some extraordinary help if they are to get out.
Of all the symptoms of the current strain of political abuse, one of the most disturbing is the tendency the abusers have to attack and destroy the mobility of all those who resist them. For example, in those places where the vaccine mandates are in full force, where papers documenting multiple shots are required to go shopping, to go to work, or to travel, the people who wish to assert their fundamental self-ownership and refuse an unwanted medical intervention are intentionally brought under duress. They are isolated, their movements restricted, and their resources cut off. Many of them have been forced to choose between work and a shot they don’t want. They are shut away from society and made into scapegoats, blamed for the continuing crisis, and persecuted by the governments that supposedly exist to serve them.
One Horrifying Difference Between Domestic and Public Tyrants
Does this seem extreme? Does it seem far-fetched to compare the rulers of states and nations with lowlifes who abuse spouse and offspring? It is like comparing politicians who tax and spend unconstitutionally with common thieves, or comparing common murderers with kings or presidents who instigate wars. Their field of influence is greater, but the arrogant, vicious impulse that motivates their selfish, destructive behavior is the same.
Domestic abuse is a sordid thing. It involves all the most personal details of a person’s life. It turns something that ought to be wholesome into something destructive, and for that reason it has the flavor of a horror story. Most of all, it is messy. People are complicated, with conflicting drives and dreams. We don’t always love what is best for us. We can be manipulated, and moved by fear or anger instead of love. We can become momentary monsters. All of us have a shocking capacity for cruelty and viciousness. Many good, honest people recognize that and do their best to combat it in themselves. Some give up that good fight as a lost cause and follow their baser nature, to a point. Others charge down into the pit and make a home there. When the last group gets into power, God help us all.
Government abuse, though motivated by similar emotional and spiritual deficiencies, is different from domestic abuse in that greater distance exists between the abuser and the abused. Unlike domestic abusers, who are enmeshed in all the sordid and personal drama of their victims, political abusers are insulated from the worst of the personal suffering that they cause their victims. In their places of power and influence, they have the microphone, they set the narrative. They can wrap their abuse in pleasant platitudes, and—wearing the cloak of seeming virtue—still be hailed by their friends and sycophants, still be interviewed on television, still be wined and dined by the fashionable crowd. As long as they can convince enough people to assent to their depiction of the victims as deplorable wretches deserving of punishment, the governmental abusers can have their cake and eat it too.
Is it any wonder that political bullies in the past have gone to extreme, unholy, even murderous lengths to preserve their power? Are we to expect that tyrants of today are less ruthless? That they like their taste of unlimited power less than those who went before them? Are we to be like the proverbial victim, making endless excuses for our abusers? “He’s so sorry. It’ll be different this time.”
No. We are not.
It’s Still Abuse If…
The following is taken from the same article as the questions listed above. The author of that article wanted to make sure that we understand that domestic abuse doesn’t have to be extreme in order to “count.” Likewise, it is important to recognize that your government doesn’t have to be as bad as Hitler’s to cross the line into abuse. In this case, the word “government” was substituted for the word “physical” in four places.
The incidents of [government] abuse seem minor when compared to those you have read about, seen on television, or heard other people talk about. There isn’t a “better” or “worse” form of abuse; severe injuries can result from being pushed, for example.
The incidents of [government] abuse have only occurred one or two times in the relationship. Studies indicate that if your partner has injured you once, it is likely that they’ll continue to assault you.
The [government] assaults stopped when you became passive and gave up your right to express yourself as you desire, to move about freely and see others, or to make decisions. It is not a victory if you have to give up your rights as a person and a partner in exchange for ending the assault!
Physical violence has not occurred. Many people are emotionally and verbally assaulted. This can be just as frightening and is often more confusing to try to understand.
Only We Can Stop Governmental Abuse
As free men and women, we must be willing to stand up on behalf of those who cannot stand for themselves. If we love our own liberty, we need to be friends to all those whose abusers deny liberty to them. Otherwise, as Martin Niemoeller famously said, “Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.”
No one, in a government or out of it, has a right to demand that people submit to a medical procedure that they do not wish to receive. No one has a right to say that a lawful business owner must shut their doors, or only accept certain customers. No one, whether a doctor or a deadbeat, has the right to silence people whose words they simply do not want to hear. We have seen far too much of silencing, shaming, name-calling, gaslighting, isolating, assaulting, detaining, lying, and manipulation perpetrated in the name and authority of government around the world, and especially here in our own nation. It needs to stop.
For those of us who live in a place of relative freedom, we may think there is little we can do to help someone living in another city, state, or country. Then, too, It is so easy to turn a blind eye to the suffering of others, to thank God we are not in their situation, or to think that they brought it on themselves. It can be difficult to accept just how bad life can be for someone who lives just up the street, or on the other side of town, or just across the Pacific. We know that things aren’t always peaches and cream at home, and maybe we have our own stuff to worry about. This kind of thinking is terribly mistaken, however, because it plays right into the hands of the abusers. It perpetuates the lie they tell their victims, that no one else cares, no one else wants the victim around.
To end the abuse, we must be the people who intervene, the people who show that we care by our deeds, not just our words. It will be inconvenient. It will interrupt our own lives. It will require sacrifice. But to do less is to confirm the lies of the liars, and to tell their victims that, indeed, no one really cares.
We may not be in a position to remove the bullies from their seat of power. They may be entrenched, with henchmen and henchwomen flanking them, with allies among the powerful who turn a blind eye to their crimes. Be that as it may, we can intervene to remove the innocent from their power, to bring out of captivity all who are willing to escape.
We can help people move, to find places to live in areas of relative freedom, to find work, and to start new lives outside of the reach of the most abusive government bullies. From there, we can work to make the better places into the best places. We and those we help rescue can continue to reach more people, and they can tell their stories without fear of reprisal. Through word and deed we can offer an alternative to governmental abuse, and when a true alternative to tyranny exists anywhere on Earth, people will move heaven and earth to get there.
We can do this. Only we, who have the understanding of what is at stake, and the willingness to act, can do this. Let’s do this.