CHICAGO — In his thought-provoking new book, “The Victim’s Revolution: The Rise of Identity Studies and the Closing of the Liberal Mind,” Bruce Brawer spends 378 pages providing case studies, observations and historical context for how, despite their traditional ease in downplaying individual differences in order to participate in a shared identity, Americans have come to believe that our society is composed chiefly of oppressors and victims.
Brawer’s thesis is that over a generation, colleges and universities have shrugged off their role as institutions of inquiry and open-mindedness and have instead incubated powerful champions of multiculturalism that have spurred whole disciplines of study dedicated to identity-based programs — such as women’s, black, gay, Chicano, disability and even “fat” studies — and threaten to topple our society’s ability to live together in peace.
I certainly didn’t need Brawer to tell me that this trend in the cult-of-individualism movement has been rearing its ugly head for years. The value is that the book traces the phenomenon to its roots and chillingly describes how codified and widespread it’s becoming.
Though I hadn’t yet added the idea of a “victim revolution” to my consciousness, I found a perfect example of it in a column I recently read on a Latino news website titled “Republican women must be suffering from Stockholm Syndrome.”
In it, the author argues that the only way women could possibly support an agenda that seeks to “strip women of our power, obstruct our progress, and keep us silenced in the corners of our country and our kitchens” is because they are held hostage to Republican ideology and end up empathizing with and defending it.
Soooooo, we’re to believe that Republican women are not capable of forming their own political opinions based on their upbringing or current life experiences, they’re simply suffering from a trauma-induced psychological disorder? Oh, I get it! Republican women don’t have different attitudes, they’re — you guessed it! — victims.
Wow, that concept must allow some people to sleep at night. The rest of us cringe, because nothing dehumanizes others faster than labeling them helpless victims. Compassion is one thing, but pressing the identity of one who is forever doomed to suffer from circumstances beyond their control onto whole groups of people is a recipe for weakening them.
I think we like that. Disagree with me? Just look at the Change.org petition site where you can vote for causes that cast “regular people” in the role of heroic crusaders against menacing Goliaths seeking to do us wrong.
Or look at how little attention is paid to our Paralympians. By the time the 2012 Paralympic Games in London ended Sunday, the elite U.S. athletes who happen to have disabilities had brought home 98 medals — 31 of them gold — in events ranging from sailing to basketball to cycling. Maybe we just don’t ever feel as good about ourselves as when we’re feeling sorry for others, and Olympic-caliber athletes with physical imperfections cause us too much cognitive dissonance.
Either way, let’s put our injustice cards — race, gender, sexual orientation, legal status, income level — away. Since everyone’s aggrieved about something, we no longer need them: We’re all victims now.
Esther Cepeda is syndicated columnist and an NBC Latino Contributor.
You can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
(c) 2012, Washington Post Writers Group