C-Word 40: A Man Like America

Being an American right now can feel like this.

You have been married to America for a long time. You invested all your money in a house which he allowed to deteriorate, along with your relationship. He has always been evasive -- now you strongly suspect he is constantly lying to you.

You are both invited to a dinner party thrown by an educated, well-traveled, multi-lingual couple, new to the neighborhood. Arriving late and empty-handed, America tracks motor oil across their carpet, beelines to the hosts' liquor cabinet, finds the most expensive, unopened vodka, and proceeds to swill it directly out of the bottle. To your vast mortification, he takes the bottle and seats himself at the head of the table (the host is too polite to say anything).

When the food arrives, America serves himself first, giving himself 91% of everything on each platter; the rest of the guests ration the small remainder. America turns aggressive. With gravy running down his chin, he loudly berates the other guests with divisive, bigoted remarks, ignorant political, scientific, and religious arguments, and brays insults about the hostess's cooking. He proudly attributes his xenophobic scorn to the immorality of the other guests, which is obvious to him because of his own close relationship with God.

Finally, America stumbles blind drunk into the living room, where he passes out and wets his pants -- ostensibly ruining the new sofa. The jangled guests and frightened hosts are kind, but regard you with a mix of horror, pity and contempt for accompanying this sociopathic nightmare into their home.

While America sleeps, the party begins to relax and have a pleasant, grown-up conversation. While they are distracted, America robs the purses and jacket pockets in the foyer. Finally, it is late. The other guests are long gone. You plead with America to come home. He pulls a gun from his belt and argues why the hosts are extremely lucky he has decided to take them hostage.

Abruptly, America decides he wants to leave. He insists on driving; you fear for your life, but you have no power to change the situation. Swerving recklessly down residential streets, he berates you (as he does every day) with an endless list of your faults: you are fat, ugly, stupid, greedy, lazy, manipulative, smelly, emotionally unstable, and "un-hot."

Nonetheless, you awake from a deep sleep to find him just finishing up having sex with you. The next day, while searching frantically for your birth-control pills (which have somehow disappeared from their usual spot) you listen as he barks over the phone, filing an aggressive lawsuit against the party hosts for endangering his life by getting him too drunk to drive (you know this is just to intimidate them out of asking him to pay for the couch he ruined.)

When you discover that you are pregnant, America abandons you completely - but not before emptying your joint bank account. When you challenge this theft in divorce court, America claims that you are an abusive, mentally unstable nymphomaniac (a claim which his college buddy, a prominent psychiatrist, supports). The judge (another college friend of America's, with whom he has had done business over the years) rules that you must pay America alimony and child support. The judge congratulates America for his willingness to devote himself to a child that he doubts very much is even his.

You give birth to a son, alone -- but you must share custody with America. From the moment he is born, America wages an intense, concentrated propaganda campaign designed by his psychiatrist buddy to turn your child against you. Your son begins to suspect you of terrible motives and misdeeds, and finally, when he is old enough to articulate such ideas, berates you openly in language that is an unmistakable parroting of America's.

Finally, trying to respect your child's wishes as an individual, you agree to let him move in with his father, although you are still paying the bulk of his support. Your son refuses to speak to you anymore. Unable to pay the exploding mortgage rates America secured for your house, you lose your home. While moving out, you discover a shoebox full of yellowed newspaper clippings that convince you that before you met, America, operating under a number of different names, was the perpetrator of a number of unprosecuted kidnappings, tortures, rapes and murders in other countries. You realize that you have no idea who America is.

The worst part of all: you can't tell your son. You know his mind has been so deeply imprinted by America's court-supported lies about you that anything you say against America will be taken as evidence of your insanity, and dangerously malicious intent to destroy him. What can you do?