six degrees of victimization
In Las Vegas, fans of Michael Jackson hold a candlelight vigil to support the man accused of child molestation.
In Bellmore, NY, a group of parents and students rally at a school board meeting to support three football players accused of sexually assualting fellow students.
On internet message boards, people are decrying the suggested penalty of death for sniper John Muhammed, in the belief that he has been railroaded and did not actually commit any crimes.
Are criminals the new celebrity, handcuffs the new fashion statement? It looks like years of pandering to the accused and blaming the victim have finally penetrated the American conciousness and rallying around the arrested is all the rage.
And even if the people supporting the alleged criminals are in the minority, they are the ones getting all the press. Gone are the photos of victims' families holding candles, replaced with video of bereaved men and women crying for a person who abuses children. All we see on the television is Scott Peterson's arrogant grin, Michael Jackson's pained expression, ex-football heros shouting down the relatives of abused players.
Sure, this is nothing new. Women have been writing love letters to serial killers in prison for ages. But it seems to be mainstream now; it's the new normal to protect and coddle the wrongdoer and ask the victim how they could let this happen.
Of course, the talking heads believe we need to understand the criminal mind. We need to find out the root cause of an abuser's anger, the driving force behind a murderer's actions; what did the victim do to make the accused behave this way? In essence, the accused have become the new victims.
Perhaps this can all be traced to the hand-holding, touchy-feely pop psychology that has penetrated our schools, our office buildings and our doctor's offices. Tell us Johnny, were you sending out signals that you wanted to be bullied? Let's try to understand the bully's actions, ok? So the person committing the ugly deeds suddenly becomes the focus of what's going on and we hear about his background, his childhood, what he ate the day of the crime, how his teacher treated him badly. And suddenly, he's the victim.
With a celebrity, it takes on an even stronger tone. The accuser is generally turned into a money-grabber, an opportunist. They're jealous. They're blackmailers. Because lord knows, a celebrity would never commit a crime! And even if a criminal isn't a celebrity to start out with, if the case his high profile enough, they will become one. Want to make an estimate of how many marriage proposals Scott Peterson gets a week?
When did things turn around so that the veracity of the victim's statements are always questioned and scrutinized by the media and the accused gets the adoration and vigils? Why are 12 or 13 year old boys or dead mothers having their lives dissected and spit out for the general public to see and their alleged murderer or childhood-robber gets the rally round the flagpole dedicated to them?
Obviously, there are two classes of victims now. The person who was originally victimized, and the accused, who has become of victim of his own victim. Keep up here, ok? You may need a scorecard. Let's take the Mepham case, for instance.
You have the original victims, who were sexually abused by three high school football players. Then you have the second-degree victims, which would be the football players themselves, who really were just following the time honored tradition of shoving a pine cone up a kid's butt. Then there's the third-degree victims, which would be the coaches, who are being held responsible for the actions of their players, but don't think they should be held responsible because they had no way of knowing what the kids they were supposed to be watching were doing late at night. Still with me? Good. Because we have fourth-degree victims. That would be the entire school body, who are depressed and dejected because their football season has been cancelled and their school name has been tarnished, thanks in large part to those original victims, who just couldn't keep their mouths shut and take it like men. Hold on, not done yet. There are fifth-degree victims. That's the administrators of the school, who failed to step in in a timely manner and failed to take action when it should have been taken but think it really wasn't their place to do that, and they are being chastised - and possibly fired - for nothing.
Now that we have five classes of victims, the original victims -the boys who were raped, remember them? - are the low men on the totem pole. Everyone is in a frenzy about coaches being fired and the school board meeting being disrupted and the accused football players losing a chance at scholarships.
You can apply this degree of victim separation theory to Michael Jackson, to John Muhammed (and don't you know the Patriot Act is the real criminal there?), to Scott Peterson and right on down to the some nameless kid in Anytown, USA, who is being sent to a psychiatrist and prescribed some miracle drug because he is obviously antagonizing the other kids into bullying him.
What's the conclusion? I don't have one. Except for this: As a society, we are pretty much fucked.