Sunday, July 21, 2013

On liberal guilt...

It's been an interesting day today, reading the Recovery from Mormonism messageboard.  The board has been positively humming with posts about sexism, racism, and how some people are more privileged than others are.

Listen, I understand that our country has a long history of disenfranchising people because of any given thing...  their race, their gender, their sexual orientation, their religious preference, and even their appearance.  Actually, if you think about it, this kind of thing goes on all around the world.  The United States is not the most progressive country in the world, but neither is it the only place where people are disadvantaged for whatever reason.

Some posters on RfM are heavily burdened with liberal guilt.  They seem to feel guilty for being born white.  Some of them think the men should feel guilty for being white males.  And if they don't feel guilty for how white men have oppressed everyone, they are ignorant and need to "educate themselves".  In other words, if you don't agree with their sense of guilt and don't feel like we all need to atone for every one of the sins of the past, you are a lesser person.

I seem to remember getting into an argument a couple of years ago with a woman I knew in high school.  She had posted on Facebook a letter written by a Canadian woman she had seen on CNN about how the US political system was ridiculous and she was glad she wasn't an American.  I commented that I was glad that woman wasn't American, either.

My former Facebook friend (she unfriended me at some point, but not when this happened) took me to task for that comment.  She asked me if I wasn't embarrassed about the way people from other countries see Americans.  I said no, I wasn't embarrassed, because I can't help the fact that I'm American.  I was born and mostly raised here and had no control over that.  So why would I be embarrassed to be what I was born to be?

By the same token, why should my husband be ashamed to be a white male?  He can't help being a white man.  It's who he is.  I'm a white woman.  I don't feel bad for being a white woman.  Am I sorry that some people have suffered discrimination?  Sure.  But other than trying to be a better person and not perpetrating the wrongs of my ancestors, there's not much I can do about the persecution others have faced.  Moreover, most people fit into at least one group where they could be victimized by discrimination.  Is being discriminated against for being hideously ugly the same as being discriminated against for being Jewish, black, gay, or female?  Maybe.  Maybe not.  I can't say because I'm not Jewish, black, gay, or hideous.

I am a female, though.  I have never felt disenfranchised for being female.  In fact, I have noticed quite a lot of women abusing the special treatment that can come from being female.  Mainly, I've noticed it from women who are abusive to men and get away with it because they're women and people believe them over men.  And there are a lot of people who abuse other peoples' guilt for whatever reason, just to get over.

I think feeling guilty for being what I am and had no control over is completely pointless and potentially harmful.  That doesn't mean I don't think people should educate themselves and have empathy and compassion for other people.  What it means is that I think liberal guilt leads to nothing good.  There needs to be understanding, listening, and perspective on all sides of the issue, though.  Guilt is not the answer.    

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