Mar 30, 2010

Baby, why you gotta make me hit you?

The most popular pickup line at my college was: "God told me to ask you out." You see a girl, you think she's hot, but wait! Surely this thought had to come from somewhere! Surely it couldn't have come from my own mind, oh no, surely a thought with the promise of such a sweet loving reward must have come from God.

Conversely, if your thoughts about the girl were strictly of a carnal nature and your better angels were hard pressed to resist, then it was the devil that was tempting you.

There's a lot that goes into this kind of thought process. This particular form results from an evangelical upbringing that deems every soul an arena in which no lesser foes than God and Lucifer himself do daily battle by way of manipulating impulses and events re-imagined as signs. Tell a child to seek God's leading and he'll seek it. Tell the same child that the devil will attack him, and he'll look for that, too--and if he looks hard enough, he'll find it.

But mostly it's a way of ducking responsibility by externalization--it's not me having lustful thoughts, it's satan tempting me. It's not me risking rejection, it's God's plan. The thought is merely the incidental result of some phenomenon outside your own mind.

'God told me to ask you out' is mostly a joke. It can also take other, less amusing forms: it's why 'the girl' was 'asking for it', it's why women wear burkas instead of men wearing blindfolds, and it's the answer to the question, 'Baby, why you gotta make me hit you?'

It's rationalization by externalization, and it's a dangerous step: you are no longer responsible since the impetus comes from elsewhere, from the other, from the victim.

Death threats in American politics are par for the course, and there are procedures set up to deal with that sort of thing. But the response to the passage of the healthcare bill crossed the line into actual violence--not just riot-style violence, which often happens when large groups of angry people get together, but personal violence perpetrated by individuals against individuals.

And instead of condemning the violence, the entire right is fanning the flames, starting with Sarah Palin's 'Reload!' But more importantly, from the top to the bottom, the message is clear: blame the victims. From the guy who successfully called for vandalism warning Democrats of the "unintended consequences of their actions" to Newt Gringrich saying,

I would condemn any kind of activity that involves that kind of personal threat. But look, I think there’s something very disingenuous about the Democratic leaders who attacked the tea party movement, who refused to hold town hall meetings, who refused to go back home, who kept the Congress locked up in Washington, and are now shocked that people are angry. I think the Democratic leadership has to take some moral responsibility for having behaved with such arrogance, in such a hostile way, that the American people are deeply upset.
These people who have been fanning the flames of discontent for months. But now that actual violence has started, the same folks who want everyone else's social benefits slashed because of personal responsibility are, with one voice, denying any and all personal responsibility.

Baby, why you gotta make me hit you?

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