I Choose Free

JoAnna Bennett

JoAnna Bennett, O’Brien Communications Group

2 April 2020

Last week, I wrote an essay that was published by BizCatalyst360 entitled, Live Free or Die, which is my take on the current coronavirus situation, our history as a nation, and what will come after the dust settles. After reading my essay, John Philpin, a fellow contributor to BizCatalyst360, felt compelled to write this post in reply. I’m honored to know my words elicited such a strong emotion in John, but it seems as if he misunderstood a few of my larger points; therefore, I’ve chosen to respond to him. My hope is that the following letter will fill in a few of the gaps.

Hi, John:

I’m a female domestic violence survivor. I’m experiencing post-separation abuse from my soon-to-be-ex-husband. I’ve remained employed, hired an attorney, sold my marital home with the safety of a restraining order in place, bought another house on my own, and paid for my kids to go to school. Two or three generations ago, I’d have been considered unable to do all that because of my gender. And I’d quite likely be dead.

Much to my surprise — and despite the fact that verbal abuse and the threat of violence continue — most of the decisions in numerous pre-trial hearings to date haven’t gone my way. The legal system in general, and the presiding judge in particular, have failed to grasp the ever-present realities of domestic violence and to mandate appropriate safeguards. Your protests against inequality notwithstanding, race, gender, and alternative sexual identification notwithstanding, human beings will never be equal in every way. But that doesn’t mean — regardless of my race, my gender, or my sexual orientation — I have to take any manner of abuse from anyone.

I’m not going to take the punches as they come. I’m going to dodge them to the best of my ability. And after the fight, I’m going to study the tape and improve my offense and my defense. If I can’t change the mind of a 60-year-old judge, educate him on domestic violence, and get him to award the protection my children and I need and deserve, I’ll talk to a senator. I’ll write essays. I’ll find, foster, or start a movement to help the women and children who come after me.

I was in a toxic relationship for eleven years, the lessons existed all around me. The red flags were everywhere. But I didn’t see them while I was trying to survive. Decades of research and risk assessments were available. Yet, I had no idea I was in a dangerous situation. I didn’t have time to think clearly or to act rationally while the bullets were flying. I didn’t learn the lesson until I finally got out, licked my wounds, sought the counsel of experts, fully understood the severity of my situation, and accepted the fact that I was clueless for so long.

As a parallel, COVID19 is currently incomprehensible as its only begun to wage its war. No one can fully digest the implications while the world is consumed with containing the virus. The lessons will come when it’s over, when we have time to study the tape and to contemplate what happened. We’ll learn the things we could’ve done better and the things we did right. But we won’t know the full scope of the situation until the full scope is available.

Will COVID19 change U.S. policies? Maybe a little. But when I wrote, “We are a nation that learns its lessons,” I was referring to the people. Yes, our nation has leaders. Most do. But men and women obsessed with power and control will never positively change the fabric of our country. They can’t. They don’t understand the intricacies of the masses to any discernible degree, no matter what their political persuasions.

I was referring to the people in our country who work, who pay taxes and support our way of life. I was referring to our habits and our routines, our senses of safety and freedom. Donald Trump, JoAnna Bennett, and John Philpin could catch COVID19. The existence of this pathogen on our soil has changed our daily lives — every state, every town, every city, every person. And I believe the virus will make us come together and change the foundation our country. That’s where it matters anyway.

JoAnna Bennett