It's not often that I'm at a loss for words, but Rep. Jimmy Duncan has struck me speechless (no pun intended). In a story in the Times Free Press about whether our congressional delegation will vote to reauthorize the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), there's this bit:
"Every bill is given a motherhood-and-apple-pie title," Duncan said outside the House chamber. "But if you voted [based] on the title, you'd vote for every bill up here. If we'd all done that, the country would have crashed a long time ago.
"So this is another bill with a motherhood-and-apple-pie title," he added.
Passed in 1994 and renewed twice without controversy, the Violence Against Women Act reauthorizes funding for pro bono legal assistance and training programs to help victims of violent sex crimes, stalking and other forms of dating and domestic abuse. Despite the bill's title, the benefits apply to female and male victims.
"Like most men, I'm more opposed to violence against women than even violence against men," Duncan said. "Because most men can handle it a little better than a lot of women can."
I've got nothing, folks. Dude plainly states that "Violence Against Women Act" is "a motherhood-and-apple-pie title." What do you say in the face of that? If Jimmy Duncan hears "violence against women" and the first thing that pops into his mind is "motherhood and apple pie," I fear for what his childhood must have been like. Is that what he thinks a woman's lot in life is — violence, motherhood, and baked goods?
I want to be angry, but it fucking breaks my heart. It's like when you say "Christmas," and someone blurts out, "the year my dog got killed." You know there's a story there, but my god, who can bear to hear it?
But if his views of a woman's lot aren't depressing enough, his views of men are worse. Note that Duncan doesn't seem at all capable of imagining a world where people who love each other don't physically abuse each other. Instead, he just thinks it's worse if it happens to women because "most men can handle it a little better." No one should have to handle being abused by someone who loves them. You could be a 300-pound linebacker for the Titans, and you could be dating a 5-foot-tall, 98-pound woman, and her punches could literally be the least painful pain you feel all week — and it would still be wrong. And it wouldn't be your responsibility to "handle" it.
Duncan's comments make me despair. How can we ever hope to reach a point where domestic violence is rare if regular people — like Duncan — cannot even begin to imagine it? If violence between loved ones is just normal, like motherhood and pie, and not that big a deal for some people?
I don't think I'm asking for too much. I want to live in a world where one of the differences between people who hate you and people who love you is who's willing to take a swing at you. But sometimes it really seems like that's an unfathomable change for many people — Jimmy Duncan included.