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Words As Weapons

January 22, 2013 4 comments

coffee spill
(image: jerrybaker.com)


Having lunch at a coffee shop, I overheard an angry man raging at the woman he was with, calling her a “Gestapo” because she asked him a question. It seemed that she had caught him in a lie, and was quietly looking to have a conversation with him. She told him she was hurt. His discomfort exploded in a volcano of expletives and insults. He hurled words at her like sticks of dynamite and seemed to delight in lighting the fuse….

Gestapo? The Gestapo, the Nazi secret police, exerted a torturous and murdering force over innocent men, women, and children. Their brutality was devoid of humanity.

If I had to give an account of what I witnessed, he was the oppressor: he shamed and humiliated. He was the one wielding the power and force. Everything he said was loud and menacing, inappropriate, poisonous, contemptuous, controlling. Every time she tried to speak, he’d bully her, and tell her to shut up. There was no empathy, or acknowledgement of her discomfort, only his. Though he was caught in a lie he couldn’t deny, he was “explaining” what was wrong with her, and how “distorted” her thinking was. He told her that he was sick of her behavior, and that he was the one who was hurt. He said he was the “victim”. She wasn’t reactive — she did not fight him or insult him, but she did ask for an apology. He refused.

Her discomfort, in fact, seemed to annoy him, agitate him. He demanded that she apologize to him — and take responsibility for causing his fury: he said it was her fault. Perhaps what was most disturbing was that once he finished his self-absorbed rant, he was composed. He insisted she not ruin another outing with her “negativity”. He insisted she stop pouting, and “let it go”. They were, he reminded her, out for a relaxing lunch together.

Though there was no physical confrontation, or argument, it was one of the ugliest examples of verbal and emotional abuse I’ve witnessed.

What do you think?

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