John Leo

Almost everyone is a victim now, but some are more newsworthy than others. Here are the best of last year?s victims:

· Courtney Love is a victim of George W. Bush. ?The last thing I want to say is ?I?m a victim,? ? the singer told London?s Sunday Telegraph after an emotionally troubled period. ?I believe it?s a trickle-down from Bush . . . . Did I bring it on myself? I don?t think so.?

· Florida Democrats, 15 of them, came down with ?post-election selection trauma? and required treatment by licensed therapists after Bush?s re-election. Signs of the syndrome, according to psychologist Douglas Schooler of Boca Raton, are being ?depressed and angry? and ?threatening to leave the country.? The executive director of the American Health Association said pest is something ?we?re working to develop a counseling program for.?

· Students in West Covina, Calif., were all potential victims of an ?unsafe situation? created by their classmate, 11-year-old Deirdre Faegre. So her school suspended her for a day. Deirdre?s offense? Doing cartwheels and handstands during lunchtime. Her father pulled her out of the school, complaining about ?cartwheel cops.?

· Single professors on college faculties are an unnoticed but deeply aggrieved victim group, according to a report in the Chronicle of Higher Education. The report said that unmarried profs are under pressure to do more than their fair share of work because they have no family obligations and are expected to show up at wedding showers they do not wish to attend. ?Single people are the last underrepresented minority,? said one professor.

· Tammy Imre, 29, a receptionist in Stratford, Conn., was charged with repeatedly having sex with an 8-year-old boy. Imre?s mother blamed the boy. ?It?s not her . . . she was just too friendly; that?s all,? said the mother. ?He?s the one who needs to be looked at.?

· Atheists are still seen as negative elements of society, according to the Freethought Society of Greater Philadelphia, a support group for nonbelievers. Complaining that ?religious people are permitted everything,? the group said, ?religious organizations have also been glorified by the government . . . [as] ?social service providers.? ? Discriminatory acts and slurs against beleaguered atheists can now be reported to the National Atheist Ombuds.

· Santa Clauses are victims of unsympathetic bosses and parents, as well as kids who ask tenacious questions, said Victor Nevada, a professional Santa in Calgary, Canada. The kids are heavy to lift and ask tough questions about Iraq and Afghanistan, he said. And there is always the risk of getting sued. ?I had a Santa working for me a couple years ago; he had a girl on his knee and he commented, ?You have nice eyes and nice hair.? She claimed sexual harassment.?

· Antoinette Millard told New Yorkers she was a Saudi princess, when she was really a divorced investment banker from Buffalo who went on a spending binge. When American Express sued to recover $951,000 in charges, Millard countersued for $2 million, saying Amex should have known she was acting irrationally because of anorexia, panic attacks, depression, and head tumors.

· Lottery winners may become victims of Sudden Wealth Syndrome, experts warn. Painful confusion, guilt, and self-destructive behavior can befall anyone who strikes it rich, according to the Money, Meaning and Choices Institute. Education and personal counseling are particularly important, the institute said, in cases of ?Ticker Shock? (anxiety and depression in response to stock market volatility) or ?Clinton Syndrome? (a condition marked by a pull between one?s childhood life and the adult life we all are supposed to be living). Psychologist Stephen Goldbart reports seeing clients afflicted with Sudden Loss of Wealth Syndrome, which often follows cases of Sudden Wealth Syndrome.

· Steven Sarenpa?s father and stepmother complained when Steven separated from his wife and found a new girlfriend. Steven says they called him a sinner. But Steven was an employee in his father?s business. After his father fired him, Steven sued his parents in federal court for religious and marital status discrimination. The case comes up this year.

· Todd Bertuzzi of hockey?s Vancouver Canucks delivered a vicious assault on Colorado?s Steve Moore, breaking Moore?s neck and two of his vertebrae. But a team official thought Bertuzzi was the victim of the news media. ?All you have done is crucify my player,? said the Canucks? general manager, Brian Burke.

· Patricia Frankhouser of Jeannette, Pa., is suing Norfolk Southern Railway over injuries she sustained when she was hit by a freight train. In her suit, she argued that the railroad should have warned her that walking along the tracks was dangerous. She also charged that the train should have yielded the right of way.

Columnist?s note: If anyone in America is not yet a social victim, don?t stay out there alone. Call or write. We will do our best to get you into a victim group.


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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