Commentary Politics

The United States of Abuse

William C. Anderson

The United States is not a person, but we must ask ourselves: If it were, would the things that it does be acceptable?

In the United States, people are currently in an abusive relationship with their government. That relationship calls into question what our worth is and what our rights are as human beings. At the same time, some political leaders have questioned our loyalty to this country, our love of it, and challenged us to be accommodating.

You don’t ever have to accept abuse. Anyone who tells you differently doesn’t have your best interests in mind.

This ploy, which members of both political parties engage in, downplays the unacceptable nature of our relationship dynamic. Far too many of us living in this country are giving and have given much more love to this country than it has given us in return. And some of us give this country love without ever seeing any love at all from it. All of this begs us to ask what needs to change. The reasonable solution is that we should remove ourselves from this abusive relationship, like anyone being abused should, for our own betterment.

Like many abusers, the United States has always had a way with words. The founding documents of the United States are filled with language about equality and welfare despite being thoroughly peppered with exclusions to whom those ideals would apply. From the Declaration of Independence with its mention of “merciless Indian savages” and its exclusion of women in the words “all men are created equal,” to the Constitution’s classification of Black people as three-fifths human—the message has always been that inalienable human rights weren’t for everyone. The consistent violence and disappointment of a nation that has made countless promises only to break them is an emotionally manipulative mind game. And repeated broken promises—such as the fruitless promise of liberty, justice, and freedom for all—are not something to be excused and accepted.

The United States is not a person, but we must ask ourselves: If it were, would the things it does be acceptable? Herein may lie some of the reasons abuse in interpersonal relationships is so pervasive. Just as interpersonal violence—especially against women—is regularly accepted and victims are often blamed, the violence of government is sanitized by mainstream historical recollections in such a way that it’s normal when present-day manifestations of these legacies occur. Just like an abusive partner who gaslights and misleads to maintain their control in a relationship, state violence depends on dishonesty to beautify its own plain ugliness. Love for country is melded into love for the state, even though we may love where we live while hating everything about how where we live is run.

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Abusive people regularly will use things like intimacy, charm, and attachment as a means of manipulating you into thinking you love how they abuse you. When you demand your right to be treated better, they’ll blame you and question your loyalty. And those who enable abusers will follow that rationale just the same. According to this logic, those of us in the United States are supposed to suffer, be brutalized, and possibly die or be killed as an expression of love for our abuser. For example, think of how the government demands that Black people reject self-defense as a right even as we are commonly extrajudicially murdered by police and white racists. The overemphasis on pacifism as a means of securing better treatment takes the onus off of our abusers and demands we risk death in order to prove we should be treated better. The domestic violence that pervades the United States relies on the same reasoning to encourage women to not defend themselves from abusive men. Women who defend themselves against violent men who are abusing them are criminalized for doing so. Likewise, the state demands all protests against it be “peaceful.”

Though anyone can be abused in a relationship regardless of gender, recognizing the disproportionate rate at which women (especially trans women) experience violence is crucial. The recognition of the abusive relationships we have with government shouldn’t neglect or minimize the fact that the state preferentially oppresses some more than others. The U.S. empire has relied heavily on patriarchal violence to accumulate wealth. Enslaved Black women’s childbearing repeatedly added to the enslaved workforce responsible for the vast wealth the United States would develop. Native women and their children were also targeted by European settlers in an act of genocide. The legacies of violence like these carry on into our present.

Violence and abuse are foundational parts of what made the United States. U.S. capitalism has always defined itself as a forceful abuser: from those unpaid and brutally treated enslaved women who were forced to reproduce the nation’s workforce, to the marginalized communities today who are being robbed by mass incarceration of their family members and loved ones, to the people who work in the fields, sweatshops, and homes throughout the Global South that this country exploits. Abuse is the standard.

Politicians would have us falsely believe that suffering violence, lies, and emotional abuse with no health care or social safety net makes us good citizens. Tolerating the ups and mostly downs of the nation is supposed to be something like a labor of love. This is made clear in the famous cherry-picked words from President John F. Kennedy’s 1961 inaugural address where he said, “My fellow Americans: ask not what your country can do for you—ask what you can do for your country. My fellow citizens of the world: ask not what America will do for you, but what together we can do for the freedom of man.”

The United States relies heavily on exploited labor both domestically and internationally while telling those it marginalizes that they need to embrace their exploitation for their own betterment. This is the definition of an abusive relationship.

Reciprocal efforts make love an actualization instead of an unanswered question. So it only makes sense to examine the love of someone who stuffs themselves while you starve. Despite being the so-called leader of the free world, the United States does not even guarantee to reciprocate basic services like disaster relief, heated schools, or clean water to its residents. Evidence shows that this relationship is particularly one-sided. What needs to happen is apparent: We need to end our abusive relationship with the United States of America.

There is no excuse for any continuation of this current relationship as it stands. Any denial of this fact is rooted in absurdity at the behest of power and oppression, which remain the abusive status quo. If the wealthiest nation in the world cannot meet the basic standards of a supposedly developed nation, it has to be left.

This leaving isn’t necessarily a physical trip, but rather it’s leaving the idea that this nation is functioning correctly under these circumstances. This nation that tells us we want to be victims if we complain, or that it doesn’t have enough money, or that it’s the best already, should be held accountable. Of course, there are those who are willing to tolerate all of this because the primary and most affected victims are people they hold bigoted views against. They are more than welcome to continue their abusive setup, but it should not be continued at the expense of anyone who demands better.

Healthy relationships work to the benefit of all the involved parties. If the relationship is to your detriment, you should no longer participate. The unrequited love that is nationalism and patriotic fervor will not save us from destruction. These delusions mark many citizen’s hearts, tricking people who have less than so many others into believing they have more than everyone else in the world. This is how a country without universal health care, with higher maternal mortality rates, and with regular school shootings becomes “the greatest,” despite being very bad in many ways.

After all, real love is honest, and if we’re being truthful, the United States cannot go on any longer the way it has for centuries. The end of our empty, broken relationship with the United States can initiate new beginnings in which oppression is not normal. It’s the realization of stability and peace we need to achieve the freedom many of us have never actually known. There’s nothing to wait for.

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