Monday, March 16, 2009

Victims and Sympathy

I find myself unable to muster a lot of sympathy for two sets of victims who have been in the news lately.

The first group are those who lost money in the Madoff Ponzi scheme. Those who invested with Madoff did so because he was who he was and promised what he promised. Of course, what he promised and claimed to deliver was so spectacular that it could not be on the level if it was real. The folks who got taken surely knew this. They had to figure that because he was the consummate insider, Madoff was working on inside information and that's illegal. Sure, he was a crook, but he was a crook for them. Of course, that isn't how it turned out. Yes, I feel for those whose relatives invested their money for them, relatives who thought they were doing what was in their loved ones best interest, but for so many of these folks, it was greed that got them stung and while they are victims, I find it hard to feel sympathy.

The other is a group that NPR keeps profiling. Business owners who contributed to groups trying to pass proposition 8, which stripped gays and lesbians of their right to marry in California, complain of being targeted by protesters driving business away. They argue that they are being punished for a political disagreement. But, you know, here were customers of yours whose basic human rights you were helping to deny, do you really think they would continue to happily give you their money? Some folks have lost their jobs as managers, others have come close to losing their businesses. But, again, I have a hard time being sympathetic. These were human beings, human beings that you had a relationship with, and you still tried to take their rights away.

Do victims always deserve sympathy? If not, what conditions are necessary or sufficient?