Abusive Relationships

  • December 19, 2023

If you’ve ever read about abusive relationships, you already know one of the top five criteria defining such.

If you try to leave me . . . I’ll kill you.

The relationship, in other words, isn’t consensual and thus by definition violent. More precisely, it is one-sidedly violent. The violent party uses threats of violence (and if those aren’t sufficient) actual violence to force the other party to remain when she – or he – would rather go.

The same applies politically – to they.

As for example the cohort of American colonists (it wasn’t all of them) who no longer wanted to remain in a political relationship with the government of Great Britain, its king and parliament. The king and parliament would not accept a peaceful parting-of-the-ways and sent troops to use violence against the “rebellious” colonists. The latter in air-fingers quotation marks to make note of the abusive verbiage. The colonists who objected to being forced to submit to the king and parliament (who are these people? – as Seinfeld used to say) were etymologically framed as “rebellious” – implying they had an obligation to remain in a relationship they considered abusive.

Which was abusive, by definition. Because any relationship you’re forced to remain in (with threats of violence and actual violence used to keep you in it) is abusive by definition. Even if it is not entirely malignant. Most relationships have their good points. The king and parliament weren’t all bad and the colonies did enjoy some benefits arising from the relationship with Great Britain, such as the protection of the Royal Navy.

But that is all beside the point. Or – rather – the point is that if you’re forced to remain in a relationship when you’d prefer not to be in it, then whatever might have been good about it becomes irrelevant.

The people of the Southern Confederacy attempted to divorce themselves from what they and practically everyone else (excepting such as Abraham Lincoln) had regarded as a voluntary relationship entered into by the respective states that together had successfully  divorced themselves from Great Britain. The word states is italicized to emphasize the different meaning the term had when the divorce was finalized. At the time, it mean – essentially – sovereign countries, which is what each state then considered itself to be. When Jefferson spoke of his country, he meant Virginia – not something called the United States, which was a term in the plural at that time.

It now has a different meaning, of course – courtesy of the man who told the people of the Southern Confederacy, if you try to leave me . . . I’ll kill you.

Not in precisely those words; Lincoln was an eloquent man who conveyed his meaning more elegantly. But it was clear what he meant – and did.

His defenders jump out of their seats about now and begin to harangue about the evils of slavery – and it was very evil, indeed. It is also incidental – historically and otherwise. Lincoln did not free any slaves in the Northern states until after the Southern states had been forced back into the (ahem) “union.” The much-heralded Emancipation Proclamation only freed slaves – rhetorically – in the states that were in “rebellion.”

There’s that word, again.

Lincoln himself said (see Thomas DiLorenzo’s books about this) that he would free no slaves if doing that would preserve the (ahem) “union.” That was always his goal. Freeing slaves was incidental to it.

Enslaving the states of the South – and the North – was essential to it.

The latter italicized to make a point of the fact that what was done to the Southern states was also by implication done to the Northern states and to the people of the United States. None of them were free to leave the relationship, no matter how abusive it got. The one meaningful recourse open to every individual in an abusive relationship and acknowledged by almost everyone (excepting abusive people) to be a legitimate and necessary recourse is denied to every individual within what is now the United States, plural.

They are united by force – not common bonds of affection and mutual interest. It is a “union” not fundamentally dissimilar from the kind that existed on Southern plantations between master and slave. The defining attribute of the latter’s state being he was not free to end the relationship. He never even had the opportunity to freely enter into it.

And neither did we.

Did you ever give your consent to be governed? If you did not, then how can it be intelligibly said that you are governed by consent? And if you have not consented – and if you do not wish to be governed without having given it – then what is the nature of the relationship you’re forced to remain within?

. . .

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