One particular political tactic I have been growing more and more sick of is the use of victims to push political agendas. While it is certainly true that some people can certainly better attest to certain facts than others, it’s growing more and more common for those victims to become conflated with their causes, to the point where disagreeing with their agenda is seen as “attacking the victims.”
The discussion of young Mr. Frost and his pushing for the expansion of the SCHIP program is but the latest example. How does one explain to a 12-year-old such notions as the rightful role of the federal government in providing welfare, economic cutoffs, age limitations, tradeoffs, and fiscal responsibility? What he knows is he was hurt badly, and Mom and Dad say that this government program helped him get better. So it would be good if more people could be helped by it.
But Mr. Frost is hardly the first person to be used as cover for a political agenda. This is by no means a comprehensive list, but merely the ones that spring to mind;
Jim Brady, Ronald Reagan’s press secretary, for gun control.
Cindy Sheehan, mother of a soldier killed in Iraq, she of “absolute moral authority” fame, against the war in Iraq.
Representative Carolyn McCarthy, widow of one of Colin Ferguson’s victims, crusader for gun control.
Michael J. Fox, Parkinson’s Disease sufferer, for stem cell research.
The strategy seems to be this: identify a person with the cause. Then, it’s just a simple progression: disagreeing with the cause becomes disagreeing with the person. Then it’s just a short hop to make that “attacking” the person, and attacking a victim is a heinous deed indeed.
It seems that the best way to win the support from certain factions is to be a victim. Note the anti-war crowd seems to think that the best way to “support the troops” is to portray them as victims: they are poor, disadvantaged young men and women who joined the military out of economic necessity, who saw service as their only way to get ahead in the world, who were lied to and deceived by recruiters, who need to be protected from harm by bringing them back home.
I have issues. I have problems. In a lot of ways, I could probably make a good case that I, too, am a “victim” and try to seize some kind of moral high ground.
But I won’t.
It’s odd where you learn ideas and concepts, and where they end up applying. One of the most profound lessons I ever learned was in a creative writing class. The professor had a technique that shaped a great deal of my thinking. Each student would distribute copies of their work, read it to the class, and then sit there and shut up while the rest of the class critiqued it. They were not allowed to say a single word defending or explaining their piece.
The idea was simple: the work had to stand — or fail — on its own. The author could not go around and discuss just what he intended with every single reader, so this was a way of teaching the author to make the piece as strong as possible before “releasing” it.
From that, I learned the idea that my ideas have to stand or fail on their own. I go out of my way to avoiding claiming any particular expertise, any level of authority, any Sledge Hammer-style “trust me, I know what I’m doing.” I don’t want to see my arguments and positions discredited because of any of my failings; they’re more important than I am.
A lot of prominent people (including Harry Reid’s staff, who apparently brought a 12-year-old boy into DC at 6 a.m. to read a script they prepared for him to rebut Bush’s veto of the SCHIP bill) could stand to spend a bit of time in my old professor’s class.