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Like many rucas, I’ve found comfort in the videos of quasi-midwestern cholo Nathan Apodaca, aka @doggface208. As Los Angeles Times staff writer Esmeralda Bermudez has noted, “It’s like he has a video that perfectly captures every mood.” The one that went hardcore viral, stoking much adulation, features Apodaca skating through a flatly serene anywheresville, sippin’ cranberry juice from the bottle, enjoying the wind on his bald head as Stevie Nicks serenades: “Now here you go again. You say you want your freedom…”

Many of us admire that vibe.

We envy it too since an ugly but largely unspoken fear hangs in the air. An unanswerable question provokes this fear.

What will happen in November?

Some people, white male Democrats in particular, answer this question cavalierly. They argue that to suggest that the current head of state might refuse to leave office in spite of an electoral loss is a sin against our hallowed Constitution. The United States of America is an exceptional empire with a founding document crafted by Providence herself. Americans always, well, mostly, submit to rule of law and this election will not deviate from historical precedent! Any attempt to persuade these voters otherwise results in figurative fingers inserted into figurative ears.

A different set of Democrats concedes that the head of state might not surrender his position. When one asks these Democrats what ought to happen under such circumstances, their faces broadcast the same blank fear expressed by animals before they become roadkill. After a few seconds of distraught silence, these Democrats giggle and answer, “I don’t know! I guess someone will have to drag him out by the hair!” These fools, or, as doggface would say, foos, conflate a federal coup with a real-estate eviction. 

I will vote and I do hope that Joe Biden wins. I also understand that as we approach November 3, we sail toward dangerous territory. 

Our current head of state is both a tyrant and a Tyrant. Most women have a great deal of experience enduring tyrants. Many tyrants are romantic terrorists and the tactics they use are similar and often identical to the tactics used by Tyrants. These similarities are why so many women, abuse survivors, and minoritized people correctly perceived the threat posed by Donald Trump in advance of pretty much everyone else. As Anand Giridharadas put it, “Being on the wrong end of certain power equations perhaps trains you to be an early-warning system for tyranny.”  

Every man can’t be a dictatorial head of state. But every man can be a dictator at home. Trump is both. His first wife, Ivana Trump stated in her divorce deposition that her husband raped her. That is what batterers, tyrants with a little t, do. They dominate using all available strategies, sexual violence being an extremely common and easy-to-use tool. Why? Because the better a woman knows the person who rapes her, the less credibility she is afforded, particularly by the police. In fact, there are many people who believe that marital rape is an impossiblity. A man may employ his possessions as he sees fit.

With the assistance of several queers, I liberated myself from a domestic tyrant. This cisgendered straight man had trapped me in a controlling relationship steeped in domestic violence, humiliation, and surveillance. He regularly raped and strangled me. He led me to believe that if I left him, if I sought freedom, he would find me, kill me, and make my body disappear into rural California.

This reality is why it’s callous and cruel to tell battered women to leave. Domestic tyrants don’t kill their victims for staying. They kill us for leaving. They kill us for our perceived fugitivity. They execute us to preserve their masucline honor. 75% of domestic abuse murders happen after the woman has fled and the danger faced by women who leave batterers is so common that it even has a name, post-separation violence. When a woman is leaving a batterer who has made threats to kill or harm her as punishment for liberation, she needs a survival plan. She needs a map to safety. She needs supporters and nurturers. She needs shelter. She needs succor. In other words, she needs a community willing to love her and fight for her.

Liberating ourselves from the forces currently in control of White House and beyond will likely lead to political separation violence and post-separation violence. Rafia Zakaria understands this dynamic, writing that “[i]f Trump cannot have America…there will not be any America left to be had.” The night I finally fled from the man who battered me for three years, he pursued me by car and then by foot. He attempted to negotiate his way into the home that had given me refuge and when sweet talking failed, he loudly and threateningly protested that it was his right to continue his pursuit of me.

I could hear him screaming outside the house. I sat on a bedroom floor trembling, uninvited memories of his hands squeezing my throat assailing me. The last time I had attempted to leave him, he had raped and strangled me and then forced me to eat breakfast with him.

Sometimes, it’s the small indignities that really smart. 

Impending separation, fear of violence, and highly controlling behaviors are all indicators of domestic abuse lethality. Our current national reality is marked by the possibility of impending separation, fear of violence and highly controlling behaviors exhibited by state agencies that perform violence. If we’re going to successfully separate from the forces that currently dominate, we need a safety plan.

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