"The war on privilege will never end. Its next great campaign will be against the privileges of the underprivileged."
H. L. Mencken
As usual, Brother Mencken, who is quoted at some length right over there in the sidebar, was squarely on the money. Somehow, we've gone from the struggle to equalize opportunity and render racial, ethnic, and gender differences meaningless before the law and in American life in general to a situation where the very distinctions that once supposedly put members of certain groups at a severe disadvantage are now doing just the opposite by serving as the basis of a new style of identity politics in which certain, sometimes self-styled ethnic minorities try to leverage their alleged victimhood into a bigger piece of the political and economic pie. Take, for example, the tragic plight of the poor Italian-Americans in New York and its environs who complain that everybody stereotypes them as gaping, slick-haired, gangster- goombahs and insist that this has made them the victims of ethnic discrimination. I'll concede they may have a legitimate complaint here in re "The Sopranos," although I don't recall anybody giving us so much as the time of day when we'uns was taking on over "The Beverly Hillbillies" or the "Dukes of Hazzard." I don't grant Italian-Americans an inch, however, when it comes to the "Real Housewives of New Jersey," which is peopled by actual I-As who should know better but come across as nothing more than as the still suspiciously Soprano-like spawn of the old country who, in this great land of opportunity, have succeeded in becoming white trash with money. Ditto for "Jersey Shore," which is simply "Real Housewives" before they get married to inarticulate, thick-necked men who earn money (or get big lines of credit) by means that are anything but self-evident.
Be all of this as it might, the supposedly manifold grievances of Italian Americans have boiled over up yonder at the City University of New York, where more than thirty years ago the idiots in charge made the sons and daughters of Bella Italia an official "affirmative-action category." A well-nigh unbroken stream of pissing (Oops!) and moaning has flowed across the CUNY campus since then in the form of incessant complaints that there are not enough I-As on the faculty and staff. One of the prominent I-A faculty whiners claims, "There have been so many cases of discrimination that I personally know of....from not getting hired to not getting promoted to not getting tenure," and he also charges that "there's been no serious attempt to increase our numbers." The only "evidence" of this oft-bewailed discrimination against I-As is that their representation on CUNY's payroll has hovered between 5 and 6 percent while numbers for blacks, Latinos, and Asians have gone up. Any I-A administrator who won't toe the ethnic-party line is apparently labeled an "Uncle Tony." Give me a break! I defy anybody to make a convincing argument that I-As have encountered anything remotely comparable discrimination-wise to what blacks have faced. I even make bold to assert that those I-As who have had no truck whatsoever with the Mafiosos, spurned those who have, and conform in no way to the stereotypes depicted on "The Sopranos" or "Jersey Shore" have been judged no more unfairly than white southerners who steadfastly condemned KKK lynchers and thugs and bellowing demagogues swearing to defend Jim Crow to the diehard last. In a purely pragmatic sense, all other things being equal, going up for a job anywhere above and beyond the Mason-Dixon line and even in lots of cases below it, I'd definitely rather be totin' an I-A's cultural baggage than mine.
If anything, the politics of ethnic victimhood appear to be intensifying among the younger set. Take, for example, the piteous predicament of this young lady who complained that while other students were living it up at last weekend's UGA v. Arkansas game, she would be observing Yom Kippur, the Jewish Day of Atonement, by attending services and fasting. Yet, she noted, "despite the fact that I am Jewish, I will not be refunded for this football game. Neither will anyone else observing this sacred holiday." Here's my favorite part: "UGA Hillel, the Jewish student organization, contacted the NCAA in regards to moving the game--no success." What a surprise! On second thought, if the petitioners were really just trying to make the NCAA folks pee their pants from laughing so hard, I'll bet they were a lot more successful than they think. Although our young rebel with a cause accepted the fact "that the schedule was already in place and the cost of moving the game would be exorbitant," she was nonetheless "determined to make a difference for Jews everywhere, and find some payback."
On the latter point we may take her quite literally, for in her utterly selfless zeal to "make a difference for Jews everywhere," she immediately "contacted the University Athletic Association in regards to some sort of compensation for my already purchased ticket" only to discover that, sure enough, just as student ticket policy guidelines clearly indicate, her only option was "donating it back to the University" so that it could be re-sold to another student (for $8) who otherwise wouldn't be able to attend the game. This policy does earn the university "an additional $8," but it also saves some student from the clutches of a scalper looking for way more than the $40 face value of a regular ticket. Still, our complainant felt "this offer is not adequate" and deemed it "unfair that even though I am a devoted Bulldog fan, my being Jewish costs me $8 to observe Yom Kippur."
By way of translation, most anything that today's young set doesn't like is "unfair." Yet, it seems she found this policy fair enough when she checked the box agreeing to abide by UGA student ticket restrictions in order to buy said tickets in the first place. Of course, it could well be that she has only converted to Judaism since late August or that they were a little late in getting the word out on when Yom Kippur fell this year. Either way, as a Georgia fan who forked over a good bit more to attend the game and see Arkansas pretty much have their way with us for 3 1/2 quarters, if it only cost this young lady $8 to miss it, I'd say she came out way ahead.
There's no doubt that as a people the Jews have some powerfully legitimate grievances historically, but that's all the more reason why this little whiner has no business trivializing her Jewishness by making it the issue rather than the fact that she bought a football ticket that she should have known in advance she couldn't use. What about all the other kids, Jewish or footwashin' Baptists or snake-handlin' Episcopalians, who couldn't utilize their tickets because a kinsperson was so thoughtless as to die or get hitched on a football Saturday? I'm not sure what Mr. Mencken would make of either of the two examples of identity politics belabored here, but although he would be 130 years old by now, I'm betting that he could still recognize a sense of entitlement masquerading as a claim of victimization when he saw it.