THE BLOG
06/19/2013 03:46 pm ET | Updated Aug 19, 2013

Why People in Power Cast Themselves as 'War' Casualties

So James Taranto of the Wall Street Journal believes there is a "war on men" and that male sexuality is being criminalized. Really?! When I first read about his bizarre and inappropriate reframing of the effort to address sexual assault in the military in HuffPost yesterday, I posted the article on Facebook and watched the comment thread take off like a surface-to-air missile. Taranto, when given a chance to walk back his comments later on, doubled down on them, as is the fashion these days. Let me tell you, writing such heinous assertions is the easy part, but sticking with them is the stuff of valor.

War on men. Class warfare. War on Christmas. Lots and lots of figurative use of the word "war" these days. But I can't for the life of me see how anyone can toss that rhetoric around when what they are actually bringing into focus is that a disempowered group is struggling for justice relative to an empowered group. So, while I don't like comparing anything but real war to war, it bothers me tremendously when a dominant group accuses any other group with less power of "waging war" on them.

The people attacking others and their rights are always the ones awash in power, clinging to it, choking it off for others. Anyone else trying to get their fair share, or simply a shot at it? They are not "waging war." They are doing everything they can, from a place of significantly less power, to stand up for themselves and to stop the further erosion of whatever rights they still have. And that feels mighty threatening, so those in power turn the tables on them with language, and project what they themselves are actually doing onto those they are trampling. Rachel Maddow summed it up aptly during the 2012 presidential election when discussing the many ways Republicans -- with great hilarity -- were using the "I'm rubber, you're glue" tactic on Democrats. Apparently if you are buying an election, suppressing minority votes and attempting to strip women of their constitutional rights, the most strategic thing you can do is to accuse the other side of being the ones who are actually doing it. Paging Billy from Family Circus -- "Not me!"

While the phrase "war on women" is growing worn and tired, so are the women whose rights are being suppressed or usurped. I can make an exception for the word "war" in this case -- this one has been long and sustained and goes back, oh, thousands of years. The recent uptick in anti-woman legislation since 2010 may represent backlash to the feminist movement, or may represent a GOP that has swung hard-right and driven off a cliff, but women are truly battle-weary. Men are not. Because there is no war on men. There is also no war on the 1 percent, and even if there were, they are doing quite fine. They need no help from those of us trying to keep the lights on. And there is no war on white people, despite claims to the contrary that have propelled the two race-related cases currently before the Supreme Court. The attack on affirmative action at public colleges and the attempted evisceration of critical protections for minority voters enshrined in the Voting Rights Act would seem to suggest, dare I say, that the war is actually on people who are not white, but a lot of white people are working extremely hard to have you believe the opposite.

Right about here is the perfect place to suggest you watch one of my favorite TED Talks of all time, "The Earth Is Full" by Paul Gilding. According to Gilding, an Australian environmentalist who was formerly the executive director of Greenpeace International and is now a fellow at the Post Carbon Institute, "the economy is bigger than its host, our planet." We would need 1.5 earths to maintain our present global economy, so we are living beyond our means by borrowing from the future. The consequence is the crisis of unsustainability, and the resulting, escalating fight over resources. Now that kind of "war" is often what ignites real wars.

As a species, competing over the Earth's resources in the face of global warming, overpopulation, increasing famines, water shortages, shrinking fossil fuel reserves and so forth causes not only military wars, but also culture wars. The powerbrokers here and elsewhere can feel the building unrest caused by a global economy that is in retraction, and they've gotten wind of the mass protests and the sharpening demands of the disenfranchised that we all share the planet's goodies... but they do not want to. Ensuring the continued struggles of groups with less power is necessary to hold onto more of it for oneself. Thus the rise of extremist rhetoric and absurd violations of Godwin's Law over smaller and smaller issues.

The day has come that predominantly straight, white, wealthy, Christian, Republican males strategically position themselves as victims of various "wars" in a pathetic and hopeless attempt to escape being noticed as the amassers of the greatest share of resources and power the world has ever known. They run for the hills when asked to address the challenging issues that disproportionately affect the lives, liberty and happiness of other groups -- women, the poor, minorities, immigrants, the LGBT community, and so on. They champion the zero sum game -- for them to "win," others must lose. The status quo suits them, and it resides in offshore banks.

It will never be enough.

This is about systemic political power gluttony. This is not about individuals. Any one person of any race, religion, gender, class or sexual orientation can be lucky or unlucky in this life. The problem is that certain people as a group have managed to stack the deck in their favor, and they understand exquisitely clearly that in order to hold onto their power, they must become increasingly ruthless.

Playing "war" victim is a joke, James Taranto, and everyone else in that game. And it's not a funny one. Nice try though.

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