SAN DIEGO – The motto of the United States is no longer “e pluribus unum.” Sadly, it’s become: “Hey! I was wronged. Get my lawyer on the phone!”
Or, recently, south of the Mason-Dixon line: “Let’s grab clubs and tiki torches and go make trouble.”
America has become a nation of victims. The same people who, a decade ago, might have scoffed at the idea that others were being victimized by societal norms, generational poverty and institutional racism have now themselves joined the pity party and donned the cloak of victimhood. Nursing a grudge is not just for minorities anymore.
Conservative white males have gotten in on the act, as they rail against globalization, corporate greed, immigration, political correctness, the anti-Confederate statue lobby, affirmative action, and the man in the moon.
Those who for years shrugged off the notion that there was lingering racial and ethnic discrimination against Latinos and African-Americans now insist that there is rampant “reverse discrimination” against white people.
As they often do, politicians make the situation worse by giving people easy outs. And these days, as always, many people are glad to have excuses for their failures, setbacks and shortcomings. The bad guys are the banks, the rich, the corporations, the immigrants, the global market.
Victim anthems have been penned by Bruce Springsteen who, in concert, has introduced his haunting ballad “Youngstown” – about the battered town in Northeast Ohio – as a story about “losing everything even when you work hard and play by the rules.”
A couple of generations ago, Americans survived tough times by hustling, believing in themselves and working harder. Today, this is the pep talk for the downtrodden: “Lost your job? The culprit is a racial quota or greedy boss or foreign worker. You’re a victim.”
That’s a major takeaway from recent horrible events in Charlottesville, Virginia.
Hundreds of young white men who, intoxicated by a cocktail of entitlement and white privilege, expected to be running the country by now, instead feel as if the country is running over them. They worry that a society that pushes diversity, espouses liberalism, and worships at the altar of political correctness doesn’t have any room for them. And the last thing they want to do is look in the mirror and take responsibility for their own lives.
So they picked up torches, and marched, and shouted: “You will not replace us. Jews will not replace us.”
This rank bigotry and anti-Semitism made other people feel victimized because they somehow thought they had a right to go through life without ever being offended by anything. The offended staged counterprotests, which made the original protesters feel victimized as if their right to free speech were being violated. And so on.
The Land of the Free and the Home of the Brave is now the Land of the Aggrieved and the Home of the Picked On.
This transformation is much more important than the question that captivates the attention of the left and the media (as if there were a difference at this point). Do we have a white supremacist in the White House?
A lot of my Latino and African-American friends are convinced we do. But I think they’re wrong. What do they know? Some of them said the same thing about every Republican president since Ronald Reagan while turning a blind eye to outright racists in the Democratic Party. Also, Donald Trump has been in the public eye for more than 30 years – donating money to civil rights groups, posing for pictures with Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton, and supporting Democrats. I personally never heard anyone say he was a racist or white supremacist until he became a Republican. That smells fishy.
Besides, Trump’s presidency has an expiration date. In a few years, we’ll wake up from this national nightmare.
It’s the culture of victimhood that Americans should really be worried about. It wasn’t just Trump, white supremacists, the media, local police, and activists on the militant left who emerged from the Charlottesville fiasco with their reputations sullied. The American spirit also took a terrible beating.
When did the greatest country on Earth stop being a place where people – with nothing but hunger for a second chance – could come to work hard and build a new life? When did it become a place where everyone pushes their own set of grievances?
As an American, none of this makes sense. I thought we were made from heartier stock.
Ruben Navarrette’s email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.