The first time I head the expression “S & M” was when a gay friend used the term to describe a relationship between two of his gay friends. I had to ask what it meant. As soon as my friend told me the words for which the letters stood, I understood: S for sadism (getting sexual pleasure from hurting or mistreating another or others) and M for masochism (getting sexual pleasure from being dominated or hurt physically or psychologically). Sadomasochism combines the two.

Of course, S&M is not an acronym exclusive to gay or sexual relationships. The term describes everyday relationships – familial, social, religious and political. What better situation can there be for sadistic people than to have masochistic people just begging to be abused – a match made where?

Relatives and friends have brought up the S&M flavor of our current presidential election situation. They fear that too many Americans are locked into perpetual suffering and will continue to support those candidates who guarantee their future suffering – economically, spiritually and physically.

In the RoundTable election issue in November 2004, I wrote a story in reference to voters, entitled “A Real Winner,” a real winner being the person who recognizes and saves himself or herself from self-destruction. Below are excerpts from that story.

Now here we are in 2008, shortly before another presidential election in which the world holds its breath while waiting to see if masochistic and sadomasochistic Americans will again be the majority vote that sustains the sadistic policies of our current regime, or if the majority of American voters will have the intelligence to reflect on the current political and economic conditions and let their votes say “enough is enough.” One can only hope that the results of our 2008 presidential election will show that Americans can be real winners and choose a real winner, Barack Obama.

‘A Real Winner’ (from November, 2004): A friend e-mailed me a copy of an article from the Oct. 1, 2004, issue of the Detroit Free Press: “Comment: Many blindly follow Bush despite failings” (by John Somers-Flanahan, Ph.D., clinical psychologist and author).

The article presents examples of people who willingly support or participate in physically and psychologically destructive relationships. One example is that of a wife who remains with her husband even though he broke her jaw, “because he loves me and I love him.”

Dr. Sommers-Flanahan talks about the acceptance of abuse, incompetence, immorality, weakness and lies in our leaders. “In psychology, the enhanced allegiance to a person associated with your abuse is referred to as trauma-bonding. It is a powerful phenomenon. It accounts for why otherwise intelligent people begin worshipping those very people whose behaviors have threatened their safety.”

In his appeal to have people respond more rationally to those who abuse them, Dr. Sommers-Flanahan points out that “the abuser manipulates us with fear … does not have our best interests at heart … and is interested in control and domination.” He suggests the choice of ‘televising’ in ourselves, risking disfavor and asserting independence.

“Most people would sooner die than think; in fact, they do so.” – Bertrand Russell, 1872-1970.

Peggy Tarr

Peggy Tarr has been a columnist for the Evanston RoundTable since its founding in 1998. Born in Bruce Springsteen's hometown of Freehold, New Jersey, she graduated from Rutgers University with a degree...