culture of victimhood (or, confessions of a lapsed liberal)

In the early 1990s I listened to a lot of conservative talk radio. It helped me to fall sleep. The angry voices calling out from my Sony clock radio were like waves on a beach.  And everyone was angry: the hosts, the callers, the advertisers. We were on a one-way trip to hell and the liberal homosexuals were driving the bus. As I drifted off to dreamland I would laugh at these desperate fear-mongers and their doomsday declarations.

But still, I had to give them credit. These would-be Limbaughs knew just how to play to their base. They understood that their listeners were angry – not about the Democrats or the homosexuals or the abortionists – they were angry about simple things, like their marriage or their kid not doing well in school or their job. They were angry and they had no one to blame for their anger. And then just like that, faster than you could say manipulation, they suddenly did and conservative talk radio grew overnight into a multi-billion dollar industry.

Now I fancy myself a card-carrying progressive and all those years spent listening to conservative talk radio only served to tighten my grip on my liberal card. But now – twenty years later, twenty years older, twenty years wiser – I start to feel myself being pulled to the dark side…or at least the center. And for this tectonic shift I blame the more extreme members of my liberal party.


Five minutes on Twitter and I feel like I’ve been transported back to 1995. Everyone is so angry. Except this time it’s not the liberal homosexuals who are driving the bus, it’s the conservative cisgender heteronormative white privileged anti-Obama fuckers.

And the weird thing is there is no difference between 1995 conservative talk radio and 2015 Twitter. These parallel universes may be separated by twenty years and fundamentally oppositional belief systems but they are both desperate fear-mongers offering doomsday declarations. These twatters, in a reaching attempt to gain followers and rack up retweets, play to their base: the disenfranchised, the “different”, the persons who believe that every passing glance is a leering stare.

These rabble-rousers steal other people’s experiences. They collect vicarious tragedies the way you collect stamps or coins. Each morning they breathlessly scour the internet searching for the next big hashtag-able movement. They take the temperature on Reddit. They see how the wind is blowing on HuffPost. They use social media to tell them what to think and how to feel. They stand for nothing because they stand for everything.

This new generation of angry millennial white know-it-alls routinely lecture gay people on homophobia. They talk about trans rights because a celebrity told them to talk about trans rights. For the professional victim there is no injustice that cannot be erased by hitting shift+3.

The conservative talk radio listener and the liberal twatter are sworn enemies cut from the same cloth. Even their talking points are the same:

  • You are the victim
  • Everyone is out to get you
  • Everyone wants to take away your rights

We have abdicated all personal responsibility. It’s not my fault, it’s your fault.

I have two kids. I teach them personal responsibility. I teach them to be accountable. I teach them that no one is going to give them anything. I teach them that no one is obligated to like them. I teach them that no one must respect them. Instead I say this:

  • If you want something, work for it
  • If you want people to like you, first like yourself
  • If you want respect, earn it

My children will not be victims. My children will not blame other people for every perceived slight or imagined injustice. My children will not be defined by other people’s opinions. My children will take responsibility. Ultimately my children will be judged for who they are, not what they are.

As in all my blog posts, these are simply my opinions and you are welcome to disagree. You may choose to teach your children to embrace their inner hashtag and if you do, I respect that choice. I also thank you for making it easier for my children to succeed.