Given the extremely partisan, polarized nature of modern American politics, it seems as if a Democrat saying that they sky is blue ensures that Republicans will insist it’s orange. We cannot agree on very basic, fundamental human rights issues, such as marriage equality, food for starving children, and protections for individuals with disabilities. In a way, opposing abuse is an exception to this rule- both parties have championed certain abuse-related issues and introduced legislation to this effect. However, very little actually seems to get done, as once one party has expressed support for a particular anti-abuse measure, the other seems obligated to oppose it.
It was incredibly difficult to reauthorize the Violence Against Women Act, simply because Republicans did not want to include protections for immigrants, Native Americans, and lesbians. It is largely purported that the multiple congressional attempts to pass legislation aimed at ensuring that the most basic safeguards are in place at residential treatment centers for teenagers (currently a hotbed of abuse, neglect, and other human rights violations) failed partly due to the economic considerations of some Republican lawmakers. However, Republican lawmakers have championed the cause of protecting Justina Pelletier (see my post on the Justina Pelletier case for more information about this brave, young woman), who, according to a note from Justina (recently released by her father), is not only enduring an unnecessary separation from her family, an incredible deprivation of her liberty, and deprivation of medical care that she needs to survive, but physical abuse and sleep deprivation at the hands of the facility that the state of Massachusetts has entrusted to care for her. Her ordeal has even prompted a Republican congressman to sponsor legislation aimed at eliminating any financial motive for tragedies such as these to take place, and disallowing medical testing on children in foster care that could present a serious risk to those children. However, democratic lawmakers have been largely silent on this issue, and left-leaning media outlets have even defended the actions taken against Justina.
In each of these cases, the underlying principle is apparent. Republicans did not want VAWA to be reauthorized because it would protect groups that they vehemently oppose. They did not want to pass legislation aimed at stopping abuse in residential treatment centers because they want to appear to be pro-business and, potentially, have some economic ties to this industry. Democrats are, typically, pro-government, so it stands to reason that they would remain largely absent regarding the issue of government-sanctioned abuse in the case of Justina Pelletier and others like her. My message to politicians and influential individuals on both sides of the aisle is quite simple. Can we not put away our partisan squabbling long enough to agree to protect abuse victims and prevent abuse in any way possible? Are our opposing political motives really more signifcant than one of our few shared goals- a world in which people are not leaving their own homes in ambulances or body bags because of the actions of those who claim to love them?
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