Archive for July, 2018

Why do Americans Feel Oppressed?

Wednesday, July 4th, 2018

It would make me happy if today, just as a mental exercise, my fellow Americans imagined someone from a poor, undeveloped country addressed them directly and asked this:

What’s up with all these Americans acting like they’re oppressed? Or, “speaking out” on behalf of other Americans they feel like were oppressed. Why is it that so many Americans are under the impression so many OTHER Americans are somehow victims…when you guys have so much food? Could you please help me understand?

You know how to answer this question? I don’t.

I hear so much about how I should keep my opinion to myself, because I’m “privileged.” Trouble is, the people who say that are also Americans…and they’re also privileged. We’re ALL privileged, in this country, every single one of us.

“Thankful,” I believe, is the better word…

Applying the best & most vigorous common sense to this question I know how to apply, I first have to acknowledge the obvious. Feelings of resentment, that would naturally come about if someone really was oppressed, have become political weapons here — as they would not, could not, in some other country where large numbers of people were genuinely worried about their next meal. And politics have become very important here, as again, they would not in some other country where people were starving. If you’re hungry and your kids are hungry, it’s like not being able to breathe, nothing else matters.

But, in spirit of fairness, I shouldn’t end my ruminations there. I should spare at least a moment or two to take the complaints seriously. See what happens. Well, why do people feel oppressed in America? What are the complaints?

Overall, I notice a great many of them, perhaps all of them — again, this is something that would not hold in a land full of bloated, empty bellies, contaminated watering holes, barren fields and empty cupboards — have to do with other people. Not other people who are doing some actual, as in direct, oppression. More like other people simply minding their business. Non-events. Americans don’t seem to know much about how to be oppressed…legitimately oppressed…we seem to have forgotten the concept.

Happy FourthHe, or that corporation over there, made such-and-such much money and didn’t pay any taxes.

Congress is spending money on the wrong things.

He watered his lawn on a Wednesday when his street address is odd and not even.

This customer just presumed my gender!

Your “Moana” Halloween costume is cultural appropriation.

Two-stroke jet-ski engines are horrible for the environment.

Today is the such-and-such anniversary of whatever, or this is something-something month.

Wonder Woman’s costume shows her legs, and the actress who plays her is out-of-this-world gorgeous.

Not enough blacks on Seinfeld and Friends reruns.

Mansplaining and Manspreading.

Microaggressions.

Heteronormative.

Cisgender.

Patriarchy!

I keep getting told, whenever the current situation beckons normal people to show some good old-fashioned patriotism, like today for example — that it’s important not to let our national pride get the better of us. The Onion very recently poked some fun at this with their satire-study that says only one American out of every 20 shows the “correct amount” of this pride, not too much and not too little. Hilarious. Well okay…as I celebrate the country’s 242nd birthday, I should find some flaws with it so I can keep in mind that it’s not all that and a bag o’ chips.

Very well. You know what I find to be flawed with the US of A? The Number One fly in the soup.

We have an unfortunate tendency to direct very high levels of energy into making people happy who are never going to be happy.

All of our troubles that are solvable, I think, come from that. And perhaps I shouldn’t fret about it so…compared to people starving, it’s a big nothing. Right? In fact, the observation could be legitimately made that it’s a natural consequence of our material affluence that brings so much convenience, and so many life-sustaining staples, to so many. The engine makes the car go, the engine makes some heat that has to be bled off somewhere. Cause, effect, like that. We get what we need, then we get what we want, then we lose our sensible priorities, become silly, and waste our time gratifying those who cannot be gratified. Because we have the time.

But on the other hand…can’t we make this better? Engines of yesteryear gave off a whole lot more heat while producing less power. Technology creates some problems, then it comes up with solutions to those problems. Isn’t there a way to keep everyone fed, and working, and fulfilled, AND you know…sensible, mature and grown-up? Can’t we have it all?

In fact, isn’t it a necessity? Could it not be thought, with just as much plausibility, that we need to re-align our bearings in order to keep what we have? That, in order to continue keeping real oppression out of our lives, we have to re-affirm our understanding of what it is and what it isn’t? It stands to reason, does it not? Can’t keep a wolf on the other side of the door too long if you don’t know what a wolf looks like.

I look around and I don’t see a lot of perceived-oppression that would survive a skeptical, miserly application & re-interpretation of the word. I don’t even see a lot of resentment that is rightfully earned. What I do see there, comes from an understanding that political initiatives have been established, dedicated to an individual’s or group’s destruction, or alienation. Like the old saying goes, it isn’t paranoia if they really are out to get you. No your kids are better off with their mother, you don’t need to see them more than a weekend a month. Follow those Trump supporters around and hound them wherever they go. We don’t like your position on preserving marriage, so it makes us happy when you pay higher taxes (we care nothing about where the money goes). You should expect your career to come to an end if you say or do anything to make this brittle unstable crazy-cat-lady uncomfortable, here we’ll just assign her to the cubicle right next to yours.

And, all across the divide, one reform to the next, to the next, to the next…family law, enrollment practices, contracting/hiring practices, legislative endeavors…the attitude persists: Leave now, you despicable person who is a member of a loathed group, we care nothing about what you think! But leave your wallet behind.

Such things inspire natural resentments. Little is done to cure those, since the “begone with your opinion but leave the billfold behind” message is focused on marginalized classes. “These people can’t ever be sympathetic characters,” we are constantly told. And so the problem gets worse. Because you can’t be racist against a white person, and you can’t be sexist against a male. In fact, far from solving these feelings of entirely legitimate resentment — the question arises, “How resentful should a normal person be, under the circumstance of not being able to see his own children and then being charged exorbitantly for their maintenance?” — when manifestations of resentment surface, this just inspires the next stage of alienation against the loathed classes, and the next layer of protection for the privileged, “historically oppressed” classes. Oh I’m so scared, this big strong man is angry. Oh no, gun-crazy white men. Please protect me. Change the rules again, I require more protection.

From bully to victim in half a second.

These are the remnants of real resentment-inspiration that I see. And yet, even these are not “victims.” They/we are not “oppressed.” In a country where famine has been all-but eliminated, we should be remembering that, first, every single day. And no, that’s not unfair, we don’t need to feel guilty about it. Our thoughts should be directed toward making more of what we have already, that’s good. If we’ve made mistakes along the way, we should be thinking about how to help other countries end poverty as decisively as we have, while they hopefully avoid those mistakes.

And we might start with a realignment of sorts; a recalibration, a reckoning. A checking of our perspective when we bitch about things, or see others doing the bitching. A more thorough, and not so palliative, inspection of these “peaceful protests.” Are they so peaceful? What is it they seek to overturn. Is it really called-for, is it really necessary? How deprived are the people who claim to be deprived? And of what?

The Declaration of Independence pauses in mid-thought to point out,

Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations… [emphasis mine]

A throwaway line? Balderdash. This document was scrubbed clean of such things; when writing and ratifying it, its author & signers couldn’t afford them. The contemporary circumstances would not permit.

As the document makes clear, and goes into some detail to explore, the colonists were at the receiving end of real abuse. But they weren’t victims either. Those who were elected to positions wherein they could do something about it, rejected the notion of victim-hood. In so doing, they were conservative revolutionaries. This is nothing more or less than what dignified grown-ups must do, while living adult life. Everything is not oppression; everything is not a call for righteous revolution; everything is not abuse that must be answered in kind. You can’t die on every hill. Choose your battles.

And don’t throw these “revolutions” to have things brought to you. Revolt over freedom, when necessary. With that secured, the going-out-and-getting-it part is up to you.

Happy Independence Day.