by Charlie Barber ’60.
The High Plains Reader, Fargo, ND, July 9, 2009.
Reprinted by permission of the author and The High Plains Reader
“A state legislator [Dave Weiler] has pleaded guilty to simple assault for pushing his wife to the ground.”
— Bismarck Tribune, April 18, 2009
“And within us we have those men who cannot behave properly with women.”
— Maulvi Qalamuddin, Taliban religious police
“Try a little tenderness…”
— The Commitments/Otis Redding
North Dakotans are like the weather here. We’re frozen for half the year, and then we flood and burn. This is fine when it produces milk of human kindness and personalities of a prairie rose as it does in many of us. Or even in the form that Mandan takes every July 4, when it blows itself up.
When some of us Dr. Jekyls unfreeze, however, we become Mr. Hydes, like State Representative Dave Weiler [R] of District 30 in Bismarck.
What I read in the paper seemed like “wife-beating” to me, but the court chose to describe him as a “simple assaulter.” Now I know why lawyers often say, “the law is an ass.”
Even worse, Weiler’s colleagues, like House Majority Leader, Al Carlson, were indifferent to this uncivilized and un-American behavior. Carlson said “no ethics committee is needed because the incident happened off campus and is unrelated to Weiler’s work in the Legislature.”[Bis.Trib. 4/18/09].
Do all Republicans share Weiler’s and Carlson’s contempt for women?
It would seem so from their lack of public response to Weiler’s guilty plea.
What about the House Republican caucus? Did they admonish Weiler? Or was it,
“ what the heck Dave, you had to slap her around, she was lippin’ off!”?
And the Democrats, where was their publicly expressed outrage, either genuine or
political? Could it be that Democrats harbor a few “simple assaulters” of their own, or are they just afraid there are not enough voting-age women in North Dakota named Thelma or Louise?
And editorial outrage. Was there any?
I see ads on the Twins games, with young baseball players speaking out against violence towards women, but nothing else like it seems to be reaching the public domain in North Dakota. Is that because no woman named Katherine Graham or Arianna Huffington owns a daily newspaper or TV station here?
After all, what is so simple about “simple assault” for the person who is hit?
Is misdemeanor wife-beating any better than felony wife-beating?
Do we have degrees of difficulty for wife beating, like platform diving, based on the
number and size of their bruises and cuts, and whether they need extended hospitalization or psychiatric care? If so, should we treat wife-beating as an Olympic event? Why is there not at least as much public outrage against these daily brutalities against women in North Dakota, as there was nationally over Michael Vick’s treatment of dogs?
I understand why the upper body strength of men makes it intimidating for women who would like to emulate Teddy Roosevelt and “speak softly, while carrying a big rolling pin,” but there are many legal weapons available to them, besides a sharp tongue, a cold bed, and the divorce courts.
There actually are institutions in places like Bismarck, Mandan, Fargo, and elsewhere in North Dakota, which support women who are willing to save themselves and their children from brutality, but they can do nothing if they are not asked. Every newspaper in the State, every States Attorney’s office, knows who they are, and would be willing to supply the information.
There are also many decent men in North Dakota, and especially in law enforcement, who are willing to help, but are frustrated when they rescue women from wife-beating, and then helplessly watch as these women go back to their abusers.
No real man hits a woman. That has been the model in western civilization from medieval chivalry to Hollywood’s cowboys. Though deserved, Weiler doesn’t need the clink, but he does need a shrink. Al Carlson and the rest of the “good old boys” in the House Republican caucus also need their heads examined. More importantly, they need to examine their hearts,…if they have any.
Dave Weiler would do well to heed The Commitments’ advice.
Ebeneezer Scrooge did, and gained redemption. But Scrooge, of course, had a head start. He was not a wife beater.