“Sometimes in our story we are the victim, sometimes the martyr and sometimes the villain.”
Jenny C. Bell, In the Cave of my Heart: Poems
Whites, Afro-Americans, Native Americans, Asian Americans, Latino Americans, the widows, the orphans and the strangers in this land, the latter who came here seeking refuge, all lay claim to being “victims” of one sort or another. And, to add to and stir that pot of “victimhood” it is interesting to note that people of great wealth, who possess immense political power — even the rabid racists who enjoy the benefits of such privileges among them — all assert that they, too, are “victims”. But, can all of the above be victims? And, if that is indeed possible, who, then, are the de facto oppressors? All that having been said: “Will the real victims stand up, please!”
Who is a victim? One dictionary defined the word as: “A person harmed, injured, or killed as a result of a crime, accident, or other event or action…. a person who is tricked or duped.” That definition provides food for much thought and discussion.
Some experiences of alleged victimization appear to be pretty straight forward — especially when understood within universally accepted standards of morality and reason. The kidnapping, enslavement, and oppression of poor Europeans, of African-Americans, and the displacement and genocide of Native Americans — with every treaty made between them and the U.S. Government dishonoured and broken by the latter — are cases in point. But, who is the aggressor against white society today?
If the definition of the word “victim” is to be interpreted narrowly, what would statistics — derived from history, the social sciences and economics tell us? It can be agreed, without debate, that every human being carries the burdens of innate imperfection and deep scars of all kinds from the vicissitudes of life. The rich and poor, the people of colour and of every ethnicity have and continue to suffer from despair, disease and death. Humans, ostensibly, carry an aching void for something or for someone higher or bigger than themselves. Suicide, especially among the “well to do”, reveals an unfulfilled longing for inner peace which cannot be filled by power, by materialism, nor by the laurels of personal achievement and social status. In that sense, all are victims in some way. But, such a claim is not always as plain in other respects.
Academics are largely agreed that many within the Anglo-American power structure fear that they are fast becoming a minority within the ever-shifting demographics of America. The languid and halting progress of others has caused their angst. They, whose net profits have been increasing steadily, by leaps and bounds, offer the fallacious argument that such progress of non-whites comes at their expense.
They blame the plight of the poor upon the faulty reasoning that they are not worthy of public assistance. Such a view has been that of the white elites from as far back as colonial times. Benjamin Franklin, for example, one of the nation’s founding fathers, opposed policies which benefited the poor, though it was the poor who fought and died in numbers for American independence. The book, America’s Economic Moralists — A History of Rival Ethics and Economics, writtenby Professor Donald E. Frey, makes for quite interesting reading. And so, against such a backdrop, they cry: “Victims!”
Are they victims? Yes, by jove! They are victims of a system of inequity which happens to be a product of their very own creation! Are they victims? Yes, unequivocally! They are victims of their very own words as they, having set themselves as a “city on a hill”, and as a bastion of “freedom”, of “prosperity” and of “democracy” — while beating their chests — said to the world, over and over:
“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”
Are they, victims? Yes, most assuredly! For they, with self-righteous boasts against the sinister powers of fascism, communism, and all forms of totalitarianism expressed deep sympathy for the unfortunate souls caught under the monstrous wheels of oppression. They heralded to the world, over and over:
“Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.”
They have been victims, indeed, but of their very own hypocrisy and of their very own hubris. When the “huddled masses” of the world took them at their word and came from hither, thither and yon to cash the promissory note that was extended to them that became another story altogether. What took place on our southern borders not so long ago was and is all of their doing. People flood towards those fences and gates because of what they marketed to the world. If anything is to be blamed it is American Neo-colonialism.
How did they come to this? How were they, ostensibly, caught off guard by the hordes at the gates? Were they infatuated by the ideals that they peddled, more than the out-workings of those ideals? Why do they act surprised? Why feel hard done by the actions of others without embracing their own culpability? Could it be that the greatest threat to their culture, to their prosperity, and to their security are their very own selves? Are their actions an indication that they never believed all that they were saying to the other nations?
They often took the lead by inspiring or by establishing multinational organizations in the name of the brotherhood and progress for all men. Does one recall The League of Nations established in 1920? The Woodrow Wilson Administration gave it wholehearted support as that organization was formed in response to the aftermath of the horrors of World War I. But, the US Congress prevented the country from joining. That was then replaced by the United Nations, founded in 1945, which is headquartered on US soil.
They helped to found the World Health Organization in 1945 and have been helping to fund it in order to fight such issues as the coronavirus pandemic which has laid siege to the world. What about their involvement with the World Bank founded in 1944, and with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) founded in 1945 — both located in Washington, D.C.? Victims? Yes, but of their own vaunted, self-ascribed sensibility as leaders, brandishing the badge and cap of policemen of the world.
In closing, these facts not only have implications for white America’s claim of “victimhood” here in the 21st century, domestically and internationally, but for the former Trump Administration’s definition of “Make America Great Again!” Many within and without these shores have, indeed, seen flashes of greatness in the leadership that America took in international relations — an image, even if no longer borne out by reality, which rests not only in history but within the psyche of the American populace.
Though one cannot deny that the forces of “isolationism” and of “exceptionalism” were and continue to be dynamics on the US political landscape — the forces which lean toward international cooperation are just as real, just as vibrant and just as compelling. To which America, then, does the slogan: “Make America Great Again” speak? And, what do the voices of the various minorities who have a stake in this country have to say about it?
“Will the real victims stand up, please!”