THE VICTIMIZATION OF AMERICA
BY DR. JAMES DOBSON
Each January for the past several years, I have devoted my general letter to a quick review of the significant events occurring in the previous 12 months. By focusing on these developments within the culture, a new perspective emerges about who we are as a people and where we appear to be heading. It is time, now, at the dawn of a new year, to take that backward glance once more.
There are many stories from 1996 that we could reprise, but perhaps the most bizarre occurred in September at Southwestern Elementary School in Lexington, N.C. There on the playground, a tow-headed, bespectacled 6-year-old boy named Johnathan Prevette leaned over playfully and kissed a little girl on the cheek (gasp!). A teacher observed the shocking behavior and promptly reported it to the principal. Bewildered little Johnathan, who said the girl had asked him to kiss her, was charged with “sexual harassment” and summarily suspended from school. This lad, fresh out of Romper Room, had violated a tenet of liberal dogma and paid the price for it.
As Jane Martin, district spokeswoman, said with conviction, “A 6-year-old kissing another 6-year-old is inappropriate behavior. Unwelcome is unwelcome at any age” (1).
This incident would be funny if it weren’t so ridiculous. It reveals just how far the federal government, the courts and the radical feminists have taken us in recent years. What a strange ethic they have created. In November, Americans elected a president by an electoral landslide who admitted-in response to the Gennifer Flowers accusation-that he “caused pain in my marriage” (guess how), and who now faces a civil suit for allegedly harassing another young woman sexually. Nevertheless, voters considered those and other indiscretions to be irrelevant to the office of the presidency. A USA Today/CNN/Gallup Poll taken just before the election revealed that the American people had serious doubts about Mr. Clinton’s character, but shrugged them off because the economy is strong (2). But a firstgrader who can’t even pronounce the word “harassment” is suspended from school for displaying childish affection to a classmate. Go figure!
According to columnist Linda Chavez, elementary schools have become the new frontier in the effort to reorder the way children, and especially boys, think and act. She wrote, “Johnathan Prevette may be off the hook temporarily, but not for long. If the feds and their feminist allies have their way, every little boy and girl in the nation will be taught that flirting is a crime, and even an admiring look, much less a kiss, can land you in court” (3).
Commenting on this campaign, columnist John Leo described another childish incident that is just about as silly as the one involving little Johnathan. He wrote, “My favorite [example] is . . . the third-grade boy accused of touching a girl on the breasts, though it is perhaps fairer to say that during a game of tag, he tagged her on the very spot where her breasts would presumably appear in three or four years. This is like being accused of robbing a bank that hasn’t been built yet” (4).
Where is such nonsense coming from? Well, it has plenty of support in high places. The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 1992 that schools can be held liable in sexual harassment cases (5). Although their decision concerned a girl who was harassed by a teacher, lower courts have since broadened the principle and applied it to students who offend each other. Government bureaucrats, especially those in the Department of Education, jumped at the opportunity to launch a new crusade. They designed and funded programs to teach boys not to think like boys. The National Organization for Women threw its weight behind the movement, of course, as did the American Association of University Women. The AAUW bolstered its position by claiming that 85 percent of girls and 76 percent of boys have suffered sexual harassment in the previous year. Their definition of harassment, however, included behavior others would consider “normal”, including sexual looks, rumors and body language (6). In other words, any evidence of sexual awareness between boys and girls was registered as evidence of abuse and insult. What happened to little Johnathan in Lexington, therefore, is merely a product of left wing ideology run amok in some of the nation’s schools.
Please understand that I am not defending actual instances of physical abuse or sexual exploitation. There is no excuse for those in positions of authority taking advantage of those who are vulnerable, as we have seen recently on U.S. Army bases. Nor should any girl be subjected to the horrors of date rape or other unwanted sexual advances. Those are unacceptable behaviors that must not be tolerated under the law. But what began as a just and reasonable cause has been co-opted by liberal elitists who would use the issue to reorder the way children think, and especially, to brow-beat boys for being who God made them to be. For a 6-year-old boy to show affection to someone he likes is as natural as catching toads or playing ball. Norman Rockwell made that characteristic a theme of many of his paintings of Americana.
Yet the beat goes on. A curriculum used in Minnesota’s schools and elsewhere warns first graders that teasing boys who want to jump rope is an expression of “homophobia” (7). No kidding! One of the authors of this program, Sue Sattel, disagreed with a California law that allows public schools to expel for sexual harassment only students in the fourth grade and up. This left too many little abusers in kindergarten through third grade “”unexpellable.” She said, “California is sending a message that it’s OK for very little kids to sexually harass each other” (8).
This leads us to question the deeper motives of those who drive this movement. Of all the evils in the world of children, including guns and violence in the schools, drug usage that has increased 106 percent in four years (9), out-of-wedlock pregnancies and a dozen other problems that demand attention, why is so much energy being invested in the effort to squash supposed sexual harassment by elementary school children?
There are, I believe, two explanations for this crusade. First, feminists hope that by indoctrinating and modifying boys’ behavior during their teachable years, they can mold and shape the men those lads will become. That accounts for the effort to straighten them out while they are young. The problem with that strategy is that little boys are being treated as members of a flawed sex that is desperately in need of “fixing.” This is the view of David Blankenhorn, author of Fatherless America, who contends that boys are under assault. He said, “Can you imagine what would happen if women were labeled basically destructive? It would be seen as hostile, mean spirited, outside the boundaries of civil discourse” (10).
Michael Gurian agrees. He is a family therapist who has written an important new book called The Wonder of Boys. Boys are blamed, he says, for what they are “hard wired” to be. The hormone testosterone impacts the masculine brain to make males aggressive, competitive, performance-oriented, problem-solvers and risk-takers. These are the characteristics some feminists would like to suppress in boys, hoping to create in them more sensitive, nurturing qualities typically associated with girls. How interesting that they are also working to develop those same masculine characteristics in girls. You have to admire their ambition. They hope to redesign the entire human race in a single generation.
The second reason this campaign has produced such energy is a direct response to government money. Whatever Uncle Sam supports will draw a crowd. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure that out. Since the days of the Great Society programs, it has been understood that the way to get government grants and initiate federal programs is to identify a category of victims and purport to give ’em a hand. To illustrate how this works, let’s look at the current emphasis on sexual harassment. Girls are described as the frequent victims. Boys are the offenders. Leftwing activists are the rescuers. Government is the benefactor. Bingo! Here comes the money. Right on cue, Congress appropriated several million dollars under the Gender Equity Act to provide various “gender-equity training programs” in the public schools (12), jobs for teachers, administrators and bureaucrats have been created by the identification of this vast new category of victims. It’s an unbeatable combination-especially for those who are promoting a leftist agenda.
Lest I be misunderstood, let me make it clear that there are disadvantaged people in the culture who need legal protection and special consideration. African-Americans, Hispanics and other minorities have been subjected to discrimination and racism for centuries. Our efforts to redress this inequality through civil rights legislation were, and are, necessary and justified. But as soon as that concept took root in Washington, the list of people claiming to be disadvantaged began to grow. The next thing we knew, activists claiming to represent women demanded “minority status” for them, despite the fact that females constitute 51.2 percent of the population (13) Then came folks representing almost every ethnic category and nationality-some of whom were not financially disadvantaged at all. Now homosexuals (whose average household earnings are nearly one-third higher than heterosexuals) (14), drug addicts, alcoholics, transsexuals and many other groups identified by their behavior have been granted special rights and Benefits in specific regions of the nation. Any effort to curtail that special status is met with outrage. The Supreme Court ruled recently that the people of Colorado could not protect themselves from gays and lesbians who made these unsupported demands. As Chuck Colson wrote, the Court effectively branded as a bigot any citizen who considers homosexuality immoral (15).
The latest group to claim “discrimination” is white males, which about finishes off the population. No one is left who doesn’t need special protection and unique privileges. The net effect is what I call “The Victimization of Everyone.” We all have reason to be angry these days about the disadvantages and discrimination that we face. In response, government panders to our demands and squanders the next generation’s resources before it is even born.
Another consequence of universal victimization is that it divides us into separate and competing special interest groups. Everyone is grabbing for his or her share of the pie. Neighborliness and goodwill are replaced by suspicion and conflict. People are killing each other on big city freeways for simply making improper lane changes!l6 A recent study warns city dwellers not even to make eye contact with those in nearby cars or in public places (17). It’s become too dangerous. This generalized hostility weakens us as a nation. As Abraham Lincoln said, “A house divided against itself cannot stand” (18).
Ernest W. Lefever, founding president of the Ethics and Public Policy Center, delivered a speech in which he described the consequences of this polarization. He titled it “Splitting America Apart: Reflections on E Pluribus Unum.” He said: as a melting pot–a haven for “huddled masses yearning to breathe free,” as Emma Lazarus put it? What has happened to the pluribus unum-out of many, one? . . .
In his historic “I Have a Dream” speech in 1963, Dr. King called for a colorblind society in which “my four little children will . . . not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.” The nation was moved by his words . . .
Since the mid-1960s, there has been an alarming shift from the original dream of equal rights to demands for special privileges-a shift from a colorblind society to a color-conscious society, from equality of opportunity to minority preference.
An increasing number of ethnic minority leaders have claimed victim status for their group. In the name of justice, or in compensation for past discrimination, they demand preferential treatment for their group in government, business, or the university. And they often get it . . .
And then there [are] sensitivity training seminars to hammer home the premise that all white males are oppressors . . .
If the tribalists prevail in America, as they have in Somalia and Bosnia, it will be curtains for e pluribus unum (19).
Ernest Lefever is right. We must learn to live together as fellow-citizens, rather than fighting like tomcats for a place on the back fence.
There is one other reason why universal victimization is harmful. It paralyzes those who internalize it. A person is already whipped if he or she begins to feel cheated by being overweight, or short, or old, or balding, or under-educated, or single, or untalented, or blind, or from a poor family or (fill in the blank). Once you yield to the insidious notion that the world is biased against you-that you can’t win-you are set up for failure and disillusionment. It is a form of self hatred which is terribly destructive. Never give Satan that place in your life because he will use it to demoralize and immobilize you.
But what about those who are severely handicapped? Is it appropriate to think of oneself as a victim when, in fact, life has been extremely difficult? Not according to Dr. Stephen Hawking, the famous astrophysicist who is completely paralyzed by ALS Syndrome. He offered this advice to those with physical limitations: “If you’re disabled, you should pour your energies into those areas where you are not handicapped. You should concentrate on what you can do well, and not mourn over what you cannot do. And it is very important not to give in to self-pity. If you’re disabled and you feel sorry for yourself, then no one is going to have much to do with you. A physically handicapped person certainly can’t afford to be psychologically handicapped as well” (20).
Well, that’s enough for now. How can we bring this discussion in for a landing here at the end of my letter? With an interesting twist, I think. In my October letter, I included what I thought was a delightful comment from a 9-year-old girl named Elizabeth Christine Hays. She sent me a picture of herself and a list of 31 reasons why “Girls are More Better Than Boys.” It was intended to be humorous, and indeed, most of my readers took it that way. I received many letters from parents who responded with a smile. Apparently, Elizabeth set off some animated discussions in families all across North America. Here are some of their comments that came from kids.
1. Faith, age 8: “I really like the page about ‘girls are more better than boys.’ I fond it because I was walking by the table and the word ‘girl’ caught my eye. I believe every word on that piece of paper. I have been trying to convince my friend Lenny that girls are better than boys, now I have proof. NO OFENSE! Thank you for not throwing it away and for publishing it. I am 8, almost 9 years old.”
2. Michael. age 12: “Most boys really don’t care about the list Elizabeth made. Boys care more about sports, having fun, and not caring about the way they look (unless they are going somewhere nice). I was made to write this letter. Most boys do not like to write.”
3. Anthony. age 8: “Christine hasn’t got a clue.”
4. Stephanie, age 9: “We got your letter today with the list that was called, ‘Girls Are More Better Than Boys.’ I didn’t think it was all true. I just thought some of it was true because my brother does his hair better than mine.”
5. Sarah, age 15: “I really enjoyed reading Elizabeth Christine Hays’ letter to you. I especially enjoyed her 31 reasons why girls are better than boys. My parents had me read these reasons to my brothers. The two oldest boys laughed through the whole thing. It was plain they didn’t agree. But when I was done, my 4-year-old brother said, ‘So girls are better than boys.”‘
6. Elisha, age 8: “I am 8 years old. I read the letter that Elizabeth Hays wrote about girls being better than boys. I don’t think anything on that list is true. I have two brothers that are just as special as I am. There is a verse in the Bible that says ‘. . . For the Lord does not see what a man sees, for a man look at the outward appearance. but the Lord looks at the heart’ (I Samuel 16:7). We should all try to look at other people the way the Lord looks at us.”
7. Peyton (no age given): “I was reading through the Focus on the Family news letter and I saw the list of thirty one reasons girls are better than boys. Know what I did with it? I stomped on it! Your friend, Peyton. P.S. you have permission to print this.”
Thanks, kids, for writing me. I read every one of your letters.
To my surprise, however, I also received about 60 letters from adults who reacted to the list with intense anger and criticism. You would have thought Elizabeth and I had committed a crime against humanity. Their outrage is characteristic of those who accept the victimization syndrome. There can be no humor-even from a child-attached to any category of human beings. To do so incites an army of militant defenders and rescuers who rise up to protect the abused. It’s a sign of the times.
To those of you who were offended by the writings of 9-year-old Elizabeth, I offer our apologies to you. I had no idea this innocent humor would cause such irritation. But I am also tempted to say, “Lighten up, folks!” There are too many genuine sorrows in the world to get steamed up about what an elementary school girl said in jest about 14 million of her masculine age mates.
One woman wrote, “Would you consider publishing a similar letter entitled, ‘Boys Are More Better Than Girls’?” Then she commented, “I doubt it; it would not be politically correct.” That is the first time I’ve ever been accused of being PC!! On behalf of this writer and all the kids who wrote me, I am going to attempt to balance the scale. Here are selected items from the many lists I received from boys.
WHY BOYS ARE MORE BETTER THAN GIRLS
Boys can sit in front of a scary movie and not close their eyes once.
Boys don’t have to sit down every time they go.
Boys don’t get embarrassed easily.
Boys can go to the bathroom in the woods.
Boys can climb trees better.
Boys can hang on to their stomachs on fast rides.
Boys don’t worry about ‘diet-this’ and ‘diet-that.’
Boys are better tractor drivers than girls.
Boys write better than girls.
Boys can build better forts than girls.
Boys can take pain better than girls.
Boys are way more cooler.
Boys have less fits.
Boys don’t waste their life at the mall.
Boys aren’t afraid of reptiles.
Boys shave more than girls.
Boys don’t do all those wiggly movements when they walk.
Boys don’t scratch.
Boys don’t braid another’s hair.
Boys aren’t smart alickes.
Boys don’t cry and feel sorry when they kill a fly.
Boys don’t use as much deodorant.
Boys were created first.
Boys learn to make funny noises with their armpits faster.
Boys can tie better knots-specially girls pony tails.
Boys get to blow up more stuff.
Without boys there would be no babies. [Now there’s a new thought!]
Boys eat with a lot of heart.
Boys don’t WHINE.
Boys hum best.
Boys are proud of their odor.
Boys don’t cry over a broken nail.
Boys don’t need to ask for directions.
Boys can spell Dr. Dobson’s name correctly.
Boys aren’t cliquish.
Boys don’t hog the phone.
Boys aren’t shopaholics.
Boys bait their own hook when they fish.
Boys don’t hang pantyhose all over the bathroom.
Boys don’t wake up with bad hair.
Boys aren’t stinker. [what?]
Boys don’t take two million years to get ready.
Boys couldn’t care less about Barbie.
Boys don’t have to have 21 pairs of shoes (three for every day of the week!!!).
Boys don’t put a tub of makeup on all the time.
Boys don’t care if their noses aren’t perfect.
Boys respect everything and everyone including GIRLS!
Well, there it is. Now it’s your turn. I invite you to write me again with your thoughts on this letter. And to moms and dads, let me say thanks for continuing to support this ministry. We are here because of your generosity and kindness.
Blessings to you all.
James C. Dobson,
P.S. Whatever happened to the nursery rhyme that told us what boys and girls are made of? Remember? Girls are made of sugar and spice and everything nice. Boys are made of snakes and snails and puppy dog tails. It used to be cute. Now it assaults nearly half the human population.
1. “Kiss Gets Youth in Trouble,” Associated Press, September 24, 1996
2. CNN/USA Today/Gallup Poll, November 2, 1996
3. Linda Chavez, “Feminist Kiss Patrol Is on the March,” USA Today, October 2, 1996, p. 15A
4. John Leo, “Expel Georgie Porgie Now!” U.S. News and World Report, October 7, 1996, p. 37
5. Ruth Marcus, “Harassment Damage Approved; High Court Expands Protection Against Sex Bias in Schools,” Washington Post, February 27, 1992, p. Al
6. Leo, op. cit.
7. Leo., op cit.
9. “Preliminary Estimates From the 1995 National Household Survey on Drug Abuse,” Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration Of fice of Applied Studies, Advance Report Number 18, August 1996, p. 12
10. Karen Peterson, “Have They Been Trampled in Rush to Bolster Girls?” USA Today, November 14, 1996, p. ID
11. Michael Gurian, The Wonder of Boys, (New York: Tarcher and Putnam, 1996)
12. “Take Your Daughter to Congress Day,” National Review, May 15, 1995: _
13. U.S. Bureau of the Census, Statistical Abstract of the United States, 1995, Washington D.C., 1995., p. 14
14. Margaret T. Moore, “Advertisers Find Success by Targeting Gay Market,” Gannett News Service reprinted in The Sacramento Bee, April 25, 1993, p. D5.
15. Chuck Colson, “Kingdoms in Conflict,” First Things, November 1996, p.34
16. See, for instance, Julie Tamaki, “District Attorney Won’t Charge IRS Agent in Shooting Death,” Los Angeles Times, August 2O, 1994, p. B4
17. “Increased Incidents of Aggressive Driving Behavior by Americans,” “CNN Today,” November 7, 1996
18. Speech at the Republican National Convention, Springfield, Ill., June 16, 1858
19. Ernest W. Lefever, “Splitting America Apart: Reflections on E Pluribus Unum,” given at Elizabethtown College, Elizabethtown, Penn., October 20, 1993, reprinted in Vital Speeches, December 15, 1993
20. Caltech News, December 1975
THE ABOVE MATERIAL WAS PUBLISHED BY FOCUS ON THE FAMILY, JANUARY 1997, PAGES 1-6. THIS MATERIAL IS COPYRIGHTED AND MAY BE USED FOR STUDY & RESEARCH PURPOSES ONLY.