Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Victims - "True" and "Deserving"

I think now of the political nature of "being a victim". It often seems like we have the: 1.) True Victims, 2.) The Distant Sort of Almost Victims and 3.) The Deserving Victims.

True Victims are readily apparent. Those killed in New York City on September 11, 2001 are the best clear example. The young child killed by the drunk driver crashing head on into the victim's car would be another example.

The Distant Sort of Victims are not as obvious. Some might view those killed in Indonesia over many years as the national government wiped out indigenous peoples as distant sort of victims. They didn't "ask for it" but we really knew very little of who they were or even that they were dying. Many in South Africa seemed to shift from being Distant Sort of Victims to True Victims when the freedom struggle in South Africa became more and more visible in the U.S.

The Deserving Victims are often seen as being complicit in their own deaths. Oft-times Muslims or Arabs are seen in the U.S. as being complicit in 9/11 or terrorism in general and deserving to die or be hurt by others. Sikh taxi cab drivers mistaken for being "Arabs" are seen by some as Deserving Victims because they are "not like us", while others may see them either as Distant or True Victims.

Clearly both the media and the political winds shape our definitions. We may hear very little of genocide and then it is splashed throughout the media. The Iraqis were "victims of the Iranians" and Saddam Hussein was then "justified" in using toxic gases in fighting the Iranians in the 1980's. Then Saddam Hussein was no longer "our man" (e.g. puppet) in the 1990's and he became "the enemy". Now Iran is again "the threat" and Iraq is "potentially good". Those killed in their conflicts shift in our minds from "true" to "deserving" and sometimes back and forth again.

Death - killing - tidal waves, murderous rampages, community health emergencies, starvation, etc. are all tragedies for those affected. The families of those killed as well as the people facing bombs, a lack of medicine, being scared to go to school, having no electricity or water - and many other situations hurt and kill and hurt and kill the spirits of far too many people over much of the world.

I hope that someday we will really see how domestic violence, sectarian hatreds, and many other things are related in a world where peace and cooperation are often not valued and death and destruction are supported, both directly and tacitly by what we do and don't do.

I think of the needless death of a friend's sister shot-to-death many years ago in a robbery in the parking structure of the New Orleans Hilton. I think of the many who are dying and living in a "death culture" in Gaza today. I think of the several people who've been killed by Hamas rockets and those who fear death and destruction from them. I think of the families and friends of the teenagers dying in gang warfare nearby as well as those killed because they were just in the wrong place at the wrong time. I think of the losses many face from cancer, car accidents, excessive consumption of alcohol, and many other causes.


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