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McVictims

 
David Gratzer of The New York Times suggests calling it the McVictim syndrome, the rush to find a scapegoat for America’s obesity epidemic. We’re getting fatter, so we must find someone to blame.
 
And what we blame has to be anything but our own choice to eat.
 
In his most recent book, former FDA Commissioner David A. Kessler argues that modern food is addictive. In a paper in this month’s Journal of Health Economics, University of Illinois researchers blame urban sprawl.   A recently released Ohio study, using mice, suggests “fine-particulate air pollution” as the cause for rising obesity rates.
 
Please.
 
As Gratzer notes, the McVictim syndrome spins a convenient – and unhealthy – narrative on America’s emerging preventable disease crisis. McVictimization teaches Americans to think that obesity is someone else’s fault – and therefore, someone else’s problem to solve.
 
The truth is that in the vast majority of cases, we’re just eating like pigs.
 
But finding a scapegoat isn’t unique to the obesity epidemic. It’s become one of our most cherished personal narratives. We make a bad choice, of our own free will, and we look for someone, or something, to blame as if we were simply victims of circumstance.
 
For example, Duke University has been in the news - a lot – for the bad behavior of its students. 
 
Consider:
 
A mock thesis by a recent alum detailed, specifically and graphically, her sexual dalliances with 13 Duke athletes. It surfaced on the internet and became a national story.     
 
An email message from a Duke fraternity invited female students to a Halloween part by asking them to attend dressed as “a slutty nurse, a slutty doctor, a slutty schoolgirl, or just a total slut.” The email was forwarded to a national website, and once again, the mainstream media took note.
 
Most recently, there was the shutting down of Tailgate, a raucous, drunken outdoor student party offered before home football games. Why? An underage drunken sibling of a Duke student was discovered, passed out, in a portable toilet.
 
The president of Duke wrote a letter to the student body, saying that the incidents promoted a “wildly distorted image of Duke.”  The student government president simply lamented that they were “constantly singled out.”
 
Another case of McVictimization. 
 
It’s not their fault. 
 
They are not their choices.
 
And if all else fails in passing blame, there’s always God.
 
The author Philip Yancey writes of being contacted by a television producer after the death of Princess Diana to appear on a show and explain how God could have possibly allowed such a tragic accident. “Could it have had something to do with a drunk driver going ninety miles an hour in a narrow tunnel?,” he asked the producer. “How, exactly, was God involved?” 
 
From this, Yancey reflected on the pervasive nature of the mindset that our actions are actually an indictment of God. Such as when boxer Ray “boom boom” Mancini killed a Korean boxer in a match, the athlete said in a press conference, “Sometimes I wonder why God does the things he does.” 
 
In a letter to a Christian family therapist, a young woman told of dating a man and becoming pregnant. She wanted to know why God allowed that to happen to her. 
 
In her official confession, when South Carolina mother Susan Smith pushed her two sons into a lake to drown, she said that as she did it, she went running after the car as it sped down the ramp screaming, “Oh God! Oh God, no!...Why did you let this happen!” 
 
Yancey raises the decisive question by asking, “What exactly was the role God played in a boxer pummeling his opponent, a teenager abandoning her virtue, or a mother drowning her children?” God let us choose, and we did, and our choices have brought continual pain and heartache and destruction. Our self-destructive bent has seemed to know no bounds. 
 
And so McVictimization will continue to rule the day until we come to a clearer sense of things, and particularly ourselves.
 
And what will that clearer sense entail?
 
G.K. Chesterton was reputed to write the following to the editor in response to a request by the London Times for an essay on the topic, “What’s Wrong with the World,” 
 
          Dear Sir:
          In response to your article, ‘What’s wrong with the world’
          – I am. 
          Yours truly,
          G.K. Chesterton.
 
James Emery White
 
 
Sources     
 
“The McVictim syndrome could kill us,” David Gratzer, Los Angeles Times, December 8, 2010, online at http://www.latimes.com/news/opinion/commentary/la-oe-gratzer-obesity-20101208,0,7040118.story
 
Embattled Duke fights ‘wildly distorted image,’” Eric Ferreri, Raleigh News and Observer, December 9, 2010, online at http://www.charlotteobserver.com/2010/12/09/1897462/embattled-duke-fights-wildly-distorted.html
 
Philip Yancey, Reaching for the Invisible God.
 
On the Chesterton quote: This is widely attributed to Chesterton without protest, and further, is considered to be the basis for his 1910 work, What’s Wrong with the World, and has never been attributed to anyone else. Chestertonians consider it valid, and reflective of his humility and wit (see the official web site of the American Chesterton Society at www.chesterton.org), but alas, there is no documentary evidence.

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