Sexual harassment occurs when an aggressor pushes unwanted sexual attentions upon unwilling recipients. Any guesses as to what "political harassment" refers to? An epidemic of political harassment rages through modern society, escalating to outright political assault with increasing frequency: often with tragic results both for unfortunate individuals concerned and society at large. The full-fledged political assault against David Koresh and the Branch Davidian community in Waco, Texas in 1993 demonstrates how much grief and devastation political harassment can wreak domestically, and how little protection US tax dollars afford us against even the most flagrant and brazen forms.
The war on Iraq exemplifies political assault waged on an international scale, and shows how immediately political harassment impacts us all. Refugees around the world flee from political harassment: When government wields the power to harass, and determines to do so, 'security' means escaping beyond its national borders or political reach. Seldom an easy journey: often to an unwelcoming destination, to create a life from scratch with little or no money or personal possessions, assuming one does not meet with deportation. Does anyone really want to live under a government with such an iron grip on power?
The political abuser seeks out a position of authority in which he remains sheltered from criticism by his political inferiors; and his subjects of attention frequently feel powerless to resist unwelcome advances without suffering some form of punishment for resistance. As the political abuser's authority usually involves some degree of public trust or grants him predominance above and beyond the typical victim, the abused may legitimately fear to confront the abuser or escape from the abuser's predations.
Political harassment destroys on an equal opportunity basis: Men and women; wealthy, middle class (what's left of it), and poor; people and groups of all races, colors, and religious persuasions; young, and old. Political harassment separates families, and loved ones; ruins careers, reputations, and businesses; robs individuals and families of homes, transportation and rightful uses of property; kidnaps children away from their parents and kidnaps parents away from their children; leaves parents powerless to protect children from damaging medications, vaccinations, or educational practices; and cracks down on freedoms of speech, assembly, and association. We have scant defense against political harassment. Subjects of political harassment often have no place to turn, and must suffer in silence without hope of ever receiving restitution or amends, or even a simple apology.
The most politically oppressed people include users of "prohibited substances," like marijuana. Drug use constitutes a measure of self-medication for personal ailments, whether physical or psychological. When a loved one's drug habit concerns you, you'll most likely prefer to handle it discreetly. Gossip magazines galore abound in the grocery store checkout line, full of personal distress stories that probably should have been kept private. People who would never buy a gossip magazine sometimes forget that a story appearing on the evening news may display no more regard for a person's privacy than a gossip magazine. Just because a story makes the front-page news does not mean that it belongs there. Political harassment pervades society so insidiously that even the worst cases often appear unremarkable.
Historically, politically harassed groups tend to breed agitators, gain political strength, and respond with fury toward their oppressors when they've acquired enough influence. Politically harassed groups of yesteryear -- women, blacks, gays and lesbians, the humor-deprived, Jews, and atheists -- have gained much sympathy from the public by agitating for fairness, and achieved politically favored status. Politically favored status encourages excesses of expectation, and exaggerated claims on society's debt to the afflicted group that over the course of time alienate the sympathies of former supporters, leading to a backlash of public sentiment and a reversal of fortune. New politically harassed groups arise at the hands of the old, and the squeaky wheel of political misfortune turns again.
Gun rights advocates, smokers, Christians, boy scouts, home schooling families, and drug users currently face ire on the front lines, defending cherished liberties against jarring intrusions; even home invasions by state and federal agencies hostile to personal liberties. Conscientious parents dread the risk of losing children over state mandated vaccinations, court ordered medications, or academic tests intended to process politically acceptable standardized students. Standardized tests, administered on behalf of the mind-processing industry: an official stamp of approval for a child's developing mind, like a USDA stamp on a side of beef! Smokers discover that freedoms to travel, to socialize, and to live day to day without incessant infringements upon personal liberties are relentlessly closing in like the walls in old horror movies: as smoker's freedoms shrink, the authority of smoke-snatchers to stigmatize and vilify smokers expands exponentially. Hitler would approve. Glen Allport succinctly sums up 'for your own good' rationalizations as "the 'I know you want it, baby' excuse for coercive behavior."
Political harassment erodes good will. People who experience political abuse tend to become future political abusers themselves, in an ongoing and socially devastating cycle. Some survivors of political abuse withdraw and sink into depression, or display outbursts of uncontrollable rage. They may turn to substances to suppress anguish; over-eating and other self-destructive habits commonly manifest in a politically abused adult. Young people picked on for nonconforming political preferences express feelings of alienation, anger and resentment. Politically bullied youth appear more likely to skip classes or get into trouble, exhibit aggressive behavior, and even attempt suicide: they frequently find it difficult to make friends, adapt socially, survive academically, and develop self-esteem.
Clearly, without cultivating awareness of this terrible social scourge, as well as increased sensitivity to the harm it inflicts, our generation will pass on the torch of a troubled world to the next. Will the children inherit a world beset by problems with eroding social and political boundaries, and an alarming absence of respect for personal sovereignty and individual dignity? Will they live their days in an iron maiden of minute regulations and cold relations tainted by political prejudice, raised in the shadows of cruel institutions, as so many have done before them? Does a more bitter or intractable division exist among us than the purely political, unnatural and inhuman, liberal VS conservative stalemate? The less your neighbors' politics can control you, the less it matters what they believe.
Political harassment can take many forms; a person may suffer the indignity of having his wallet pinched, and if provoked into slapping back, may pay a severe price for acting in self-defense. The person may be subject to insulting comments and suggestive remarks regarding his political orientation or associations. Political abuse takes more threatening forms, and refusing to submit to aggressive political advances can result in the loss of life or liberties, parental joys and responsibilities, financial health, social standing, happiness, pride, professional practice, or earning abilities. On the other hand, agreeing to submit to unwelcome political advances may incur the same penalties -- if to a lesser degree.
Political abuse makes victims or accomplices of us all, directly or indirectly, and the conspiracy of silence has gone on far too long already. Political solutions perpetuate the problematic cycle. As long as dark corridors of power remain, political abusers will discover and exploit them, lying in wait for the next vulnerable quarry to scurry past.
Do we interact with other people as political beings, or human beings? Do we require laws that some expert wrote to dictate our terms of congenial relationships, trades, and agreements, or might we do better to find honest and reliable witnesses amongst our peers? Do we choose a God freely to bless our marriages, or allow the state and its insufferable, smothering regulations to remain as a dark canopy over the nuptial bed? Do we hire licensed lawyers, proficient in pretence and versed in verbosity, to preside over disagreements: or bar the courthouse door, choose judges by drawing lots, with drinks on the winner and handshakes round the room afterward? Do we cultivate a community atmosphere by relying on ourselves and forming cordial, respectful relationships: or by farming out peace-keeping duties to authorities whose tendency appears to wax more remote and unaccountable, as they become ever wealthier, their fees more outrageous, and their scruples cheaper, as their services become more suspect and treacherous?
We won't pave the way to peace with political differences, but with human similarities. Politics represents a 'civilized' way of stoning the social outcast and the taboo breaker. Peace built upon politics will survive about as long as a house built on sand.
Jesus had it all right, I think: "turn the other cheek;" "love thy neighbor;" "do unto others as you'd have them do unto you;" "he who is without sin, cast the first stone." Peace needs solid rock to build a home on, and what have we each, but our own stones to offer? If we could only cease throwing political stones at each other; voluntarily lay them down, and mortar them together firmly with a calm spirit of acceptance and respect, love and forgiveness, how many stones would it take to finally provide a dwelling place for peace?
Will we ever know?