By Gene Lyons, NEA Columnist
With a presidential election year coming, it's tempting to call 2015 the Year of the Crybaby. Everybody's a victim. Judging by TV and social media, roughly half the nation believes it's being oppressed by the other half. Everybody's throwing themselves a pity party.
There's an awful lot of self-dramatization going on.
Everywhere you look, somebody's getting fitted for a hairshirt.
I was first moved to this thought by an extraordinary "Voices" letter to my local newspaper, the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. A fellow in Siloam Springs was offended by columnist John Brummett's criticism of "extreme evangelical professed Christians in Iowa."
Brummett thinks the Iowa GOP primary gives undue attention to people who think "that God forgives everything but liberalism." This infuriated the reader, who proclaimed his constitutionally guaranteed right to oppose "abortion, divorce, gay marriage, etc." regardless of Supreme Court rulings. Should he lose it, "these United States will cease being America."
Sorry, friend; the First Amendment definitely guarantees you the right to obsess about other people's intimate lives. But not to regulate them. Here in America, you can interpret God's will any way you like. You just can't make anybody obey.
That doesn't make you a victim. It makes you a crybaby.
Ditto Donald Trump's whining about "political correctness" while directing coarse insults toward his rivals. A woman using the bathroom is "disgusting," but poor Donald's the victim.
For most Republicans, it's an imaginary threat. "In the telling of people like Rush Limbaugh and Bill O'Reilly," notes Paul Waldman of The American Prospect, "conservatives live their lives in fear of the vicious mobs of liberals wielding political correctness like a nail-studded club."
Poor little things.
Also on the subject of faking, check out Paul Farhi's Washington Post article, "Six Ways Donald Trump's wrestling career previewed his campaign," particularly the embedded video showing the pompadoured billionaire in action.
If that doesn't open your eyes, they must be sewn shut.
Elsewhere, upwards of half the people in America tell pollsters they're afraid they'll be killed by terrorists. This time last year it was Ebola.
Yo, America, quit lying to yourselves.
Alternatively, you could try emulating Grandpa, who went off to fight World War II with no good expectation he'd be coming back. And you're scared witless by a ragtag band of religious fanatics in pickup trucks?
No you're not. You're just titillated by the melodrama. Which is why CNN and the rest keep feeding it to you.
Of course, where I live, cows are a bigger threat than terrorists.
No joke. A friend almost got himself killed recently after thoughtlessly entering a stall with a newborn calf and its normally placid mama. He escaped with a broken and dislocated shoulder.
Storms blow trees across fences, black Angus cattle wander into dark highways, and bad things happen. Just not on CNN.
Of course the cultural and political left has its own share of melodramatists, whiners and scolds, many on college campuses. Rather like the fellow in Siloam Springs, student "activists" see themselves as morally incorruptible, and their opinions as graven in stone.
Have you seen anything about the great Oberlin College food fight? Students on the Ohio campus decided their cafeteria served "racist" food. Because the sushi was no good, protesters called it "culturally appropriative," an insult to Japanese-Americans. Things got very heated. If Oberlin kids got their way, you'd have to hire a Sicilian chef to order a pizza.
All we ever worried about was saltpeter in the mashed potatoes.
An insult to my Irish ancestors, come to think of it, for whom a boiled potato and a six pack constituted a seven-course meal.
But there I go, making light of something grave. Normally, I take my cues from the critical race theorists at Salon.com, where they celebrated Christmas with an article entitled "The thought of a white man in my chimney does not delight me: Let's stop lying to our kids about Santa."
And no, I couldn't possibly make that up. Along with meditations upon the orgasm, tirades against white folks are pretty much the formerly serious website's entire stock-in-trade.
But the real holiday bell-ringer was a Christmas Eve essay in the New York Times entitled "Dear White America" by Emory University philosopher George Yancy. The professor offers his own struggles to transcend sexism as a model for white men in their efforts to comprehend black lives.
"As a sexist, I have failed women," he confesses. "... I have failed to engage critically and extensively their pain and suffering in my writing. I have failed to transcend the rigidity of gender roles in my own life."
Yeah, well, me too.
In theory, I'm totally against "objectifying women," but Jennifer Lawrence still makes my ears buzz. Then too, my wife kind of likes me that way.
As for renouncing my putative "white innocence," a modest demurral:
Give it a rest, professor. I didn't make this world any more than you.