Prior Months

Battered Women’s Syndrome and George W. Bush
By Terry Leach, President, LDC

February 2007

I know I’m going out on a limb here. But go with me even if half the population declares that I’ve failed the p.c. test for professional women Democratic strategists. I’m wondering if our lawmakers and the American people are suffering from some sort of collective “Battered Women’s Syndrome or “BWS,” as it is known by the good people who study such things— when it comes to George W. Bush.

George Bush is talking about helping the people of Iran ‘flourish,’ in the same creepy way that he and his minions promised us cakewalks and flower petals in Iraq five years ago.

New Orleans is still missing 40% of its population and a heck of a lot of walls, floors and ceilings. Lots of money is missing in Iraq, too, and the walls, floors and ceilings built by Bush’s contractors in Baghdad don’t seem to be standing up much better than their New Orleans counterparts. But somebody is getting rich from the missing billions in Iraq, and it sure isn’t the average Iraqi family, or, come to think of it, the average American family.

So ask yourself this: Why are the members of Congress arguing over the wording for a non-binding resolution to inform the president that they don’t like the idea of a surge of troops for a failing military strategy in Iraq? Think of the women you know who should have left a bad situation a long, long time ago. Sound familiar? Pitifully familiar? And why aren’t these very same lawmakers making it very clear that any action against Iran taken by this President without the proper debate, intelligence, and approval from Congress will put impeachment right back up on the table for consideration, like, tomorrow?

I’ve done a bit of research here, so I’m not completely off-base. Plus, I have to disclose that before I was a lawyer and political strategist, I was a public health nurse and my main job was monitoring so-called ‘failure to thrive’ babies; babies whose weight after birth dropped perilously low. These babies were often parented by ill-prepared, unsupported teenage mothers, too many of whom had relationships going nowhere fast with battering men who got angry over little things like the lost remote control, or, more frighteningly, over the baby’s mother’s refusal to turn in her coupons for baby formula for the black market coupons-for-beer underground exchange program. When I’d ask these sad young women why they didn’t take their babies and leave the men who hurt them and their babies, they’d usually tell me I’d never understand. “No one will love me better,” one young girl told me as she closed the door softly against my feet, not permitting me to come in and weigh her ailing baby.

Can you spell “No Self Esteem?”

BWS is characterized by two fundamental premises: a cycle model of violence and ‘learned helplessness.’ Again, I ask that you go with me: The literature seems to suggest that the cycle model of violence comprises three repetitive phases: tension building; an acute phase in which the assault occurs, and the contrite reaction. When this cycle is repeated over time, it is linked to the undermining of the women’s self-belief and is believed to create a situation of ‘learned helplessness’ whereby the woman feels ‘trapped in a deadly situation.’

So, ask yourself: Is Bush’s Iran war-mongering, magnified by his spokespersons and the goons in the media who report on dangers from Iran, while ticker tapes under their well-coiffed heads scream out, “Are we going to war with Iran?” sounding like a tension build-up we’ve gone through before?

Youbetcha.

The tension is building and I wonder just how many times we have to talk about going to war with Iran, arrest and/or kill their citizens in Iraq, move our ships into battle position, and so forth, before an international incident occurs, resulting in what Bush will likely claim was a justifiable assault on Iran. The only part missing from the cycle model of violence in BWS is the ‘contrite’ part. I think in his toilet training stage or sometime thereafter, President Bush missed the memo on how to say, or act contrite.

Memo to self: Does the man even know what the word, ‘contrite,’ means?

Following the cycle of violence, of course, the experts tell us that too many battered women exist in a state of ‘learned helplessness.’ Taking our analogy further, most members of Congress will acknowledge that we don’t have the stomach, troops or the money to invade Iran. They might even acknowledge skepticism over the build-up in tension, seeing as how the top 10 reasons Bush et al gave for invading Iraq five years ago didn’t amount to a whole lot of beans.

So why are they waiting until the inevitable occurs? Learned helplessness might be one reason. I’m convinced of it.

Postscript on my public health career? Walking past a gauntlet of a dozen or so men and their motorcycles thrown haphazardly on a front yard in a small town in the Central Valley of California, on a sizzling hot day, to visit the second baby of a young couple who was dying from failure to thrive (the first baby having died from malnutrition the year before), I asked the 17-year-old mother where her coupons for food for the baby had gone. She pointed to the refrigerator. I opened it up and sure enough there was no formula, no milk, no eggs, no cheese. There was, however, a lot of beer, traded for the coupons meant to feed the baby, who was now too dehydrated to cry.

On the way to my car, the father, sporting tattoos, a bottle of beer, and a mean streak, stopped me, scaring me not a little, and declared that if I turned him into the protective services’ people and they came and took his baby away, and locked him up in jail, he would find me one day at the health clinic and kill me.

I reported that father for child abuse twenty minutes later, and resigned five minutes after that.

Sometimes, the people in a position to stop the violence, like the battered mothers, can’t take the necessary steps to throw the bums out because they’re just plain helpless. Like the literature says. Or maybe they just love their jobs too much.

Whichever it is, we—the people who, against all odds, elected a Democratic majority in the House and Senate–have got to help the Members of Congress and our military leaders come out of their lethargy to stop the cycle of violence now.

The next generation deserves no less from all of us.

First Published in The Huffington Post on Feb 3, 2007