Battered Voter Syndrome
I know the answer to the questions conservatives have about the devotion of President Obama's supporters. How can liberals give such overwhelming, blind support to a political leader who lies to them time and time again? How can they ignore the evidence of economic disaster, the loss of personal freedom, an incompetent foreign policy, and the government healthcare debacle that is Obamacare?
How can liberals continue to support this president?
I know why, and you might be surprised at the answer. The answer is love. Love, the most wonderful and terrible of human emotions. I came to understand the terrible side of love when I worked in a battered women's shelter when I was in college. People who are in an abusive relationship (there are men, too) love their abuser and desperately hope that things will get better. They cling more fiercely to their beliefs the more they are battered, until there is a snapping point.
This snapping point can take a terrible turn when a battered woman murders her spouse. "Battered woman syndrome" is a known disorder and can be used in court as a mitigating factor in a trial. More often, sadly, the battered woman ends up dead in a domestic violence incident that police officers hate more than almost any other call. Some women end their abusive relationship the right way by leaving and seeking help with a women's shelter like the Safehouse I worked phones for in Wyoming.
The Safehouse organization offers support and services to anyone impacted by domestic violence. One of the most important services it provides is a shelter for victims. The Safehouse shelter location is a secret. I spoke to countless men on the phone who were desperate, despondent, and heartbroken. An abusive man would promise me anything if I would just let him speak to his beloved wife so he could convince her to come home. Their voices were so compelling, so sincere, that you'd have to have a heart of stone to resist them.
I resisted. I saw the broken bones, the double black eyes, and the bruises on the women they loved. And it was in my training for answering the phone that I learned an interesting psychology: The abuser isn't allowed to talk to his victim at the shelter because if he does, more often than not he'll talk her into coming home. A woman whose jaw was broken and wired shut would embrace the man who'd broken it and go back home with him. She'd end up in the shelter again, even more battered, or we'd get the news that she was in the morgue. The Safehouse counselors, wise as they are, know the desperate desire of human beings to believe they made the right choice, that their love is requited, that they didn't make a mistake.
Here is where I learned to understand liberals who cling passionately to their political leaders, no matter how much they are lied to and abused. Liberals, unlike conservatives, fall in love. They swoon over their president, they faint at rallies, they create artworks of devotion. They don't just admire their politicians; they adore them. They practically worship them.
Ask yourself when conservatives worshipped a political leader. The very thought brings a laugh. We regard our political leaders with constant suspicion, give them our grudging support and holding their feet to the fire if they betray their promises. Even Ronald Reagan, now lionized in conservative popular culture, was constantly scrutinized while in office
How confusing it is for a conservative to understand that liberals think of their politicians as though they are married to them. Their passion for their leader is as difficult to break as the bond a battered woman feels for her husband. She's pledged herself to him, and no matter how he's hurt her she knows in her heart she is loved by him, she is supported by him, and she can't abandon him. When you ask liberals how they can support Obama in the midst of his lies, you're asking them to admit that not only is their choice of political leader flawed, but that they made a mistake in falling for him in the first place. This is a difficult pill for anyone to swallow.
The Safehouse works hard to free victims from abuse, and the first task is to free the mind from the trap they've built for themselves. Once a battering victim understands that she is not loved, was never loved, and never will be loved, the revelation is amazing. Like a light going on inside a darkened room, everything that was hidden becomes revealed. The next step is to free her from the guilt she feels for being so blind for so long. That part is sometimes the hardest of all.
When I interact with a liberal now, I remember the moment a battered woman realizes that her abuse will only stop when she frees herself. I hope for that moment for them. I try to lead them to enlightenment, and rein back my frustration when I can. They committed to loving this person, in some cases actually worshipping this person, and admitting they made a terrible mistake is almost an impossible thing to do.
You might be wondering why I worked at the Safehouse as a college girl. Was I an abused and battered woman? No. I answered phones because I answered my apartment doorbell one morning to a woman who'd called the hotline for help after her husband had left for work. They asked her to find someone to stay with until they got there to pick her up, but she knew no one. She was a college student herself, she was from Cameroon, Africa, and she was all alone. I let her in my door and fixed her tea and watched the bruises bloom and grow in purplish patches on her skin. Two of her fingers were broken and she held them stiffly away from her cup, as though she were a little girl at a tea party. She didn't cry. I didn't, either, not then, not until she'd left with the Safehouse volunteers.
That night her husband came knocking, which I should have expected but did not. I opened my door to a tiny man from Cameroon, Africa, who might have weighed ninety pounds soaking wet. This small man in spectacles had battered the woman I fixed tea for that morning, broken her fingers, pulled out patches of her hair. His eyes were wet, desperate, and pleading, as he begged me to tell him where his wife had gone.
"She's gone," I told him. "I don't know where." I closed the door on him, and the next week I started answering phones for the Safehouse. Six months later, I saw her on campus, healed, whole, a smile blooming gloriously on her face as she embraced me and chatted with me. She'd never gone back to him. She's free.
It can happen to liberals, too. Just keep trying, and try to be as wise as the Safehouse volunteers I met who never judged and never berated. Most of all, be like a Safehouse volunteer, and never give up.
image courtesy shutterstock / motorolka