March 16, 2012

Crying Victim

The congressional debate over women’s reproductive rights has highlighted a recent shift in conservative rhetoric that has worked surprisingly well. This is the clever new tactic of playing the victim. I’ve wondered for a while why this strategy is working so well, and I can only think of one more I’m not questioning why people who already agree with the hyper-conservative opinions on these issues fancy the rhetoric, I’m just curious how that rhetoric sways moderates. The rhetorical shift I’m referring to is the new strategy of twisting issues where the goal is to undermine minority rights into issues about a lack of respect for their beliefs. Essentially, playing the victim. To use the example of contraception, those opposing the right of women to have coverage for birth control call it an attack on their religious liberty, and dub it a war on religion and so forth. The only reason I can think that this strategy works is that we as a people do not have an adequate understanding of privilege.

I think it’s an important thing for us as a culture to learn how privilege works. When a group is institutionally elevated above others; that is privilege. I’m sure most people reading this have heard this before, but I just wanted to be really clear. I actually think the rhetorical shift is a good thing. What it indicates is that privilege is starting to slip. As privileged groups like Christians, men, whites, and heterosexuals start to lose some of the privileges they’ve grown accustomed to, they see it as an attack on their liberty. That’s probably because once a privileged group gets used to a privilege, they start to see it as a right. So let’s be absolutely clear, constitutionally every person has the right to their personal beliefs unless their beliefs involve restricting the liberty of others. So now that we’ve got the basics of how the constitution works when it comes to civil liberties, maybe we can get on to same sex marriage…

As a note, I kept my definition of privilege deliberately short to show how simple it really is.

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