As I have been writing about truth-telling for the past week or so, I have included each day some comments about individuals and groups which represent themselves as somehow being victimized. Evangelicals feel victimized by Starbucks, insurers by the Affordable Care Act, gun manufacturers by background checks for purchases — each crying “foul” when they perceive they are not getting their way. To the extent that they might be harmed or injured by some event or action, I suppose they are correct in using the term victim. However, I think a closer look will show that these groups are not being harmed at all. For them, playing the victim disguises their real position and prompts other actions or reactions to their benefit.
For example, Evangelical spokespersons in recent years espouse at Christmas time a sense that there has been a robbery. Someone has stolen their holiday, took the baby Jesus, or profoundly disrespected them in some retail-associated way. They don’t complain about Christmas in July, Christmas decorations at Halloween, or the cross-dressing dancing children in Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. No. This year they were upset by the now infamous Starbuck’s red cup. Let’s test, for a moment their claim of victimhood. Metric One: Were they hurt by the red cup? No. Done.
Next, United Health Care has complained that they may no longer be able to participate as the largest insurer under the Affordable Care Act. This publicly traded company has made consistent profits prior to and since the ACA was implemented. They did not make their projected profits. Again, let’s test. Metric One: Were they hurt by the ACA? Possibly. Metric Two: Were they clearly not responsible for the missed level of profit? No. The missed projections were their own, not the federal government’s. Hell, insurers were so involved with the writing of the ACA that it is almost their own policy for success. Victimized? No.
Another example is gun manufacturers and the NRA rolling in the mud moaning about what constitutes a gun sale that requires a background check.
[Full disclosure: In the early 1980’s, I disposed of a set of rifles with gold inlays for a collector who didn’t want to be public about his deaccession of the guns. I had a license to sell antiques, which these were, and an attorney gave me a verbal green light to sell them privately. These sales were private, advertised in a gun collectors’ magazine, and at the time legal. Even though I could never imagine these antique beauties being used at all, let alone in a crime, the exchange has always made me feel uneasy. I would not do this sort of transaction again, with or without a background check.]
Here’s the test again. Metric One: Were they hurt by the expanded definition of what constitutes a gun sale requiring a background check? Possibly. We do not yet know what will happen to sales because we have reasonably paid more attention to what might happen to gun-related fatalities. On the other hand, whenever gun safety measures are enacted sales of firearms generally go up and NRA membership increases. Metric Two: Were gun manufacturers and/or the NRA not responsible for this increased need for surveillance? It could be argued that their high pressure politics in congress and state legislatures have had more to do with the desire to enact firearm safety regulations than the mounting gun-related deaths. Metric Three: Were they under no obligation themselves to prevent unbridled gun sales to convicted felons, people with restraining orders, or people deemed mentally ill? They were under an obligation, at least to the degree that we do not sell automobiles to three-year olds or alcohol to those clearly in danger of death. Victimized? No.
Whether these groups use the guise of victimization to activate their base (as Evangelicals are doing), divert attention from their own errors (as United Health Care is doing), or manipulating public opinion to appear like they are defending our rights when they are actually seeking to limit the actions based on the righteous indignation of a country (as the NRA is doing), they are not victims at all. In their deceptive stances they show profound disrespect for good people, working people, and the families of those killed in gun violence. They also disrespect our intelligence.
One need not call an ambulance for these so-called victims. They are already dead inside.