Classic signs

by Anne Moore

I was at an AA dance one time, and a guy there got into a huge screaming match with his girlfriend, and pulled her out by her arm. The community intervened and separated them, restraining him and gathering, amoeba-like, around her, but the ugly truth of their relationship was now unavoidably clear to all of us. I don’t remember if the event ended right after that or not, but I went home deeply shaken. He’d seemed like a great guy–funny, handsome, warm–and I was flabbergasted by how mistaken my judgment had been.

He was at the meeting I went to the next morning, which was the biggest group in town, so pretty much everyone who had been at the party was there. At the end of the meeting, during the announcements, he stood up. “I just want to make an amends to the whole group,” he said. He’d had issues with anger his entire life, he explained, and he was working really hard to use the program to get past them, but things got out of control that night in a way he hadn’t expected, and he knew now that he needed to put renewed energy into his own personal process to try to deal with this.

I felt reassured–my initial ideas of him didn’t seem so off base now, and his contrition seemed real. We’re all trying to get better, I thought, and here’s an example of someone who’s really willing to do that work. When I told my best friend, she said “you watch, he’s going to fucking kill her someday.” Apologies are just part of the dance, and a public apology of that kind worked to ensure that he got back the trust of the larger community.

Ultimately, the woman in the couple left. Maybe he did change, but I doubt it. My dad changed, so anything is possible, but he only did so after my mom left and THEN after at least a decade of really hard internal work. Like I said yesterday, I believe people’s actions, and Trump’s appointment of Bannon is a much clearer declaration of his relationship to organized violence and misinformation than any contrite 60 minutes horseshit.

The worst part of all this, for me, is this nightmarish feeling like I’ve gone back in time. I’ve spent my whole adult life ensuring that I didn’t get pulled back into abusive relationships like the ones that shaped my childhood, but here I am again, subject to the will of an unpredictable abuser. And unlike my mom, I can’t leave. For fuck’s sake, even if we do all move to Canada, he’ll still be here with his finger on the button, belching coal into our atmosphere and arming racist cops with tanks and M-16s.

But here’s one difference: I’m done apologizing, and I’m done thinking there’s something wrong with me. I do think we got ourselves into this situation–as I did every time I actively pursued a guy who mistreated me, which I did many, many times. Even us nice white folks in Pantsuit Nation need to take a hard look at our own culpability here, and the way that our privilege blinded us to the reality of this threat. But abusers don’t come after me because I’m too fat, or because I’m weird, or because I’m a lesbian, or because I’m a woman. They come after me because they’re hateful, and there’s no way I change myself to keep that vitriol from coming my way.

What I can do is prepare. So I’m giving monthly donations to Planned Parenthood, 350.org, the ACLU, Lambda Legal Defense Fund, and the Southern Poverty Law Center, and I urge you to do the same. I’m taking a self-defense class at my work, and I’m running my ass off. I’m upping my meds–not because I think I’m crazy, but because I need to be able to sleep and I want to be present for my kids so that they’ll have the emotional resilience to make it through whatever the future holds.

Come at me. I’ve been waiting my whole life for this fight.

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