Here's Why So Many Right Wingers Think of Themselves as Victims

Hollywood is out to get them. The media is out to get them. And any American who doesn’t see things their way are part of the problem.

Trump supporters at a rally in NH, Dec. 2015.
Photo Credit: Marc Nozell / Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

There’s a guy I work with who generally likes to be the life of the party. If there’s ever time to mess around, he likes to be in the middle of things with jokes, and teasing people. And he can genuinely be a fun addition to the atmosphere of the place. But there are also times he’s a sullen mess because he’s also one of the most sensitive people I’ve ever met, where anything one may or may not realize they’re doing could be interpreted as a slight in his eyes, even though he can be the first to crack wise if it’s someone else. So there are days where he sits silently, like someone in mourning, with everyone walking up to him saying: “Are you okay?” It’s almost like he gets off on the attention, and needs validation in order to function. Needless to say, it’s both annoying and tiring to deal with a drama queen, but most people go along to get along.

After the 2016 presidential election, I remember hearing a reporter on NPR trying to make sense of Trump voters, and he recalled speaking to an older, white, male Trump voter from red-rural-istan America who said something along the lines (paraphrasing): “Now, you won’t ignore us and disrespect us. You’ll have to listen.” At the time, and even now, my reaction was astonishment because out there somewhere there are white people full of resentment who think themselves the victims in this society. This is not to say white people don’t have problems, or there aren’t problems which affect rural whites that are as difficult as any other. There are, and they deserve to be addressed like any other issue. It just strikes me as funny that when looking at the grand scheme of problems and issues this country faces, there are people who think it’s white men who got it bad, and are not being listened to. And these people tend to think everyone else has a hand in their pocket, everyone else is slighting their existence, and everyone isn’t showing them the proper respect. Why?

The lack of proper respect comes down to being told they’re wrong, or—like my coworker—freaking out over nothing. Whether it be scientists, Hollywood, the media, or Democrats, calling stupid ideas stupid has somehow become “elitist” and evidence of bias. It’s one of the bitterest ironies that the people who bitch and moan about political correctness and wear shirts saying “fuck your feelings” are the ones whining about respect whenever a TV show or movie has a story which steps on their toes, or a science article actually advocates science.

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So what gives? Where does this victim mentality come from?

There are poor white people out there who care more about Colin Kaepernick’s posture in pre-game than their black neighbors who can’t go to a store or get stopped by police without being harassed. There's an entire swath of America that’s probably more outraged by two women or two men showing affection on television, and how that might “influence” their children, than whether the schools those children attend are fully funded. And we are surrounded by MAGA idiots who covet the title “American” while defiling everything the term stands for.

In essence, this is the thinking of a bully. Hollywood is out to get them. The media is out to get them. And any American who doesn’t see things their way are part of the problem.

And to this end, to point this out, to speak the truth, to call an asshole an asshole, is the height of disrespect in some people’s eyes. The same pricks who can dish it out, calling human beings “animals” or spread disinformation and conspiracy theories about pizza parlor pedophile rings, CAN NOT take it when they’re called on their shit. Then we’re disrespectful.

From James Hohmann at The Washington Post:

Three new deep dives into Donald Trump’s strength in Macomb [County, Michigan] and other Midwestern counties that were previously Democratic strongholds -- written by conservatives, liberals and a nonpartisan journalist -- each highlight a deep craving for respect among supporters of the president and an enduring resentment toward coastal elites that buoys his popularity. Republicans and Democrats who have traveled to Macomb County, which Trump won by 12 points after Barack Obama carried it twice, including by 16 points in 2008, came away struck by these dynamics.

One older white working-class woman recalled that, when she first started voting, “There was so much respect for the president. And I don’t care what he did, or what he said, there was always respect. It was always ‘Mr. President.’” She said she is disgusted by the way people talk about Trump

“We voted for President Obama and still we are ridiculed. Still we are considered racists,” said Cindy Hutchins, a store owner and nurse in Baldwin, Michigan. “There is no respect for anyone who is just average and trying to do the right things.”

“Our culture in Hollywood or in the media gives off the distinct air of disregard to people who live in the middle of the country, as if we have no value or do not contribute to the betterment of society,” said Amy Giles-Maurer of Kenosha, Wisconsin. “It’s frustrating. It really wants to make you stand up and yell, ‘We count,’ except of course we don’t. At least not in their eyes.”

“Live in a small or medium-sized town, and you would think we were dragging the country down,” said Michael Martin of Erie, Pennsylvania. “We aren’t a country just made up of large metropolitan areas. Our politics and our culture up until now has dictated that we are less than in the scale of importance and value.”

If people don’t want to be ridiculed, then they shouldn’t say ridiculous shit. If someone doesn’t want to be called a racist, then don’t do racist things and stand with racists. And if somebody wants respect, then they have to show it to others by acknowledging reality instead of living in make-believe land.

The central problem with all of this is that respect is a two-way street. I can’t respect someone who doesn’t respect me. Why should I reach out to people who think I’m a demon because I’m a Democrat and I vote for people who have a (D) next to their name? The reason many of us feel antipathy to the point of outrage is because the other side is wrong. We know they’re wrong, and they piss on our feet and call us liars for saying it’s not rain. We know they’re wrong, and they enjoy the suffering their wrongness causes. If it causes “libtard” tears, then it must be good for some of these nuts.

So ... respect for those sons of bitches? Never.

Now, maybe I’m wrong. Maybe, as I’ve been told repeatedly, this is a function of desperate individuals abandoning hope in the system because of the economics of their situation (or not). Maybe this is all about people who’ve thrown in with an egoist because they feel like they haven’t been respected. Maybe it’s about voters, so enamored with someone who doesn’t speak like a robot, they are willing to ignore the words being spoken.

But ... even if one is willing to grant all of these excuses, it’s still not enough. I can’t respect people who rationalize this mess.

From Paul Waldman at The Washington Post:

In the endless search for the magic key that Democrats can use to unlock the hearts of white people who vote Republican, the hot new candidate is “respect.” If only they cast off their snooty liberal elitism and show respect to people who voted for Donald Trump, Democrats can win them over and take back Congress and the White House.

The assumption is that if Democrats simply choose to deploy this powerful tool of respect, then minds will be changed and votes will follow. This belief, widespread though it may be, is stunningly naive. It ignores decades of history and everything about our current political environment. There’s almost nothing more foolish Democrats could do than follow that advice.  We see this again and again: Democrats bend over backward to show conservative white voters respect, only to see some remark taken out of context and their entire agenda characterized as stealing from hard-working white people to give undeserved benefits to shiftless minorities. And then pundits demand, “Why aren’t you showing those whites more respect?

So when we say that, what exactly are we asking Democrats to do? It can only be one of two things. Either Democrats are supposed to abandon their values and change their policies, despite the fact that many of those policies provide enormous help to the very people who say Democrats look down on them, or they’re supposed to take symbolic steps to demonstrate their respect, which always fail anyway. How many times have we seen Democrats try to show respect by going to a NASCAR event or on a hunting trip, only to be mocked for their insincerity?

In the world Republicans have constructed, a Democrat who wants to give you health care and a higher wage is disrespectful, while a Republican who opposes those things but engages in a vigorous round of campaign race-baiting is respectful. The person who’s holding you back isn’t the politician who just voted to give a trillion-dollar tax break to the wealthy and corporations, it’s an East Coast college professor who said something condescending on Twitter.

When one is involved in a game, there are options beyond winning and losing. Sometimes the best choice is to flip the table over.

 

 

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