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Posts Tagged ‘scapgoating’

Today, on Facebook, I saw a viral post several times on my Newsfeed about President Obama with a coffee cup in his hand while saluting a Marine standing by his helicopter.   The comments were predictably knee-jerk from both conservatives and liberals.  Most conservatives claimed he was being deliberately disrespectful to the Marine, some even going so far as to say he was never taught how to act properly in public as a child. (It boggles my mind the thought processes some people have, so quick to jump to conclusions and make up stuff they have absolutely no knowledge about.)LatteSalute-298x300

Just as predictably, some liberals responded with this similar image of former President George Bush during his presidency.

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But most people, both liberal and conservative, missed the point.  Though neither Obama, nor Bush gave a proper salute, I give them both the benefit of the doubt that neither man meant to be intentionally disrespectful.  It’s a perfectly fair and reasonable assumption that doesn’t require one to like either man nor agree with their politics.

More to the point,  it’s a minor issue in the grand scheme of things. We can’t allow the media to manipulate us into getting all worked up over minor matters that distract us from paying attention to the major matters that should concern us. The media gets off on stirring up crap and fanning the flames of the “Us vs Them” mentality.  And, all too predictably, too many people fell for this tactic, hook, line, and sinker.   We need to stop falling for this kind of distracting and divisive nonsense and stop making mountains out of molehills.  Imagine what could be done if people got this indignant about things that really matter.

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In the last several days, Facebook (and other places, I’m sure) has blown up covering the Chick-fil-a story.  For the record, my own personal opinion of this story is that it’s wrong to try to ban Chick-fil-a from opening stores in certain cities, as long as they are obeying the law.  And I believe that their CEO has a right to his opinion and to use his money as he sees fit, however reprehensible  I find his opinion and the groups he donates money to.  On the other hand, in a free market society, people have every right to vote with their wallets and to spend their money elsewhere for whatever reason they choose.

But the point of this post isn’t the story itself, nor to debate the pros and cons of the matter but, rather, how this story is being covered.

As a liberal, I subscribe to several liberal pages on Facebook, which have covered this story in every detail.  I also have Facebook friends, both liberal and conservative, who have also posted links expressing their own opinions on the matter.

In my opinion, some of the links were right on, some were funny, some were of questionable taste, but there was one photo circulating at a few liberal pages that I found to be offensive and an entirely inappropriate way to defend the rights of gay people.

 
 
 

Really?  Whose bright idea was it to defend the rights of gay people by ridiculing another marginalized group that is bullied as often as gay people are — and sometimes more often?  At least the cause for gay rights is growing by leaps and bounds, despite the fact that there is still a long way to go,  Fat people, however, are still considered fair game by people of all political stripes;  it’s probably the last socially “acceptable” prejudice, gleefully indulged in by liberals and conservatives alike. As Lindy West said in her excellent article on Jezebel’s website:

No matter what you do with your life, if you are fat, people will only see fat. No matter how generous, kind, and productive you are; no matter how much you contribute to society or take care of other people; you’re just some fucking fatass whose physical laziness is only outstripped by your mental laziness. As if your butt size has some direct correlation with your moral fiber.

Is this really how liberals want to be?  Aren’t we supposed to be the tolerant ones who try to avoid simplistic and judgmental, knee-jerk reactions to complex problems?  Dumping on fat people to defend gay people is a distraction at best and hypocrisy at worst.  Do they not realize that there are gay fat people, as well as thin conservative people?  Do they not recognize the blatant class snobbery  in this approach?  Some conservatives called the liberal owners of these pages on this and, for once, I don’t blame them one bit.

The majority of the commenters on one of the pages shared my indignation and the page owners eventually removed the offensive post, albeit with a “some people just can’t take a joke” half-apology. 

The other page, however, had a completely different class of commenter.  Most of the comments were of the smirky, “oink, oink”, frat boy variety.  Yes, these were liberals, who are readily able to see how prejudice dehumanizes gays, blacks, women, and other groups, but find it perfectly fine to ignore the humanity of  fat people and who made crude comments at the expense of some poor fat woman who is someone’s daughter, sister, wife, mother, or grandmother.  It’s as if they believe courtesy has a weight limit and if one exceeds it, then they deserve all the scorn heaped upon them.

Instead of viewing obesity as a complex health issue, people of all political stripes view it as a moral issue first, believing that fat people have forfeited all expectations of common courtesy for not being thin.   Fat people are viewed as lazy gluttons with no control who deserve everything they get.  Never mind that those heaping the scorn are not perfect paragons of virtue themselves and may well be smokers, alcoholics, drug users, workaholics, and so on.  They somehow think their “sin” is better because it doesn’t show on the outside for all to see.   Never mind that their habits are every bit as unhealthy and sometimes, even more so.

The truth is, though, that no one is perfect.   Everyone has their crosses to bear in this life and no person’s bad habits are “better” than that of another.

As with homosexuality, many people believe that obesity is a simple choice, well within the power of the individual to control and change.  But, as with homosexuality, who would choose to be hated, ridiculed, bullied, and discriminated against?

Many fat people on both pages (and elsewhere) offered apologetic excuses of why they are fat and how they’ve unsuccessfully tried to lose weight over the years.  This is similar to how gay people often feel it is necessary to justify why they are gay by pointing out that it is not a choice, but a genetic thing.

But, in the end, it doesn’t matter why fat people are fat or why gay people are gay. Neither group owes anyone any explanation of why they are the way they are in order to deserve basic human rights and to be treated with dignity and common courtesy.

Gay people and fat people have a lot in common in our society, both often dehumanized, bullied, and hated.  They should be natural allies working together for the common good of both.  Throwing one group under the bus to defend the other is a distracting, divisive tactic that is unworthy of us as liberals.  Let’s take the high road next time, shall we?

 

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