Commentary: One simple way to tell real persecution from persecution complex (and why we have to get this right)

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On the Sept. 22, 2017, edition of the radio show “This American Life,” journalist Zoe Chace was interviewing members of a group called Proud Boys. One of its co-founders describes it as a “pro-Western fraternal organization.”

Chace quickly learned that a common grievance among the men she interviewed was that they feel marginalized. “Men are very marginalized,” one man said. “White male Christians are the most marginalized group in the United States.”

Chace asked them to explain why they felt this way. Here’s a sampling of the responses:

“We’re seeing more women getting degrees in universities. We’re seeing less boys graduate from college.”

“There’s no day for men besides Father’s Day, and who cares about that.”

“What about this compulsion to have women in action movies like Ghostbusters?”

When Chace asked what’s bad about women being cast as heroines in action movies, the man said, “That’s women saying they want to take over male roles. They want to be men.”

This is what’s called “persecution complex.” One dictionary defines it as “an irrational and obsessive feeling or fear that one is the object of collective hostility or ill-treatment on the part of others.” There are an unsettling number of examples.

This is the time of year when we start hearing another one: the “war on Christmas,” the supposed marginalization of the holiday of the majority religion in the U.S., and the unfair or unmerited recognition of other holidays.

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