On its October 3, 1997, front page, USA Today begins a lengthy piece about the U.S. Supreme Court's upcoming term. According to the headline, the defining issue will be affirmative action. The writer, Tony Mauro, notes emphatically that two of the Associate Justices - Sandra Day O'Connor and Clarence Thomas - themselves have been victims of discrimination.
Later, in the very same article, we read: "[O'Connor] has written that she was never the victim of discrimination." And: "Schoolyard playmates once derisively called the young Clarence Thomas 'ABC' - America's Blackest Child."
If Justice O'Connor never considered herself the target of discrimination, if the worst to be related about Justice Thomas is "schoolyard derision," Mr. Mauro has neither cause nor authority to declare them "victims." What moves him nevertheless to do so?
The question seems important because a growing number of our fellow Americans exercise the right to free speech as a license to make assorted gratuitous statements and to make their resentments public. White racism and male brutality are evergreen favorites, but mostly the relentless campaign aims to find fault with "America." Since it is actual people who think or act in a certain manner, it must be concluded that the fault they find with America must lie with Americans.
That's a lot of "guilty" people.
Does the fault lie with all Americans, or are some of us exempt?
Who? And why?
These are not frivolous questions. Consider them for a moment.
When assorted people make their nightly attack on Americans via the airwaves, it would be the job of the media to ask probing questions. But, for the most part, newscasters, hosts and moderators of programs either join the forces of resentment or overflow with sympathy. Thus encouraged, and always accommodated, the repetitive diatribes are hardly surprising.
What is puzzling, however, is the motivation of the complainants who look invariably well fed, well clothed, have secure and lucrative jobs, and are afforded every opportunity to unburden themselves in public. These benefits have come their way while living among the rest of us Americans.
So what do they have against Americans? And, if they believe that Americans are an undesirable lot with which to live, why not tell us who and where their ideal models are, so all of us could go out and learn from those enlightened people.
Is Winnie Mandela, who was invited to address the million-woman march, one of them? (Now, there's a frivolous question.)
Some of us might be growing a tad tired and a wee bit fed-up with the constant barrage by people whose sole purpose in life seems to be telling the rest of us how bad we are. Most of the rest of us never have and never could lift a finger against a woman. Most of the rest of us never harbored any thought, much less performed a deed, to harm people of other races.
Equally troubling is the growing presence of "victims" in positions of authority. A person whose psyche is determined by victimhood has a damaged psyche because a "victim" has a score to settle with society at large. Do we really want such a person to hold sway over our fate?
The measure of our maturity is precisely the extent to which we have been able to absorb the misfortune each and every one of us had experienced in some form, to derive positive lessons from misfortune, and to turn it into increased wisdom as we discharge our responsibilities. The spectacle of, say, a justice of the U.S. Supreme Court mired in petty personal grievances is hardly what the Founders had in mind.
But my thoughts keep going back to the motivation of those Americans who resent America. Yes, a nation ought not to forget past mistakes. Yes, we must be mindful of those who can't make it on their own. Yes, political differences often are the engine of progress. But American commitment to self-correction already tops the world list. Civic institutions for helping the needy were admired by every visitor to these shores before the Republic completed its first 50 years. Above all, political dialogue used to be conducted within a framework of unquestioned love for and loyalty to America.
When I read, hear, watch the diatribes against America and Americans, the 1960's flash through my mind. It was the first time that many in a generation of young Americans were turned against their country and the people in it. Today, that generation occupies most pulpits and basks in the incomparable benefits that come with living in this blessed land.
How many were cured of the virus which poisoned their souls during the most impressionable years of youth? Are they perchance the real victims?