Now that Thanksgiving is over: I wrote this at the end of September and then put it aside. I just read it again today, and I still think it's worth saying. I did decide it was unsuitable to post it on Thanksgiving Day.
KALW's Your Call, once again, had a segment that got me thinking. Today's program was a review of a new dance program, Grace and Delia are Gone, performed over this weekend at Fort Mason in S.F. (Ed. note: Sorry, this broadcast was aired on September 29, 2016, so you can't catch the dance program tomorrow. Click the link to listen to the broadcast.)
I'm sure it's a great program, but what startled me was the earnest conviction - from the choreographer, from at least one caller, and in some sense from Rose Aguilar herself - that violence against women is a new, modern problem, aggravated by men who've spent 5 tours in Iraq/Afghanistan, and all the guns we now have around.
You folks all need to read more history - a problem I've noticed before. For those horrified by multiple tours in Afghanistan, read the history of World Wars I and II, when soldiers spent months or years on the battlefield, or on a ship at sea, alternating between brief periods of extreme danger and weeks or months of total boredom. You probably never heard this personally from your grandfather because the WWII vets didn't discuss what they went through. Some of them beat up their wives; some of them killed themselves (I went to school with a young man whose WWII vet father killed himself); most of them just went on with life. And never talked about the war.
Violence against women has gone on for centuries. Medieval women weren't educated, and they couldn't choose whom they married. Aristocratic women were married off to further the family's political connections. Married women were chattel property to their husbands, and the husbands were allowed to do whatever they pleased to their property. Moralists might object, but beating the crap out of your wife was NOT illegal through most of European and American history. The Victorians take a lot of flack for their views on morality, but they did start the idea that maybe wife-beating was a bad idea.
The primary difference between history and now is that over the last 40 years or so, American society has concluded that it's a bad idea for one spouse to beat up on the other (and don't think it only happens to women, or for that matter only to straight people). We actually have laws against it, and support groups for victims - this is a tremendous improvement. It hasn't stopped the practice, but don't assume this is the worst of times. And if the situation in the U.S. disturbs you, Google "wife beating" and take a look at the headlines on current practices in Islamic countries.
There's something in the human race that makes certain members of it make themselves feel better by beating up on people, or creatures, they consider their "inferiors" - wives, pets, children. (Also, people of other races or religions; but we're talking about family violence here). People who do this are usually but not exclusively male. Until and unless this changes, we're unlikely to get rid of spousal abuse entirely.
Footnote: in the 2 months since I wrote this, Donald Trump was elected President of the United States, to take office in January. In a country as in an organization, the tone comes from the top. Given Trump's rhetoric on the campaign trail, and the fact that he's on his third wife, I can't judge right now whether his presence in the White House (assuming he stays in the White House) will enable spousal abuse or not. He's enabled a lot of gratuitous violence, but I haven't heard much about Trump-caused domestic violence, so maybe not.