It’s refreshing to see people who know the differences between victims and martyrs.
The martyrs saturate our televisions screens, from reality show “victims of love” to the plaintiffs who crowd TV’s make-believe courtrooms. These attention seekers are often victims of their own bad choices, be it in romance, business dealings or just fashion.
It would be fine if this trend stayed in entertainment circles, but in recent years we’ve seen the rise of a new type of martyr powered by cable news, talk radio and self-propelled sympathy. Wisconsin Sen. Ron Johnson even gives it an ironically taxpayer-funded title: victims of government.
Fortunately, such martyrdom was nowhere to be found during Congressman Ron Kind’s town hall forum at the Chippewa Valley Technical College campus in Chippewa Falls on Wednesday afternoon.
The approximately 40 people in attendance included job seekers eager to find affordable health insurance coverage, senior citizens concerned that Social Security benefits would be reduced in order to preserve tax breaks for the wealthy, and the grandmother of a soldier in Afghanistan worried that the sequester spitball fight would choke off aid for the education and job training of returning troops.
None of the attendees portrayed themselves as a victim, only as taxpayers wanting the reassurance of their congressman that fair rules would apply to everyone.
Tears were shed for the children of Sandy Hook Elementary (who rank significantly higher on the victim scale than senators worried about their NRA report card). Farmers spoke proudly of the conservation efforts that protect the topsoil and they praised the market pricing that allows families to compete with California’s mega-herds.
A clinic administrator agreed that despite the uneven implementation of Affordable Care Act, her physicians would have an advantage over providers in other parts of the country once the health care system moves to base more reimbursements on quality instead of quantity.
The closest anyone came to victimhood was the owner of a local metal fabricator who didn’t appreciate the timing or the tone of recent government inspectors, but he also acknowledged how the rules being enforced (however snippily) were important for the safety and financial security of his workers.
If anything, the people of Chippewa Falls displayed a tacit understanding that power placed in careless hands is more likely to create actual victims of government. Taxpayers are victimized when their money is wasted, whether it’s on unproductive tax breaks, unneeded weapons systems, unaccountable voucher schools or privatizing the state’s economic development programs.
Hard-working families are victimized when Congress ignores a jobs crisis or fails to address the red tape that chokes a small business or a disabled person seeking assistance. And we hurt future generations when government fails to stop the pollution that comes through intent or incompetence.
Government doesn’t just protect borders; it protects people, not from their own bad decisions but certainly from terrible circumstances. Protecting hard workers, students, the sick, the old and the young from becoming actual victims is getting harder. however, when they’re targeted by a growing group of martyrs who also happen to be drawing a government paycheck.
Pat Kreitlow of Eagle Point is a former state senator and television journalist.