That Don’t Make Sense

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In the United States we have a penchant for nonsense. We have solutions begging for problems, while problems go unsolved. And we often punish, blame, or control one group based on the actions of another. Want some examples? Okay. 

Disability benefits are not high enough to live on. $750 a month in 2016 won’t even pay rent in most of the country, but its what disability benefit recipients are supposed to pay for all their needs with. Every utility, every item of clothing, every uncovered medication. It’s nowhere near enough. It’s no surprise that 40% of American homeless are disabled, nor that disabled adults face far greater rates of domestic violence than abled ones. Independent living is largely unaffordable. I rely on blog subscriptions to meet my basic needs while staying safe from abuse (so become a patron already!)

The justification for intentionally keeping disabled people impoverished is that if the benefits were sufficient, if we could comfortably live on our own with dignity, then abled people who can work might pretend to be disabled. Abled people might avoid drudgery if the cost of disability was not unrelenting, inescapable poverty. This is also the justification for denying clearly disabled people the benefits they qualify for, and making people apply again and again. Abled people might misbehave, so disabled people are punished. That makes about as much sense as punishing trans women based on what cis men might do.

And we do exactly that. Bathroom bills and public school personnel who target trans students raise the spectre of a perverted man misbehaving in the girls bathroom as justification to keep trans women from peeing where they should have every right to. We have no plans to limit the movements and freedoms of men based on male actions, just one tiny persecuted minority of women who have nothing to do with them. We punish and control trans women, because cis men might misbehave. That makes about as much sense as punishing victims of domestic violence for self defense.

We love to do this, especially if the victim on trial is a black woman. While “stand your ground” was invoked by police on the scene who chose not to initially arrest George Zimmerman when he gunned down a black child, that law was thrown out for the trial of Marissa Alexander. When her violent ex husband, who she had a protection order against, broke into her home, threatened her, and attacked her, she tried to escape. When she couldn’t, she used the firearm she lawfully owned to fire a single warning shot into the ceiling. Her abusive ex even testified on her behalf when she was charged with aggravated assault with a deadly weapon. She was convicted and sentenced to twenty years in prison, longer than her ex would have likely served for murdering her if she had not scared him off.

Alexander accepted a plea deal in 2015 that resentenced her to three years she had already served, and was released. With a permanent felony record, for daring to defend her life. On average, we sentence women who kill their abusers in self-defense more than twice as long as we do abusive men who murder their victims. Even though abusive men are the root cause of all these deaths, we punish their victims far more. That makes about as much sense as blaming victims for the actions of rapists.

Boy do we ever blame victims! Rape victims who report the crime committed against them are routinely put on trial. We obsess over what they drank, what they wore, and seek to find fault in them. At the same time, we bend over backwards to excuse and justify the actions of rapists. That’s how we ended up with the nonsensical cultural belief that being drunk absolves a man of responsibility, but that consuming alcohol makes a woman culpable for his actions. That makes about as much sense as punishing disabled people for the laziness of the abled.

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