Wife-beating, Dubya, Dudley & Dixie Chicks

Expanded from the 4-27-2003 Daily Sparks, Nev., Tribune

Why are you beating your head against the wall, Otis?

"Cause it feels so good when I stop."

The old joke above adequately explains the bizarre conduct of the American public in both warfare and work. Psychologists have a bloodless, modern clinical term for it: co-dependency.

Co-dependency needed no explanation when it was called wife beating. People understood how it could break the strongest will. The professionals coined a new term, probably because it looked better on a bill. Alas, the battered wife was morphed into the co-dependent significant other.

As wise man George Carlin warns, beware when they hyphenate a problem. Look what happened to shell shock. The perfectly descriptive World War I phrase became combat fatigue in the next bloodfest, then traumatic stress syndrome. Today, it has been rendered unrecognizable and verbally innocuous as post-traumatic stress disorder.

If a widespread problem persists, its name must be changed for each generation, every 20 years or so. The previous term will have acquired so much baggage that a new label must be affixed. Perhaps that says much about America today. If we can't fix the problem, we can damn sure print new bumper stickers.

Our former slaves provide the most enduring example. Over the past century, they've endured not only the prepackaging of bigotry but also the repackaging of their dignity. They were flung from colored to negro to black to African-American. Now, they stand further diminished in the "people of color" category.

The labels may change to suit the sensitive feelings of the morally obtuse, but the human impact remains. Soldiers still come home shell-shocked. Blacks are still abused. Battered wives get black and blue.

So why does the beaten bride submit? It goes much deeper than physical intimidation. She wants to continue believing in her relationship with the bastard who's socking the spit out of her. After all, they are wed. Society approves of who they have become together. Witness how cheap we make it to get married versus the painful pricing of divorce. Brochures at the Washoe County Courthouse currently advertise marriage ceremonies for as little as $15. No wonder there are more lawyers than wedding chapels in the phone book.

The power of belief is easy to exploit. The walloped wife wants her marriage to succeed, so she starts looking at what she may doing wrong to merit physical and mental abuse.

The societal syndrome persists in the workplace. We want to believe the boss is on our side, that he/she has our best interests at heart, that everyone is on the same team — the Wal-Mart happy TV family.

The personal appeal has always been the most effective union-busting ploy. When workers find out they have a legal right to organize, the boss almost always hires $1,000-per-hour "union avoidance" consultants. They first advise abusing religion. From cradle to cross to crematory, our western society preaches Christian forgiveness. So the boss calls a meeting with the great unwashed and promises to sin no more, or at least until the union drive has been defused. He'll continue to make any unfired employees beat their heads against a wall, but they'll thank the boss that it feels so good when they stop.

Little wonder, then, that a nation full of whupped worker bees is highly susceptible to the media machinations of Shallow Hal in the White House. Dubya wraps himself in the flag and sells us on global war. He's the boss and we back him to the death. Which is exactly what happens to some of our finest young people and a whole lot of Brown People, as comedian Carlin terms our 50-year fixation with screwing over the non-blonde.

We want to have faith in daddy, the head of the house, the capo du cats, the boss, the CEO, il gubernatore, the president. We slavishly believe that the plantation overlord will protect and feed us because it's in his best interest. We willingly forgive his abuse. After all, he's dependent on us and we are co-dependent on his generosity.

Nevada Gov. Dudley Do-Right knows how to play that game to a fare-thee-well. A few days ago, he again evoked his history as the son of migrant farm workers. But he did so in support of the gambling industry's proposal to increase taxes on the lowliest among us.

I'm also the son of farm workers, which is why I find personally insulting the governor's genuflection to the plantation owners while purporting to serve the peons. But the public has been conditioned to buy the log cabin sob story.

Dubya can even get away with beating up on girls. Probably makes up for all the times back at school when much smarter females laughed him to scorn as a drunken dumb jock. But look out, Mr. President. A Dixie Chicks protest song cuts far deeper and will last far longer than your pious paeans to patriotism.

And tax cuts for your plantation buddies cannot enhance your legacy no matter how hard your apologists may try to rewrite history.

You've beaten up too many of your own citizens.

CABLE CAPERS. The minutes of the now-uncensored March 27 meeting of the City of Reno's Citizens Cable Compliance Committee may now be viewed at We'll have three sessions in May. Stay tuned for details.

ON THE AIR. I'm up three times this week on Nevada Newsmakers with Sam Shad. The show airs Monday through Thursday at 12:30 p.m. on KRNV TV-4 (NBC) and repeats at 9:30 p.m. on Charter Cable Channel 12 in Sparks-Reno-Carson and Channel 19 in Douglas County. I'm scheduled to hold forth every session but Tuesday. Audio rebroadcasts air from 9:00-11:00 a.m. Sundays on KKKOH 780-am.

On Tuesday, I'll be a guest on Eddie Floyd's talkradio show on KBDB 1400-am, starting at 4:00 p.m.

Be well. Raise hell. | U-News | C.O.P. | Sen. Joe Neal
Guinn Watch | Deciding Factors

Barbwire Oilogopoly Archive


Copyright © 1982-2003 Andrew Barbano

Andrew Barbano is a 34-year Nevadan, a member Communications Workers of America Local 9413 and editor of and He hosts Deciding Factors on several Nevada television stations. Barbwire by Barbano has originated in the Daily Sparks (Nev.) Tribune since 1988.



Site composed and maintained by Deciding Factors (CWA signatory)
Comments and suggestions appreciated. Sign up for news and bulletins.