THE BLOG
11/16/2009 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

GOP: Poor People Get What They Deserve

There is a term that sociologists developed to describe an incredibly ugly quality of human nature. The term they use is "victim blame." Here's how it works: Americans are fearful people. That's why drug companies are able to sell more pharmaceuticals per capita in America than any other place in the world. It is also the reason that gun manufacturers love Americans.

On the outside , most Americans want to project a Rambo quality of "gutsy" but "fearfulness" lies below that veneer. It is that fearful nature, according to sociologists and shrinks, that compels us to blame victims for their misfortune. It makes us feel better when we convince ourselves that bad things only happen to other people.

Test that theory yourself. Find one of those male or female swaggering, bravado types who is always quick to project macho self-assuredness.

Keep track of how many times they blame a victim for a rape, or a robbery, or an accident, or virtually any kind of misfortune. Note how many times they tell you that "if they were in that situation," there would have been a happier ending. That is the nature of "victim blaming."

It is a mechanism that promotes false bravado as a way to help us believe that bad things will never happen to us. After all, "we," unlike those other victims, are smarter, stronger, and more righteous.

Conservative political policies have been built around the manipulation of that ugly quality called victim blame. If an American is homeless or jobless, if they cannot afford health care, if they lost their home in foreclosure, then surely they have done "something" to deserve that fate. Conservatives are brilliant in that they have freed us from the responsibility of being our brother's keeper. It's much easier to conclude that our brother is always stupid, irresponsible, immoral, and obviously not as smart, responsible and virtuous as "us." If they had "our" superior qualities, their lives would flourish.

Today, homeless families are the largest growing segment of America's population. Almost half of those "irresponsible," "underachieving," homeless types are children under the age of six. An accomplished "victim blamer" will conclude that those homeless children are suffering appropriately for the "sins of their fathers."

Until Obama signed legislation to ensure that America's poverty stricken children could get health care, nine million had no health care protection. We saw eight years of victim blaming from conservative political leaders that allowed their swaggering, self-reliant followers to conclude that those kids "get what they deserve."

That same crowd is mobilized again. You can catch them at town hall meetings attacking 47 million "deadbeat" Americans who have no health insurance. It is a crowd that feels better when they can rationalize that unlike those 47-million "deadbeat" underachieving losers, their own crowd of motivated, righteous types will always have medical care when they are sick or dying.

When we are able to control fear, it has the capacity to help us improve our lives and the lives of others. But when fear controls us, we end up with terrified mobs shouting down and blaming their neighbors when those neighbors need their help the most. It makes some of us feel more secure.

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