Victim-blaming and victim-claiming

Dear President Biden,

I don’t know yet whether there’s something substantive linking the two stories that have formed a mash-up in my brain or if it’s just my propensity to see connections between random-ish things. I’m hoping that by writing about them, I’ll figure out why my brain is so insistently juxtaposing them.

The two stories are 1) Joe Manchin’s recent comments about being stuck in the middle between his Democratic colleagues, whom he claims to love, and his Republican colleagues, whom he claims to love and 2) Judge Schroeder’s ground rules in Kyle Rittenhouse’s murder and attempted murder trial forbidding counsel from referring to the people Rittenhouse killed and tried to kill as “victims” while they may be referred to as “rioters, looters, and arsonists.” Victim-blaming, anyone?

These stories seem pretty darn different, don’t they?

Well, the superficial link for me is that we’ve got Schroeder playing God in maintaining that the people who were killed or injured were patently not victims, while we have Manchin, who isn’t specifically using the word “victim,” taking on the victim mantel in the following quote:

“So I’m just trying to survive in a very, very divided Congress in a very divided country…”

“Just trying to survive…” my ass. Manchin’s holding the country hostage (ok, not by himself, but still) while doing a similar sort of gaslighting, victim-claiming that characterizes much of the pathos of DJT and his ilk. It’s a disingenuous stance that needs to be soundly, roundly called out along with the bad math he’s claiming around being smack dab “in the middle” of a divided congress and a divided country (see Greg Sargent’s editorial linked above for why that claim is so delusional).

On the one hand we have Manchin claiming the victim mantel even though he is arguably abusing his power and on the other hand we have a Wisconsin judge, one Bruce Schroeder, saying that it’s too loaded to call the people who Kyle Rittenhouse gunned down with an AR-15 rifle he carried across state lines “victims,” even though he shot and killed two of them and shot and badly wounded the third. Note: Schroeder too, is abusing his power in controlling the language used about the actual victims –in a scary “Big Brother” sort of way.

I think that in addition to both stories feeling like shitty examples of White men/boys getting away with things I don’t think they should get away with, the two stories are paired up in my brain because they’re both examples of the pernicious use of prejudicial language (and as just noted, abuse of power). Manchin is invoking the idea that his very survival is at stake, which is pretty darn loaded even if he is only talking about his political future. Schroeder has taken it upon himself to say that the three people who were killed/injured by the defendant automatically forfeited any claim to victimhood because they were present at what was supposed to be (and apparently largely was) a peaceful protest over a White police officer having shot and paralyzed a Black man, even though it was the defendant who showed up at the protest with an AR-15. The logic here is absolutely baffling.

In both cases, someone (Manchin for himself, Schroeder for Rittenhouse) is putting his thumb on the scale, and while I get that this is a very human thing to do, I find it galling that a Senator and a Judge would engage in this behavior.

Sorry about the not terribly compelling rant. I don’t think I got anywhere very useful, but at least now I understand why my brain mashed the two stories together so thanks for indulging me.

May we be safe from prejudicial language, assholes with AR-15s, and self-absorbed politicians who don’t seem capable of looking out for the greater good.
May we be willing to drill down on language.
May we be strong and courageous in our lives.
May we not accept either specious self-defense or “poor me” arguments.

Tracy Simpson

2 Replies to “Victim-blaming and victim-claiming”

  1. Manchin, the coal baron, in survival (read re-election) mode? Two murdered people and a third seriously injured not victims? I think your brain is working well.

    Sent from my iPad


    Liked by 1 person

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