Most of us dislike Donald Trump. He’s an overprivileged slob who doesn’t mind holding federal employees and the rest of the country hostage to carry out an absurd agenda.
Some of us can recall times when our lives were damaged by people of privileged backgrounds who placed entitlement before respect or empathy. We were good to them, but when we needed some small favor in return we were told, “Gee, I’m busy right now,” or worse, “How dare you?”
It can be more extreme than that, but for the sake of brevity I’ll stick to general examples.
Depending on whether you identify as conservative, liberal or something in between, you may have some preconceived idea of which is less excusable: The so-called elite debutante who has nothing to offer but entitlement talk (“This country would be nowhere without my family because we’re the ones who create jobs! Of course we shouldn’t pay taxes!”), or the take-whatever-I-can-get person who has no real future because of past hardship and abuse.
Although the latter person is more likely to be held accountable for breaking the law (as well as falsely convicted), most of us find it easier to pity the individual who was never given a chance. However, that attitude changes after a sixth-grade-dropout-turned-fast-food-worker throws hot coffee in your face.
Maybe we should look at ourselves before taking this much further. How many times have each of us taken advantage of something we shouldn’t have, using the convenient reasoning that we’ve given so much, and should get something in return? Have you ever shoplifted an item you don’t even need, with the logic that you’ve spent thousands of dollars in the store during the past few years, and management is gouging on prices anyway? Have you ever knowingly let down your child and defended your actions by recalling how many diapers you changed when the kid was a baby?
Acting on impulse is tempting because, well, it’s impulse.
In this blog post, I will not target the stereotype “welfare bum.” The person who receives a government check is not committing an act of aggression, and regardless of what some Republicans might claim that person is not bringing down the country. The person who receives taxpayer-funded benefits, whether short-term or long-term, may have complicated reasons for accepting that assistance. Please, never judge that individual/family.
The proverbial spoiled rich kids actually fall on all points the privilege spectrum. Those people may be venting on vulnerable individuals to even the score against their own abusive parents, the schoolyard bullies they knew years earlier, or the fact that they had to grow up without basics (food, shelter or something less tangible).
I know something about childhood scars. Although my upbringing was not what outsiders called deprived or depraved, it was.
Many of us have horrific inner demons, and some of those demons originated with external stress. We have times when we’d like to make the world pay for the fact that our lives are damaged, but if we’re thinking clearly we won’t attempt it.
I am not vicious with heterosexual men, although some of them played a huge role in the ways my childhood, adolescence and adulthood before age forty were damaged. Other men did not intervene, and during childhood and adolescence the adults who supposedly were responsible for my safety did not defend me. The aggressors were not men I consented to have anything to do with. Although I was more vulnerable than most of my peers, those men were drawn to me for the same reasons they were drawn to other young women. They felt entitled because of one of two things:
A) They believed they had been hurt by women or children, or
B) They felt confident they had done so much for women or children that it was okay to demand a little love in return. Yeah. Love.
When those men didn’t get everything they wanted, many of them persisted. Some of them walked away eventually (probably to terrorize others), but I saw a few repeatedly go into rages when they thought they were getting a raw deal. They believed they had been cheated by life, as well as by the women and girls they had a right to mistreat. It was always fueled by the self-empowerment instinct.
Although very few of those men had grown up under ostentatious conditions (I knew for a fact that some had grown up in poverty), their sense of entitlement rivaled Donald Trump’s. They were proud of actions that disgraced them.
Maybe we can do everyone a favor by ignoring the distinction between people who behave detestably because they are privileged, and people who behave detestably because they’ve been held back in life. In either case, it takes guts to make the effort to be decent. I didn’t seek revenge on men in general after being treated as less than human by many of them, although for years I was tempted. A concern for the difference between right and wrong made me dial back the fantasies of what I could do, if I held just the right paring knife in my hand.
I want to emphasize that I observe the same standards I expect from others. Although I was taught good manners and all that stuff, the way I was raised could have turned me into a very crass, selfish person. If I had caved to the worst instincts, I’d be a burden on society and whichever prison system got stuck with me.
This doesn’t mean I’ve always done everything right. I’m aware of times when I was younger and emotionally needy with people I trusted, and I regret taking advantage of their patience with me. I respected critical boundaries, but wish I hadn’t asked for help as often as I did.
Yesterday I was reading the current issue of Curve magazine, and learned a new word: Intersectionality. A basic online definition gave me a vague idea of what the word means, but it’s an entire social concept which affects the ways we relate to others. I plan on learning more about this because it’s at the root of cruelty that may target anyone for any grasping-at-straws reason.
In the meantime, I’ll remind myself of the decent heterosexual men I’ve known, and I will continue my policy of never wandering around with a paring knife. Just between us, that temptation has gone away, so it isn’t an issue now.
I’ll close this blog post with a message for damaged people (in any segment of society) who believe they’re justified in venting on anyone who is standing in front of them at a given moment: Your better actions will get you a lot farther in life than your victim talk, and you’re not the only person who is in pain. Show some courage.
While we’re encouraging broken people to exercise courage, it may also help if our society intervenes more often when an innocent child is abused and at risk of becoming a monster. That’s how a lot of this starts, and most of the time filthy politics seems to be in favor of looking the other way.