The simple story of “Chicken Little” is known to most of us. Running around yelling “the sky is falling” repeatedly when it isn’t hurts your credibility and makes you an untrustable character.
Or at least it should.
I’m not sure this moral to the story is true today. Today brings just the latest example. Brett Kavanaugh now has a #metoo accuser. Color me skeptical. Here’s why:
- Nothing was said about her during the hearings although her Senator claims to have known about it since mid summer.
- The claim was not brought until almost the minute of the confirmation vote.
- The accuser has now come forward, with such inexact details that she can’t even remember what decade the incident took place.
Now whether or not Kavanaugh becomes the next Supreme Court Justice matters not a bit to me. I see him as fairly similar to the man he is replacing, Justice Kennedy. I don’t think he will always be a party line voter on the Supreme Court. Maybe that’s good. Maybe that’s bad. Maybe it’s both. I am more of the mindset that it’s truly rare when only one person is qualified for any position. I can live with either outcome when the Senate votes on this. It might still be that she has a case. It’s just that at present there’s not much there to see.
But the larger implication I draw–the reason I mention the classic old story–is the implication of America’s incessant victimhood for our overall health as a society. My problem is not what’s happening to Brett Kavanaugh in particular, but that this sort of victimization in order to castigate happens all the time now. Kavanaugh may just be the most recent example of this.
As a Lutheran pastor, I walk a fine line here, but that’s also why I write this. I am not saying there are no victims. On the contrary! I have known real victims. I have had to help them deal with the residuals of the tragedies that have happened to them. I have had to recognize that bad things happen to people and these can create real victims. [Note: I will add that a real victim does not want to be one. If someone wants to be viewed as a victim, there’s my reason number one to have doubts].
My fear is that the real victims lose their credibility when everybody wants to claim to be a victim. I’ll use another example from the arts. In the movie, The Incredibles, Dash is arguing with his mother after he got in trouble at school. He argues that because his family has superpowers they are special. His mom responds that “everyone is special.” The young boy follows that comment up with some pretty good wisdom. “When everybody’s special, no one is.” Later on, the villain in the story uses the same logic. Credit this movie for exposing this logic as damaging! It truly is.
Call it the “Chicken Little effect,” if you will. If everyone’s a victim and shouting that loudly, then the real victims will not be respected, trusted, and ultimately, helped and nurtured through their traumas. Why should we believe anyone anymore? When everyone’s a victim, then no one is.
[Oh, and by the way, if they get away with it in the Supreme Court hearings, then who will ever be good enough to be on the Court]?
When Asia Argento, one of the actresses who came out against Harvey Weinstein, was later exposed for sexual advances to a 17 year old teenage boy, it put the lie to the conventional ideas about victimhood. Keith Ellison’s former girlfriend was apparently beaten by him, but is her victimhood touted about in the media the way Kavanaugh’s accuser’s is? No. We’re already as a society to that place of ultimate cynicism where we know we can’t trust anyone anymore, so we’re just picking the victims we want to believe. There’s not much room for sympathy there for someone who is a victim NOT by his or her own choosing. You know, a real victim?
As Christians, we have an 8th Commandment responsibility to put the best construction on everything, but this does not mean that the facts aren’t still important in determining guilt or innocence. If the facts reveal that someone claiming to be a victim is not one, we are not keeping the 8th Commandment by asserting they are. After all, if another party is involved and they actually are innocent, we have the same commandment to remember with them. In most of today’s victimhood allegations, it’s important to remember that two parties are involved. What sort of sympathy and care we should want to show to both sides can still only be determined by the facts. If we won’t do that much for both sides, then not only do real victims lose credibility, but we will fail to defend the innocent as well.
This game only has losers. It’s petulant, divisive, dangerous and, in my humble opinion, evil.
Consider Jesus Himself. Truly innocent, He was crucified as guilty and mocked by His tormentors through the whole situation. And people say the Bible is irrelevant! I can’t see a story that is more relevant to today’s headlines than what happened to Jesus. If we make everyone a victim, then the innocent will truly get crucified along with the real victims who have lost our sympathy.
I’ll give a little suggestion. If the media says there is a victim, be careful. Such allegations, if false, can create new and very real victims. We owe it, in our love for the neighbor, to pursue our own facts about the case and not let some reporter mediate the story to us. Our job is not to assume there are no victims, but to find the real ones. In today’s mess of a society, that can be like looking for a needle in a haystack.
Love should never allow us to become that cynical. When you meet a real victim? Love them. When you meet someone falsely accused who is actually innocent? Defend them and care for them.
One crucifixion’s enough.