Thursday, May 24, 2007

The power of denial

A few days ago, George W. Bush referred to the investigation of Attorney General Gonzales as "the reason the American people lose faith in the system" (not an exact quote). What he was saying was that the evil people calling out Gonzales for possible (likely) wrong-doing have stirred things up and caused Americans to doubt their own government.

From a moral standpoint, his statement is outrageous. From a logical standpoint, it is ridiculous. But Bush did not say anything that does not reflect business as usual in this culture. Not only do we blame the victim for crimes and horrors, we also blame those who call out criminals for disturbing the equilibrium. Think of how many whistle-blowers have been threatened, and how many have been chastised because they "ruined the local economy," "caused people to lose their jobs," etc.

This denial and reversal begins in the family unit. I cannot tell you how many times I have seen this pattern with regard to child abuse, and especially child sexual abuse by a family member: First the family does not believe the abuse occurred, and calls the victim a liar. Then, when presented with undeniable evidence--sometimes even a confession--the family turns against the victim with statements like "It happened so long ago, you had to go and stir it up," and "You are ripping this family apart."

I also hear people who have been victimized say of the perpetrator, "I don't want to get him into trouble." And I routinely see parents who do not bother to seek justice for a child who has been threatened, beaten up or sexually assaulted.

For all our blather about "law and order," we do not want it. People were horrified when the Watergate investigation took place because Nixon was a "hero." No matter how many times you tell people that Reagan was a racist, sexist, imperialist nightmare, they will tell you he was the best president in history. That woman who went off on me in the K-Mart parking lot a few years ago was outraged because I was opposed to some of the country's "honored" institutions--the Boy Scouts, the Red Cross and the Salvation Army. Never mind that the first one is bigoted and has been under constant investigation for financial hanky-panky. Never mind that the second one murdered several people in the 80s with tained blood and then was part of several major embezzlement scandals. Never mind that the third one is run by bigots. These are institutions that "do good."

Bush's statement is an accurate reflection of the American way of looking at problems: Do nothing, say nothing. And if you must say something, blame the victim, or blame those who expose the perpetrator.

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