Victimhood and the Right Wing

Anyone else remember when conservatives carefully cultivated an image of being tough? Sure, that was illusory–things like World War II movie ‘veteran’ Ronald Reagan, but you could reliably count on conservatives appealing to ‘manly’ values like stoicism and personal responsibility.

Of late, that seems to have changed, especially among social conservatives, who often seek to paint themselves as victims. Whether it is prayer in school or claims about victimization in the media, conservatives are increasingly relying on creating an image of martyrdom to get their message across.
This transformation is demonstrated pretty clearly by a letter to the editor in IR today about the Board of Public Education’s action on bullying. The author, Dallas Erickson, head of Montana Help Our Moral Environment, Inc. (worst name ever?) had this to say:

The bullying policy does include “sexual orientation” and does not include many other categories. Historically when that happens in America, the ones that receive the bullying are those who are opposed to homosexuality.
The board is going against their own lobbyists who opposed adding classifications in any policy because it gives a heads up to the students and teachers about who can legally be bullied. In an attempt to cover their favorite classification they have left many vulnerable.

Some good points, except for being entirely wrong. As a classroom teacher, I can’t say that I have ever noticed much ‘bullying’ of students for perceived heterosexuality. Bullying, harassment, and even violence associated with mere perception of homosexuality is still an all-too common experience in our schools, and for right-wing ideologues, consumed with hatred for gay people, playing the victim card when students are suffering is about as genuine and convincing as Ronald Reagan’s wartime effort.