Blaming victims, victimizing blameless
Behind every personal and/or group interaction, what Herman Melville calls the “living act, the undoubted deed,” is a message intended to communicate a psychological construct or emotion ranging from caring and compassion to contempt and anger.
Inflammatory comments and acts, which emanate from fear, a human’s most powerful emotion, are designed to intimidate, shame, or strike fear in order to demonstrate power by one over another. In turn, the basis of our protracted “social warfare,” as expressed in the militarization of our officers in blue whose role has shifted in some communities from “serve and protect” to “keep the peace,” is rooted in fear of “the other.”
Last week Jon Stewart presented a sardonically humorous but pointed piece on his Daily Show taking to task the rightwing media over their hyperventilating about the shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, MO.
Stewart called them down, them being the “all’s right with America if only the whiners, shiftless ones, and other non-producers would go to work, mind their places, and be content with their second-class status” crowd. Their voice is majority white, narrow-minded, bigoted, clever, smoothly articulated, intellectually wanting, and ritualistically expressed—spewed—on Fox and other conservative media outlets.
Stewart cut right to the chase in lampooning the hysterical ones from Bill O’Reilly to Sean Hannity, who promised to disrobe himself to prove to a police officer who might stop him, which given his whiteness is as likely as a Tea Party endorsement of Barack Obama, that he’s armed with a concealed weapon, an uncomfortable vision to entertain.
The rightwing media claim they and their disciples are tired of seeing how every white-on-black incident such as Brown’s invariably becomes interpreted as a racial conflict, but Stewart concisely sums it up by challenging people not of color to imagine how exhausting it must be for people of color to daily deal with the potential they’ll be disrespected, suspected, or victimized simply because of their skin tone.
It’s a classic case of blaming the victims. It’s the seedy side of white America. In the 1960s those of that ilk were caricaturized as Bull Connors, John Birchers, and sowbelly-eating yahoos who burn crosses while costumed in bed sheets. Today they’ve cleaned up their act, repackaging it with an air of high-mindedness and genteel dress so to more subtly proclaim their anger and fear from high-tech soapboxes, fomenting and stoking in the process angsts in their less-than-thoughtful listeners.
The truth is the killing of Michael Brown is the latest in a series of overt white power acts intended to intimidate and remind African Americans their seat at the American table still remains not in the dining room but in the kitchen.
In similar manner a message was sent by the commissioner of the National Football League that violence against women ranks in priority beneath drinking beer. To his credit, Roger Goodell has backtracked, calling such acts “wrong, unacceptable, and illegal,” but by awarding a slap-on-the-hand two-week suspension to Baltimore Ravens star running back Ray Rice for assaulting his then-fiancé at an Atlantic City casino and four weeks to Broncos kicker Matt Prater for enjoying a legal substance, the message was loud and clear.
By the fact Goodell had to have second thoughts demonstrates clearly where his heart and head are located. Unfortunately, Goodell is far from alone: Misogyny is an integral part of the macho-hetero, as opposed to the “I’m comfortable in my own skin and with my sexuality” hetero, complex.
Goodell now says the NFL policy will be a minimum of six weeks, but “more severe discipline if there are aggravating circumstances such as the presence or use of a weapon, choking, repeated striking, or when the act is committed against a pregnant woman or in the presence of a child.”
How about a lifetime ban, gentlemen?
Finally, there’s the incident in which the nine-year-old girl killed her instructor while firing an Uzi. In addition to the permanent emotional scar the child will bear knowing she took another’s life, there’s the question of the role of her parents.
The media have been protecting their identities. Why? I wasn’t aware the Second Amendment also extended protection to unfit parents unable apparently to distinguish between a 22-gauge rifle and a military assault weapon. Publicly identifying them—a man died after all—would rip the veneer from the social taboo of questioning parenting choices of religious, political, and social zealots.
After all, this isn’t Tombstone where fecal matter happened when bullets flew.