Often you will hear people wax poetically about a past time when everything was wonderful. They speak of a world of white picket fences, manicured lawns, well behaved children, and happy homes where everyone was just so nice, unlike today when people are just so horrible. This is a time that exists in their memory, or in what they've been told by others who lived in that time. It must be awful people who have come out of nowhere, created by our society's moral decay, who commit terrible crimes and do awful things to people. The world was just so much nicer when everything was green and good and everyone was nice to each other. They all had jobs, went to church on Sunday, and did all the right things. What a time to be alive.
This fantasy world is built on a huge lie. That world was built on the unspoken requirement that everyone keep their problems and things about them that didn't fit the fantasy to themselves. Domestic violence and child abuse were to be dealt with behind closed doors by the family in any way they saw fit. Someone who was raped, sexually assaulted, or sexually harrassed kept it to themselves if it involved family members or prominent members of the community. Speaking up would ruin the fantasy. If it was an outsider, especially someone of a different ethnic or racial background, then and only then did it become a public matter. You kept your dirty laundry in the closet, and even if it was an outsider who didn't fit into the fantasy, they would still be asked what they did to cause this person to do this. It must have been the way they acted or dressed, but kill the barbarian! They are awful people!
It is the addiction to this fantasy that causes people to strike out or be hateful in ways that make no sense to people who don't buy into that fantasy. Why would you dismiss a claim of sexual assault out of hand without even hearing the person out or investigating the claims? Why would you not report a neighbor whose child was constantly appearing with bruises all over his body? Why would you ridicule people for having exposed themselves to the core in front of the world, reliving their pain for all to see, even if you don't believe her particular claim is true? To many it makes no sense.
It is usually those who entertain this fantasy of an ideal time who also bristle at people who do not hide their sexual orientation or gender identification, who are or were uncomfortable with the idea of attending a racially mixed wedding, and anything that deviates from the fantasy in their mind. They are bothered by people of color demanding equitable treatment under the law. These things must not exist. These things disturb the fantasy where every town had a parade and everyone saluted the flag and was grateful for just the opportunity to live in America. These are the same people who always like to tell you to be grateful because others have it worse.
I've known women, and girls, who did not report instances of sexual assault or abuse because other people had been abused or assaulted in a way that was somehow worse by comparison, and "at least that wasn't me." It is the old crap about finishing your dinner because there were starving children somewhere in the world who would kill for that dinner. "You don't know how bad it can get. Be grateful you have a roof over your head and food to eat. Stop your complaining. Be grateful you live in America because they would just shoot you for that backtalk somewhere else."
Why would people take pleasure in demeaning and degrading other people? It is one of the most effective ways to eliminate threats. If you break a person down to the point where they are afraid to speak, whether because of ridicule or physical attack, then you can create your fantasy world again. If only people kept their kids and family members with psychological problems or developmental delays behind closed doors where we wouldn't have to see them. It was a society that hid its blemishes and many people suffered for it. If you research the number of people who died from alcoholism at an early age, in their forties and fifties, you will likely find the rates higher if only it had been documented as such. Men who felt they didn't fit into what the fantasy told men they were supposed to be, they dealt with it by drinking hard to drown out the pain. You didn't have an addiction problem, you just couldn't handle your liquor because your were weak. Many men still do this, I met many when working in addiction recovery, but more and more are reaching out for help, whether through support groups, therapy, or other more healthy means. Women who were abused by their husbands, or who couldn't face the fact that their husband or another family member was abusing their children, often drank to try to forget and block out the memory. People often drink and abuse drugs because they cannot face their troubles for whatever reason, including thinking they will only be ridiculed and degraded for not living up to expectations. You keep that shit inside. No one wants to hear all that.
When she was growing up, my second fiancee had a friend who her family would take in from time to time. Her father, when angry about something, would beat her mother in front of their three daughters and warn them to stay in line. My girlfriend's father, who was confined to a wheelchair because of an industrial accident on the job, was the one person that abuser would not confront because he stood up to him without standing up. My mother knew this girl's mother and knew about the abuse. She encouraged her to come forward and supported her the whole time, including taking her into her home to live for a while. These are acts of heroism. Turning a blind eye is not courageous. This stuff is real. This stuff happens every day in homes across America and the world.
Sometimes the pain is more than a person can ever bear and it tears them apart. I was in a relationship with a woman whose physically and sexually abusive father, a major league drinker, was locked out of the house one night by his six children, all of whom he abused severely. He burned the house down with them inside. Two of them died. Charges were dismissed because they couldn't prove he set the fire intentionally (it was just a drunken mishap) and the kids were just making up stories. The day after charges were dismissed, one of the surviving siblings walked up and shot the man and killed him. He went to prison for the rest of his life.
My childhood best friend grew up with a violent sexual predator for a father, the kind of man who means it when he says, "I'd fuck anything that moves." He raped and otherwise abused his kids, bought a house in the slums so he could rent it out to junkie prostitutes who would pay him in sexual favors. It was the only reason he bought the building. Charges were dismissed in court. There wasn't any proof. After being the first to really reveal the abuse openly, my childhood friend would put a gun in his mouth to make a point. You need to take this shit seriously. Bobby was a casualty of this war that has gone from cold to hot. He isn't the only one. There are millions. No one wants to hear all that.
In a professional capacity over the course of twelve years working residential psych unites, I have heard stories so horrific they were almost impossible to believe. I've met a kid who was kept as one of a man's slaves, doing forced labor for a bowl of slop and a tin cup of water at the end of the day. I met a girl who purposely got pregnant three times by the age of sixteen by random boys at school because she was being raped nightly by her biological father and was terrified of having a "freak baby." A new one would come in almost every day. Another casualty of the war to keep up appearances.
It was wrong then and it is wrong now. The difference is that we can no longer pretend it isn't real. Your cousin Jack isn't going to bring some woman he is friends with to your wedding and act like they are a couple when everyone knows he's gay. Your sister isn't going to come with her abusive husband to your party and act like everything is just great and smile at her husband in public and talk about how happy they are. Kids are learning it isn't okay for grownups to do things to them they know are wrong. Adults aren't "always right," and some people don't want to hear that. Don't disturb the fantasy. The fantasy is very limited. Everyone must think and believe in the same way and behave the same way, otherwise they are a freak, and freaks get sold to the circus. We don't have them in here. Shut up or get out.
The fantasy cannot exist without hiding the blemises and scars. The reality is too much. It is overwhelming. So much pain, so much trauma, so many people in need... it must be something outside trying to get in. Maybe it is the devil doing his work. Maybe it is invaders from outside the walls. There has to be a scapegoat or the man behind the curtain is revealed. The curtain has to stay up to preserve the fantasy.
With people like this it usually requires personal experience, either first or second hand, and even then they may reject it or assign blame to something outside the bubble. It may take more than that. There may be nothing that can shake the fantasy, and when that happens the reasoning reaches the level of absurdity. Everything is fake news. Everything is made up. Everyone is being a baby pants. What a bunch of whining, ungrateful slobs. Shut up or get out.
The curtain has been coming down for a while now. Women got tired of being treated as second class citizens. Minority groups got tired of being looked down on, treated differently, and being told to "stay in their place." Don't act up. Be grateful for what you've got. Be grateful you don't live somewhere else where they would shoot you for that bullshit and pull your intestines out through your nose. Be grateful. Be grateful. Be ever so grateful. You have no right to your pain, your hurt over being rejected and ridiculed, or the after-effects of your trauma. Other people have dealt with worse. Don't forget to be grateful for what you have. People fought on battlefields and died so you could have what you do have.
Some people died on different battlefields, like the one Bobby died on, because no one listened or took them seriously. They subjected themselves to public humiliation by coming forward, as much for themselves as to show you the price of it all. You honor their memory by stepping forward and not shutting up. It isn't just the radicals, the activists, and the leaders of disenfranchised communities stepping up, it is your neighbors, family members, and friends. They are done being quiet.
Reality is breaking through the fantasy and once it really gets there it will be chaos. There is no denying that. People are going to be overwhelmed once the whole picture comes into focus for them. It will be more than they can handle coming all at once instead of slowly over time, but that is what we are headed towards. The people are tired of shutting up and just being grateful it isn't somehow worse. They are realizing their pain and suffering is legitimate and meaningful. They are finding support in people who will listen and stand with them when they come forward. They are finding people who do believe them and don't tell lthem to shut up and stay in their place. They are tired of being pawns in someone else's fantasy world.
The people are tired. The people are pissed. The veil is coming down. It is about fucking time. It will get worse before it gets better. It will have to. When you are working against centuries of denying and concealing society's blemishes, then all the outcasts must band together and mutually suport one another. It is the only way this ends well.
Take care of each other. Give everything you can to everyone you know. Now is the time to shine your light into someone's darkness.