Many years ago, I was involved with a man who had perfected the dark art of verbal and emotional abuse. He wasn’t that talented professionally, but he was incredibly skilled at choosing just the right words to make another person feel they were worthless. For the better part of a year, that person was me. I stayed for the same reason women often stay in these toxic relationships – I blamed myself. I thought, if I were only prettier, smarter, sexier, more together he would treat me with the same charm and attention he used when we were first seeing each other. As time went on, the woman I saw in the mirror was the woman he derided, insulted, mocked. I was too broken to leave.

Things never escalated into physical violence, but there was a feeling inside me that violence was always just one word away. The feeling whispered to me, pulled at me, but I kept ignoring it. Or trying to.

Everything changed when I thought I was pregnant. I was having unusual symptoms, I was late, and I knew we had been careless. Before I went to the doctor, I decided that if I were pregnant, I would go to an attorney and get a restraining order so that this man could never come near me and my child. I have no idea if that would have worked, and it was a moot point anyway because it turned out I wasn’t pregnant. But that’s what it took for me to walk away and never speak to him again. A baby wasn’t born, but I was.

Years later, I learned that this man had been arrested for domestic battery. That’s how it is with violence. It starts with words, but eventually it escalates to fists or weapons.

The same feeling I had all those years ago resurfaced recently when I watched the footage of Trump’s Florida rally, and Jim Acosta being heckled and verbally abused by an angry mob of Trump supporters. Obviously other journalists were there as well, but the footage we all saw was of one man – Jim Acosta – trying to speak calmly to an enraged mob. Only a bicycle rack separated them. I don’t think there is any doubt that if one person had said Let’s go, Mr. Acosta and other journalists would have been injured or killed. Politico has reported that media organizations are now employing security personnel and, in some cases, personal bodyguards for journalists, especially when they go to Trump rallies.

The problem is that there is an anatomy to violence. It starts with words. It escalates to yelling, hurling invectives and obscenities. It keeps growing, until it grows into bloodlust. The journalists, and their security, are always going to be outnumbered at these rallies. And the people yelling at them, raising middle fingers and holding up F-word signs are being inspired by their Dear Leader, whose words to them are like shots of adrenaline. Take a good look at their faces and pay attention to how contorted with rage their faces are. This is a violent mob waiting to explode.

Here’s a thought: What if the media just doesn’t show up to these rallies? It’s not like we’re going to miss any breaking news. Trump’s bluster is the same as when he was campaigning. But he wouldn’t be able to tell his angry followers to turn around and berate the press. Because they wouldn’t be there. Well, maybe Fox News would be there, but they’re not going to get attacked. It’s a radical idea, but these are radical times.

Another truth about anger and violence is that they need a target. If that target is removed, I’m not sure what they would do. Turn it on each other? Calm down? Go home? Maybe we should find out.


  1. David Marks says:

    It’s time to admit this, to more than overtly acknowledge that men who behave in such a manner, are anathema to me; so coldly disjointed and removed from everything I know and live, that they seem best served to live in a locker room, for life, Patti, every time I read a column from you, I feel introduced to the depths of intimacy, to places where most men have no relationship, and thank God, we don’t…or do we? I know that if I were to judge a man such as the man you spoke of, above, I would sentence him to a world dominated by women, and left to chance in such an environment, although, I have juicier words to voice my truest feelings. You have made startling comparisons to the Acosta relationship, the bullying, the fear, the acquiescence to some failure of a higher power. Interesting, to say the least, because all I have surmised, is that journalists all, should stand, and walk out of every news conference in a show of solidarity. I suppose the fact that they don’t, is a part of the problem, a byproduct of this mistreatment, the art of the evil bully, the statue to false power and hate. You made it, from my point of view, and while, with every column, you display scars, you are here to tell your story, and where are they. I suppose they are weak, little men, trapped in a series of dysfunctional relationships and failed endeavors, without guilty feelings, and without empathy, because from the start, they were provided with nothing: no instruments of positive thinking or care, no nurturing, no reason to give a damn about how other people felt about anything. Despite so much, you are my champion, and no matter what you say or do, that’s the way I see you, and you are my friend, and that, I value. You paint many portraits, all glaringly authentic and true, and all readers would benefit from a taste of your life and magic. Thank you, Patti

  2. Connie Rigers says:

    Thanks Patti, we needed that reality check.

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