In the United States, we play baseball. In the United Kingdom, they play cricket. But everywhere, people play blame-the-victim. Anyone can play — no skill or knowledge is required. It’s easy to play — there are no rules.
Most of all, it’s satisfying. It makes us feel good about ourselves while doing absolutely nothing. It relieves us of responsibility to do anything for the victims, or even to feel sorry for them. It makes us feel superior to them without having to demonstrate superiority. It makes us feel safe without having to do anything to make us safe.
This generation was taught to respect animal life more than human life. When joggers are attacked by mountain lions, or when pet dogs and cats are carried off by coyotes, someone is sure to say, “They were here first.” In fact, the coyote’s range has increased markedly since humans arrived. In fact, in many places we were here before they were — for example, New York’s Central Park. In fact, single-celled organisms were here first. Everything and everyone else is an invader.
Some time ago, a colleague told me that she had driven her son to school for early-morning band practice. Coyotes were roaming the schoolyard, so parents kept their kids in the cars. Then teachers began arriving, and they too remained in their cars. Finally the coyotes decided to saunter away, and everyone entered the school. The coyotes — not the teachers, not the students, not the parents — were in charge. If we allow wild animals to take charge, can civilization continue? Can we even call ourselves civilized?
When we hear that a man was robbed at gunpoint, we tend to ask, “What was he doing in that part of town?” When we hear that a woman was raped, we tend to say, “I’ll bet she was wearing skimpy clothes and going to cheap bars.” When we hear of domestic violence, we tend to speculate, “There probably were three families living in one apartment.”
True, we can reduce our risk of violent crime by avoiding dangerous situations. But some people can’t — they are forced by circumstances to live or work in high-crime areas. Our response should not be to feel superior, but to work to reduce the crime rate in all parts of town.
Besides, our risk is only somewhat less. Domestic violence and home-invasion robberies occur in the “best” parts of town. Thoughtful people would search their own hearts for the bitterness and anger that can be the basis of violence, rather than sit in smug self-righteousness while looking down on the violent “others.”
If we live in upscale neighborhoods and work in prestigious office buildings, we may feel no need to own a gun. But that does not give us the right to tell those who must live or work in high-crime areas that they cannot own a gun. Lack of empathy for the less fortunate is a lousy qualification to be called “liberal” and “progressive.” It sounds a lot more like elitist and snobbish.
When news broke from Brussels of the bombing of the airport and subway station, I wondered how long it would be before talking heads began blabbering about the terrorists’ “legitimate grievances.” I didn’t have long to wait.
Barely a day had passed after the terrorist attacks when liberal pundits began blaming the Belgians. It was their fault that many Muslim immigrants failed to assimilate and become good Belgians. It was their fault that the immigrants didn’t accept European values. No, it wasn’t the immigrants fault for refusing to become Belgians, and on the contrary insisting that Belgians adapt to them.
Belgium is barely larger than Massachusetts and has a population of only 11 million. If we can explain away terrorism against so small and inoffensive a nation, we can condone terrorism against anyone, anywhere. Moral compass? We don’t need no stinkin’ moral compass. We’re progressives!
If we blame the victim, we absolve ourselves of responsibility to identify the guilty, much less to blame the guilty, and even less to punish the guilty and prevent a recurrence.
Some anti-American fanatics blamed the office workers in the World Trade Center for their own deaths on 9/11, comparing them to “Nazis.” Even if the stockbrokers had been committing financial shenanigans, what about the hundreds of maintenance workers and visitors, not to mention the firefighters and police who died rescuing others? Were they “Nazis,” too?
Equally illogical were those who blamed all Americans for 9/11. We “brought it on ourselves” because of our “meddling” foreign policy. According to this theory, Muslims are justified in crashing airliners filled with passengers into buildings filled with workers, if the Muslims disagree with our foreign policy. History shows that this notion is absurd. Muslim hostility began centuries ago and is based not on our current foreign policy, but on the fundamental incompatibility of Muslim and Western cultures.
But the notion is also racist. For decades, Americans have been irritated by French foreign policy. Yet no one suggests that this would justify our crashing Air France airliners into Paris office buildings. Mexicans suffer from widespread poverty and government corruption. Yet no one expects Mexicans to blow themselves up in airports, hotels, nightclubs, and pizzerias.
Of course not. Americans and Mexicans are far too civilized to commit such atrocities to avenge their “legitimate grievances.” After all, everyone has “legitimate grievances.” I know I do. But something restrains us from mass murder. It’s called a conscience, based on good values. Obsessing about “legitimate grievances” while ignoring values is getting us blown to pieces in airports and subway stations.
But what about Muslims? Do they have such touchy hair-triggers, and so little self-control, that a policy with which they disagree turns them into homicidal maniacs? Really? People who believe that are racists. They, not the workers in the Twin Towers, resemble Nazis. They are so eager to blame the victims and exonerate the terrorists that they fail to realize the racist implications of what they are saying. If we wish not to be racists, we will treat everyone alike. We will demand the same behavior from Muslims that we demand from everyone else – disagree, fine; argue, okay; insult, if you must; but threaten or employ violence, never.
It’s not a problem of race or national origin — it’s a problem of values, in this case based on religious beliefs. If we and the Europeans continue admitting many thousands of immigrants whose value system allows, and even demands, murdering those who disagree, then our days as free nations are numbered. But instead of doing anything effective, we waste precious time playing game after game of blame-the-victim.
Blame-the-victim is a really entertaining, satisfying game:
● It requires no exertion, so it pleases the lazy.
● It requires no skill, so it pleases the clumsy.
● It requires no knowledge, so it pleases the ignorant.
● It has no rules, so it pleases the undisciplined.
● It requires us to do nothing to increase our safety, but merely to feel safer.
● All it requires is egotism, which elevates us above the victims — not by real achievements, but merely by imagining ourselves to be superior.
● All it requires is lack of empathy, which allows us to attribute imaginary faults to the victims. So we need not feel sorry for them, much less try to help them or to prevent future victimization.
● All it requires is subconscious admiration for predators, whether they are ordinary criminals, terrorists, or wild animals. Some people envy their ruthlessness and strength.
● All it requires is subconscious fear of being like the victims. Some people despise their vulnerability and weakness.
● All it requires is moral idiocy, which prevents us from distinguishing terrorist from activist, aggressor from defender, guilty from innocent, predator from prey, or criminal from victim.
● All it requires is apathy in the presence of evil. And that is easiest of all.
What a deal! Where else can you find a game that is so satisfying, yet so easy to play? Plus it’s really cool, in both senses. It’s popular with the trendy, self-anointed “elite.” And it demonstrates cold indifference to the problems of the innocent and the vulnerable.
Written by David C. Stolinsky, MD
Dr. Stolinsky is a retired medical oncologist and co-author of Firearms: A Handbook for Health Professionals, published by The Claremont Institute. For other articles written by Dr. Stolinsky, check out our search feature on this website.