communication, complaints, controversies, ethics, law, true crime

Why do so many people like to blame the victim?

Yesterday was an interesting day. It started in the usual way and ended with a couple of situations that have led me to ponder this morning. Why do so many people seem to think others deserve anything negative that happens to them? Why do some people have this innate instinct to spin any tragic or awful situation into something that could and should have been avoided or prevented? And why do so many people seem to want to see other people suffer?

Take Brittney Griner’s situation. Griner is a basketball star who won gold medals at the Olympics and played for the W.N.B.A. She went to Russia to play basketball. In February, she was arrested at an airport in Moscow when customs agents found vape cartridges that contained hashish oil in her luggage. Griner’s arrest happened just before Russia invaded Ukraine. Her case was soon international and daily news, especially when in August of this year, she was sentenced to nine years at a Russian penal colony.

Yesterday afternoon, Europe time, it was announced that Griner was exchanged for a notorious Russian arms dealer named Viktor Bout who was doing time in a U.S. prison. Bout had been languishing in the United States for eleven years, and was sentenced to twenty-five years.

My first reaction, when I read about Brittney Griner’s release, was relief. I always like to hear about Americans who are locked up abroad– especially when they are obviously being used as political pawns– being released and coming home. Yes, I know that fellow American, Paul Whelan, is also locked up in Russia, serving sixteen years of hard labor, and President Biden wasn’t able to secure his release. But he was able to get Brittney out, and now she’s coming home to her wife, Cherrelle Griner, and her parents. Yes, I know she broke Russian law by having hashish oil in her luggage, but I don’t think that crime should warrant being locked in a Russian hellhole, being tortured, starved, and forced to work in inhumane conditions. I don’t think ANY prisoner should be treated that way, regardless of their crimes. Russia is well known for mistreating prisoners.

Maybe trading Griner for Bout was an “uneven exchange”, but what was the alternative?

I read a number of puzzling responses to the news that Brittney was released. Some people were actually ANGRY about it. They cited the fact that Whelan is still locked up, and he is somehow a “better American” than Brittney is. One woman, upon reading that Griner would be going to Brooke Army Medical Center in San Antonio, wrote that she should be happy, since “medical marijuana is legal in Texas.” Was that response that really necessary? Why can’t people simply be happy that an American citizen is not going to be tortured for nine years for a very minimal offense? Whose side are they on, anyway?

One of the comments regarding Brittney Griner’s situation.

I also get that some people don’t like Brittney Griner because they see her as immoral and unAmerican. She’s a Black lesbian who took a knee during the national anthem, protesting racism. She moved to Russia to play basketball instead of staying in the United States. For these “crimes”, she should have to languish for years in a Russian hellhole prison? I know a lot of people are also upset because marriage equality in the United States is about to be made federal law, and Brittney Griner’s “out” sexual orientation and marriage to another woman are very visible displays of what some Christian Americans see as an abomination. It amazes me that so-called Christians enjoy it when people suffer, especially as punishment for things that are beyond their control.

I’ve seen this kind of negative “victim blaming” response in a lot of situations. I’ve also seen a lot of Americans expressing very harsh reactions to people who commit what amount to minimal violations of the law. I’ve written about this a few times in my blog. See my unpopular comments about Debra Hunter, Lori Loughlin, and Skylar Mack, women who did jail time for what turned out to be pretty minor offenses. 😉

Recently, I read about a Tik Tok user named Katie Sigmond who decided to hit a golf ball over the rim of the Grand Canyon. In the course of sending the ball over the edge, she also tossed her golf club. This was all filmed and put on Tik Tok, where Sigmond has almost seven million followers. Officials at the Grand Canyon found out who Sigmond was and issued a fine. The amount of the fine wasn’t specified, but one official said that the fine for what Katie did was usually about $280.

The comments about the fine were pretty ridiculous. I saw more than one outraged person writing that Sigmond should get a jail sentence for her stunt. Really? I could see a jail sentence if Sigmond’s Tik Tok stunt had actually hurt someone. What her offense actually amounted to, though, was littering. Should we really jail people for being litterbugs? I think a fine, community service, and perhaps being banned from the Grand Canyon for awhile is punishment enough.

Why do so many Americans think that jail is the end all, be all for punishment? Do people ever stop and think about how being incarcerated affects the person who is jailed, and their families? Do they consider how putting people behind bars affects society? And do people ever stop and think about when a person has been disciplined enough for a crime? At what point would some of these jail cheerleaders think Sigmond has suffered enough for littering? Would a week be enough, or would they rather see her sit in a prison cell for years? Is that how they would like to be treated if they ran afoul of the law?

The longer I live, the more I think that people don’t really stop and think about the long term consequences of their actions. I’m sure Griner thought she’d get away with bringing hashish oil into Russia. Her mind was probably on playing basketball, not on the fact that she’s an American who was living in country with a leader who has no qualms about finding any excuse whatsoever to use people as pawns. I know for a fact that Russians aren’t inherently bad people simply because they’re Russian. But a lot of Americans seem to think that Griner “asked for” her situation simply because she moved to Russia to play a sport she apparently loves.

Lots of people seem to think Brittney Griner should still be sitting in a Russian prison. They see her as a “traitor” for not staying in the United States. I don’t know what Brittney Griner’s reasons were for moving to Russia. It might have simply been about making money, which I think is fair enough, especially when a person makes a living as an athlete. Professional athletes have a limited shelf life. Maybe she needed the money. Maybe she thought it would be an exciting adventure. Maybe she just loves the game and wants to play during the off season. In any case, she moved to Russia for whatever reason, and got caught up in an international game.

Do people really think Griner deserved nine years in a penal colony for what she did? And why is making money a crime? Especially in our capitalistic society, where people’s successes and worthiness are often based on whether or not they make money?

Awful… and totally unnecessary.

I’ve got more to write on this subject, but I’m going to put those thoughts in my travel blog, because the other situation I want to write about has to do with travel… But the theme is the same. A lot of Americans LOVE to blame the victim. And they love to criticize anyone who has a valid complaint. I don’t understand that mindset, but I notice that it’s especially prevalent in military communities. Bill calls it the “suck it up and drive on” mentality. I call it annoying as hell… Anyway, if you want to read about that situation, have a look at the travel blog later, after I’ve vented my spleen. 😀

I’m glad Brittney Griner is going to be free. I hope she has the best holiday season this year. Her life is meaningful, and Americans should be glad that she’s out of prison instead of wishing to see her rot.


9 thoughts on “Why do so many people like to blame the victim?

  1. Although it is true that Brittney Griner played for the BC UMMC Ekaterinburg Russian Premier League, she only plays in Russia during the WNBA off-season. She and other WNBA players play basketball in China and Russia because female athletes make less than their male counterparts, and foreign leagues usually offer them enough money to make up the difference.

    During the regular season, Griner plays for the WNBA’s Phoenix Warriors.

    I hope that Griner finds an alternative way of earning an income that does not involve playing basketball in an authoritarian country. Her story should be a catalyst for change in how women in sports should be compensated financially; it’s obvious that WNBA players are only making a fraction of what NBA superstars like LeBron James make.

    As for how the MAGA “warriors” are reacting…oof. I have been sparring with quite a few of them over this, especially when they whine about Biden “leaving a Marine behind.’ They are so blinded by their dislike for Griner that they ignore – deliberately in some cases – the fact that Whelan was court martialed, demoted, given a BCD, and is not entitled to be referred to as a Marine because of the way he was “separated” from the service.

    They also conveniently leave out the salient facts that:
    1. Russia only offered Griner in exchange for Bout; it wasn’t like Biden “chose” Griner to please the “woke” Biden supporters
    2. Whelan was arrested – I think he was set up, by the way – in December of 2018. My memory is hazy at times, but Biden was not elected until November of 2020, and was not inaugurated until January 20, 2021. Wasn’t there some other guy…you know, a guy who wasn’t named “Joe Biden”… in the White House when the FSB scooped up Mr. Whelan in Moscow? I can’t recall the name, dammit, but it’ll come to me….
    3. Whelan’s family has issued statements that express regret that their loved one was not released, but that Biden made the right call and that an American citizen was freed from Russia’s harsh and inhumane prison system

    Sorry for the rant, but these idiots infuriate me.

    • Thanks for the excellent comment, Alex. I agree that it’s totally unfair that female athletes earn less money than male athletes do. And I also hope that Brittney finds a new way to support herself. I’m sure she will. It’s not uncommon for Americans to become famous after certain ordeals. Some even turn the fame into a gig. Elizabeth Smart comes to mind.

      I don’t follow most sports at all, but I know that for some people, that’s all they know. That’s why a lot of formerly elite athletes have trouble after they retire.

      As for the MAGA assholes… I am just so tired of all the hatred, ignorance, and vitriol being spewed. I think it’s a great thing that Biden managed to get Brittney out of Russia. That’s an accomplishment. And as a free American, she has the right to protest racism and other injustices. Isn’t that in the Constitution? Of course, their hero no longer finds the Constitution very useful.

      • I don’t think that the Constitution matters much to many adherents of the MAGA cult, despite their penchant to self-identify as “Constitutionalists.” The only amendment they love, love, love is the Second. (Sure, they claim to revere the First Amendment, especially when they want to complain about being “censored” or “canceled” on social media, but they neither respect or understand what the 1A really says…especially when it comes to “free speech” and the non-establishment of a state religion.)

        Ugh. I am on “Op-Ed” mode….(I used to be the Opinions Editor for my college campus’ student paper, and sometimes the “crusty, cranky columnist” in me comes out!)

  2. There are a lot of self-entitled people without compassion who love to see people not like themselves “punished”. The Maga-Trump-Christians seem to be the worst. Some of them believe that people who simply don’t believe like them go to hell and eternal torture. Once someone gleefully told me my children will burn in hell because I accepted the findings of evolutionary biology. Another former epinions writer raved and raged against me for posting about the evidence for climate change, and then vandalized my other non-related posts with insults. Many people simply have black hearts but they believe their religious belief entitles them.

    • It’s so sad. I think what’s worse are religious people who try to act “nice” as they tell you you’re going to hell. They smile as they wish for your eternal damnation. It’s definitely not what I learned about Jesus when I was a churchgoer.

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