John Leo
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Once again, the United States is the undisputed world champion in the creation of social victims. Here are the winners of this column's Victims of the Year competition:

NON-HUGGERS VICTIMIZED BY HUGGERS. Two eighth-grade girls were punished at a Dallas junior high school after engaging in a hallway hug. They said the hug was friendly, not sexual, but the school's principal said hugging could lead to other things and create peer pressure for students who may not want that type of contact.

FOOTBALL PLAYERS VICTIMIZED BY BOOING. After Penn State's usually powerful football team lost five of its first eight games, the university faculty senate knew exactly how to cope: It passed a resolution denouncing "negative cheering," to be read to crowds at all Penn State home games. Possible future resolution: mandatory cheering after bad plays.

CHILDREN VICTIMIZED BY READING. A feminist professor says reading aloud to one's children is an act of violence that represses the young, forcing then into the jail of patriarchy and cultural structure. Children are unaware of this, said Peggy Kamuf of the University of Southern California, because the psychic pain causes repression of the memory.

VOLPE A VICTIM IN ABNER LOUIMA CASE. New York policeman Justin Volpe, pleading for leniency after his conviction in the horrific brutalizing of Haitian immigrant Abner Louima, told a defense psychologist, "I was the victim." The psycholgist said that when Volpe was punched during the brawl that preceded Louima's arrest, he was overcome by "fear, anxiety, physical pain and momentary disorientation," leading to a sense of powerlessness that caused him to torture Louima.

CANADIAN PSYCHES DAMAGED BY 'SOUTH PARK.' A Canadian woman says her son Kenny is victimized by the TV cartoon show "South Park," in which the Kenny character is killed each week. She said the show should be banned, or that the Kenny character shoud be named Dweebie or Doofus "or any name that has no potential of deeply hurting the psyche of any Canadian."

WOMEN VICTIMIZED BY URINALS. A women's anti-urinal movement in Sweden, Germany and Australia is partly based on the idea that males who stand up to urinate are committing "a nasty macho gesture" suggestive of violence toward women. The U.S. Navy stumbled into this argument by announcing that it is thinking of replacing urinals on its ships with stainless-steel toilets. Feeling victimized by criticism, Rear Admiral S.R. Pietropaoli wrote a testy letter to the Washington Times saying that plans to remove "trouble-plagued urinals" have "nothing to do with gender."

PICKLE VICTIMIZES BURGER-EATER. A Tennessee woman is suing McDonald's, claiming she was badly burned on the chin by a hot pickle after biting into a dangerous and defective McDonald's hamburger. Veronica Martin of Knoxville says the offending pickle left her with mental injuries and a permanant chin scar.

CLINTON: "I'M OPPRESSED, JUST LIKE YOU." In an interview with the Advocate, a gay magazine, Bill Clinton depicted himself as oppressed, just like gays and blacks. During the Lewinsky scandal and impeachment, gays and blacks stuck with him because "people who have been targeted, who've been publicly humiliated and abused, I think identified with what was going on. ... The whole thing was just a vehicle to try to find some last, desperate way to undermine the results of two elections ... and the fact that I tried to be a president for people who had been left out." The Washington Post commented dryly: "That's not the way we recall it."

GOD MADE ME DO IT. When Pope John Paul II said that an assassin's attempt to kill him in 1981 was one of the prophecies made to three Portuguese children at Fatima in 1917, the assassin said he should be set free because he wasn't responsible for shooting the pope -- it was all preordained, presumably making him an instrument and victim of God's will. The clemency request was granted for other reasons.

CALISTA AND MONICA: VICTIMS OF SIZEISM, SEXISM. Calista Flockhart, TV star of "Ally McBeal," said that she is criticized as too thin and Monica Lewinsky is criticized as too fat because a sexist public resents successful women. "I think it's a way to punish us for our advance," she said.

SINGLE PEOPLE VICTIMIZED BY HEARTLESS SOCIETY. A new victim group, the American Association for Single People, argued in a series of ads that "single people have been suffering in silence" and were "virtually ignored" during the presidential campaign. The group was especially irked by Ralph Nader, "who has never been married" and who "could easily tell unmarried voters that he sympathizes." The group recommends esteem-building books such as "It's OK to Be Single" and a book pointing out that Jesus was single.

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John Leo

John Leo is editor of MindingTheCampus.com and a former contributing editor at U.S. News and World Report.

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