Fabricating Victims

October 4, 2018

I wasn't going to write a post this week.  Pregnancy has been keeping me up at night, and I barely feel coherent enough to put enough words together to constitute a sentence.  But then I opened the Washington Post - and I can't let this one go.

 

In an article entitled "Key Republicans signal satisfaction with FBI report, increasing confirmation odds for Kavanaugh" authors John Wagner and Seung Min Kim quote Sen. John Cornyn as saying the following '“Some commentators have called this our Atticus Finch moment,” he said, referencing the white lawyer in the classic novel “To Kill a Mockingbird,” who defends a black man accused of raping a young white woman in Alabama in the 1930s. Despite significant evidence of his innocence, the black man is convicted and is later killed when he tries to flee his captors.“We all remember that Atticus Finch was a lawyer who did not believe that a mere accusation was synonymous with guilt,” Cornyn said. “We could learn from Atticus Finch now, during this time when there has been such a vicious and unrelenting attack on the integrity and good name of this nominee.”'

 

I am incensed.

 

Sen. Cornyn just stated that multiple women in 2018 accusing a wealthy, straight, white man of sexual assault is the same as a black man in 1930's Alabama being accused of raping a young white woman.  Sen. Cornyn just stated that women who are enraged that Kavanaugh will likely be confirmed as our next Supreme Court Justice are similar to a white man in power shooting and killing a black man who is oppressed.

 

Sen. Cornyn here implies that wealthy, straight, white men in America in 2018 are just as oppressed, just as powerless, just as victimized by systems of injustice as African Americans were in the deep south during segregation.  Sen. Cornyn here implies that women, who notoriously underreport sexual assault and who rarely misreport and who still enjoy far less power than men in this country, have just as much means and drive to enact permanent damage against Kavanaugh as white men did in the deep south during segregation.

 

What Sen. Cornyn declares with this statement is that he feels like wealthy, straight, white men and Republicans are currently the victims of oppression and injustice that is on par with the oppression and injustice that African Americans have face in this country for centuries.

 

He's deeply, deeply wrong.

 

First, Republicans currently control two out of three branches of our government.  They are in charge.  They have the power to enact the laws that they see fit.  They have the power - period.  They are not oppressed.  They are not victims.  They are simply facing the pent up anger of minorities who have been victimized by them.  And here's the thing: they're telling those minorities that by speaking up about how they're feeling in response to Republican action, they're being unfair, hurtful, and unjust.  If this were an intimate relationship, we'd call that rhetoric abusive.

 

Second, wealthy, straight, white men still enjoy privilege in our country in a way that no other group does.  The truth is, they are losing power.  But it's happening at a snail's pace - and it doesn't mean they're oppressed.  What it means is that we're slowly - painfully - inching closer to some kind of equality (not a flip of the power structure, just equality).  Right now this demographic has so much more power than any other that it will still take years for the scales to even out if we continue at the rate we're moving.  Do they feel vulnerable right now?  I'm sure, because power dynamics are changing.  Might this be uncomfortable?  Absolutely - it's never easy to give up something that you feel entitled to.  Is it oppression?  No.  But the rhetoric and actions that we've seen over the last couple of weeks portray a group that is desperately and aggressively trying to hold onto power.

 

In scripture, Jesus called the rich to sell what they had, to give it to the poor, and then to follow him.  In a very real sense, this was a call for people to give away some of their power to those who were nearly powerless.  This was a call to begin to tilt the scales towards equality.  And Christ was so committed to working for justice, healing, and equality that he didn't stop even when it brought him into conflict with the authorities, even when that conflict led to his death.  And even that didn't stop him.  He rose again and started that work again and commissioned the church to keep it up.

 

So we need to keep it up!  In this critical time in the life of our country, we need to enter into the divine work of justice, healing, and equality - and we need to do it now.  We need to raise our voices.  We need to see every person as a beloved child of God.  We need to stand with those who are seeking justice.  We need to offer our power to those who have less than we do.  We need to be outraged.  We need to take a stand, even when it feels hopeless, trusting in the power of the resurrection and the promise of a world made new.

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