News From Terre Haute, Indiana

Breaking News


February 24, 2013

THOMAS L. STEIGER: ‘Blame the victim’ ideology emerges in gun debate

TERRE HAUTE — Last week while fueling my car, I noticed a pickup truck with a bumper sticker that read: “It’s My Choice — Not Obama’s”, then above that are two check boxes, one for “Armed” the other for “Victim.” The bumper sticker suggests that our choice is to be armed or to be a victim. A big red check mark was in the box for “Armed.”

I was struck by such an idea and wondered who the owner of the truck was. Eventually he came out of the store and filled his tank. He was late 20s to mid 30s, short cropped hair, perhaps a police officer or firefighter, but nothing else on his truck gave away any more about him. He wasn’t wearing a gun that I could tell, though with that bumper sticker, I concluded he was “packing” something somewhere.

I admit that I also wondered if someone drove by and took a shot at him, how he would respond. Did he look at me as a possible threat, or maybe his victim since I was unarmed?

With such a line of thinking, “be armed or be a victim”, then what to make of Chris Kyle’s tragic murder? Based on the bumper sticker logic, Chris Kyle is one of the least likely of victims. Or perhaps he is not a victim at all, since he was armed, if we apply the bumper sticker logic to the situation.

The bumper sticker logic also taps into a particularly nasty undercurrent of American ideology; that bad things only happen to those who deserve it, or blaming the victim. For a country that so on the surface champions the underdog, the fact is we detest losers and victims. We blame them. We blame rape victims for being raped, the poor for being poor (even as corporations disinvest in their communities), and the sick for being sick. To even ask for help is to show weakness and poor character. DIY is the true American ideology. We create a safe haven for the powerful to victimize others by creating a sense that victims “choose” to be victims (by not arming themselves, or wearing the wrong clothing, or being in the wrong place). Those out for a pleasant evening at the movies are victims only if they aren’t armed to shoot a would-be mass murderer.

Do knives count? How about clubs? What about a black belt in karate?

I chose to be a victim in high school. One night, while driving my car with a couple of my buddies, on the way to a place we probably shouldn’t have, I passed a car and one of my buddies must have done something to make the driver very angry because at the next stop light, he got out of his car and walked to my window. I thought he wanted matches or something. Instead he dragged me out of my car and beat me up leaving me crumpled on the street and my buddies slack jawed.

I vowed never again. Never again would I be the victim, so I acquired a policeman’s night stick, an older one, hickory with a leather strap and learned how to use it. I kept it in my car, next to my seat. I felt  safe.

A few months later, again, at night, up to no good no doubt, a twerpy guy I’d known since first grade began to hassle me. He dared to even touch my car. I thought, “I’ll just step outside with my club and he’ll run away.” Short version is he quickly took that club away from me and the only person it was ever used on was me. Victim again! My fault. Blame me. Maybe I needed a gun.

I’ve written before that the fears of those who don’t feel safe and secure without a gun should be taken seriously. It speaks, I think, to a serious fraying in the social fabric of U.S. society. Perhaps it’s related to the same thing that has coarsened our society, eroded our civil society, and of people not knowing their neighbors. It’s hard to trust others when we don’t know our neighbors, when we don’t engage in our communities, and feel isolated and vulnerable. There are too many Americans like that for it just to be an individual phenomenon; it’s rooted in the culture of the U.S.

Bumper stickers I’d like to see: “If only Jesus had had a gun.” And “WWJD with a gun.”

Thomas L. Steiger is a professor of sociology and director of the office of student research and creativity at Indiana State University. Email


Text Only | Photo Reprints
Latest News Poll
AP Video
Clinton Before 9-11: Could Have Killed Bin Laden Gaza Truce Unravels; Israel, Hamas Trade Blame Couple Channel Grief Into Soldiers' Retreat WWI Aviation Still Alive at Aerodrome in NY Renewed Violence Taking Toll on Gaza Residents Raw: Woman Who Faced Death Over Faith in N.H. Smartphone Powered Paper Plane Debuts at Airshow Netanyahu Vows to Destroy Hamas Tunnels Raw: Tunisia Closes Borders With Libya Raw: Rescuers at Taiwan Explosion Scene House Leaders Trade Blame for Inaction Four Rescued From Crashed Plane Obama Slams Republicans Over Lawsuit Ravens' Ray Rice: 'I Made a Huge Mistake' 2 Americans Detained in North Korea Seek Help House GOP Optimistic About New Border Bill US Employers Add 209K Jobs, Rate 6.2 Pct Today in History for August 1st Raw: Thousands Flocking to German Crop Circle Raw: Obama Gets Hug From Special Olympian
NDN Video
Under Armour Launches Biggest Women's Campaign with Inspiring Ad NYPD chokehold death of Eric Garner was homicide: medical examiner Christina Aguilera Pulls a Demi Moore! Man with no arms throws first pitch Chapter Two: Composing for a film in retirement Is Justin Bieber Dating a Model? Guardians of the Galaxy (Trailer) 'Sharknado 2:' Hottest Memes Surfing The Net Snoop Dogg Narrating Animal Footage Is Perfect Raw: Obama Gets Hug From Special Olympian Recapping a Blockbuster MLB Trade Deadline Tigers Acquire David Price - @TheBuzzeronFOX Russell Brand Slams Sean Hannity Over Gaza Conflict Segment Woman's Dive Goes Terribly Wrong Brian Williams Reports on Daughter Allison Williams' 'Peter Pan' Casting News Did Jimmy Fallon Look Up Heidi Klum's Dress? What Drama? Miranda Kerr Poses Topless Plane crashes in San Diego Costco parking lot Justin Bieber Takes To Instagram To Diss Orlando Bloom You Won't Believe the Celeb Cameos in "Sharknado 2"

Click HERE to read all your Parade favorites including Hollywood Wire, Celebrity interviews and photo galleries, Food recipes and cooking tips, Games and lots more.
  • -


    March 12, 2010