Okay, I admit I am more than a little late responding. It has been almost two weeks since Republican candidate Mitt Romney's comments that "there are 47 percent who are with [President Obama], who are dependent upon government, who believe that they are victims, who believe the government has a responsibility to care for them, who believe that they are entitled to health care, to food, to housing, to you name it."
Since our news cycle is on a fast, 24-hour, chaotic spin, these comments could really be dead in the news water. However, the political blood continues to spill after such sword- and soul-piercing remarks. What I find most striking about Romney's observation is his use of the word "victim." He avers that people who believe the onus and responsibility of their care rests with the government are victims. He does not expound on what people are victims of, or who or what caused this state of "victimization." They are just "victims."
I cannot speculate whether Romney's use of the word was supposed to be demeaning. Well, yes, I can. His verbal engagement surely was not meant to boost the ego of a family on welfare or stroke the pride of any CEO who received a government bail-out. Yet, when did the word "victim" become such a pejorative term? After all, we live in a world were people commit hateful, execrable acts on each other. Murders, thefts, rapes, acts of incest, domestic violence, and beatings fill the morning, afternoon and evening reports. We victimize. We are victims.
People who need Medicaid, welfare, food stamps or any other type of government subsidy would hardly classify their plight as on being on par with persons who have been molested or robbed. Thus, Romney's misuse of "victim" -- among other issues -- is most problematic. The number in society who take delight in waiting for the powers-that-be to ameliorate their economic or social condition are minimal at best. No one wants to have their livelihood or mode of financial mobility dependent on what Congress or state governments may or may not bring to bear.
What is ironic, nonetheless, is this recurring tendency toward playing the role of casualty. More and more in the public square are actions and language indicative of scapegoating, gulling, and victimization. I observed just recently after a community sports event a "parent coach" scolding one of the team's players. This 40-something-year-old adult attempted to abase an 8-year-old about "not listening." Needless to say, the child's parents came to her rescue like Navy SEALs hunting down Osama bin Laden. Yet what was most intriguing and quite baffling about the entire incident was the reaction of this human predator. As if his choice of words and method of delivery were chaste, when reprimanded by the child's parents, he lifted his hands in a "what did I do?" mode. By his own gesture, here was the verbal violator now playing the role of a supposed "victim." Seriously?
It happens in the political arena and religious settings when some leader gets caught in acts of moral turpitude, literally with their pants down. Instead of responding with a mea culpa or a simple "I'm sorry," quite often there is the proclivity to pummel dow the "I don't know what you are talking about" road. Whatever happened to just owning up to what we have said or done? No, the victim approach is not applicable here.
Perchance the real issue with Romney's remarks and the actions of the aforementioned accounts is that individuals think they can say whatever without a filter or without accountability. The old adage, "Sticks and stones can break my bones, but words don't hurt," is just not true. Words are offensive. Language speaks so loud. What we say to our sisters and brothers, what we say about another human being can have marring effects. Hubris, wealth, nor position exempts anyone from the checks and balances of stewardship in speech. There is no need to try to reverse the victimization if we are care-filled with our words from the onset.
Moms, dads, children, and grandparents who need a helping hand every now and then are not victims. The assembly worker, teacher, daycare assistant who finds her/himself in a tight economic predicament -- no, they are not victims. These are members of society struggling to get ahead and meet their most basic needs.
You want to see a victim? Just recently a saw a report of a 15-year-old girl attacked by a boy and two girls. The teen girl is my niece. She exited the school bus near her home, and as soon as the bus driver drove away, these three bullies grabbed her and began to pound her ferociously. They took delight in pulling her hair and hitting her in the face. The news clip is beyond graphic; it is barbarous at best. (See: Bus Stop Beatdown) Witnesses say the attack was the culmination of words exchanged on Facebook. Others maintain it is the classic, "She thinks she is cute because she is light-skinned and has long hair" jealous rage. The reason is irrelevant. What is important is that we must guard our language. Generations after us seek to emulate us -- for good and for bad.
The biblical passage is on par: "Let everyone be quick to listen, slow to speak." Instead of using our words to wound, let us try to use them to sound the alarm of justice on behalf of the victims we create from our own misdeeds.