The Blame Game

As we approach New Year’s Eve, many of us are making our (recurring) resolutions. Going to lose that weight. Going to save for retirement. Going to earn that promotion.

Can I suggest a collective resolution? Can we humans–and especially we Americans–take time off from the national pastime of finger pointing? Instead of trying to prove that “it’s their fault,” (whatever “it” is and whoever “they” are), might we turn our attention next year to actually trying to solve some of the problems we face?

Case in point: When two police officers were killed by a deranged man who claimed to be seeking vengeance for the deaths of Michael Brown and Eric Garner, a number of right-wingers (most notably Rudy Guliani) immediately began blaming everyone– from the President on down–who had spoken out against police misconduct.


As Kevin Drum noted:

I assume this means we can blame Bill O’Reilly for his 28 episodes of invective against “Tiller the Baby Killer” that eventually ended in the murder of Wichita abortion provider George Tiller by anti-abortion activist Scott Roeder. We can blame conservative talk radio for fueling the anti-government hysteria that led Timothy McVeigh to bomb a federal building in Oklahoma City. We can blame the relentless xenophobia of Fox News for the bombing of an Islamic Center in Joplin or the massacre of Sikh worshippers by a white supremacist in Wisconsin. We can blame the NRA for the mass shootings in Newtown and Aurora…We can blame Sean Hannity for his repeated support of Cliven Bundy’s “range war” against the BLM, which eventually motivated Jerad and Amanda Miller to kill five people in Las Vegas after participating in the Bundy standoff… And, of course, we can blame Rudy Giuliani and the entire conservative movement for their virtually unanimous indifference to the state-sanctioned police killings of black suspects over minor offenses in Ferguson and Staten Island, which apparently motivated the murder of the New York police officers on Saturday.

As Kareem Abdul Jabbar pointedly noted:

The protests are no more to blame for [the shooter’s] actions than The Catcher in the Rye was for the murder of John Lennon or the movie Taxi Driver for the attempted assassination of Ronald Reagan. Crazy has its own twisted logic and it is in no way related to the rational cause-and-effect world the rest of us attempt to create.

Can we all agree that in a country that protects free expression, lots of people will say lots of things–none of which cause or excuse anti-social behaviors?

Can we all agree that it is in the best interests of the vast majority of good police officers to root out the bad apples?

Can we all agree that it is perfectly possible to condemn police or prosecutorial misbehavior while strongly supporting good police and honorable prosecutors? (When your kids misbehaved, and you punished that behavior, did that make you “anti-child”?)

Can we take a long look at our inadequate mental health system, and work on better detection and intervention for the minority of the mentally ill who are dangerous? (Failing that, can we at least stop arming them?)

Can we actually do something about the issues we face, instead of looking for someone to blame?

Oh well.  I’m still going to try to lose that weight.


  1. I believe we must admit that the repeated publicizing of these negative “blame game” tactics plays a large part in the ensuing and continuing problems – including the violence. The repeated positive comments, no matter who makes them (except for President Obama of course who is ridiculed), are not repeated often enough and are too often ignored. Negative attitudes and expectations seem to have become the rule rather than the exception for Americans in recent years…who do we blame for this and is there a way to stop blaming “them”…should we stop blaming them or begin taking action rather than complaining in the social media? This leads me back to November 4th when inaction at the polls resulted in more of “them” in positions of power over all of us beginning January 1, 2015.

  2. Greg; what cartoon character long ago said (paraphrased); “I have met the enemy and it is us.” In a round about way, that is what I meant when I referred to this past election day failure.

  3. Irvin, it sure is a bummer that white people get blamed for all those wrongs against black people, like slavery, Jim Crow laws, lynchings, discrimination in hiring, firing, education, housing and all that other stuff that white people had nothing to do with. Hate it when that happens.

  4. Extremism creates extremists on all side of any issue taken to that, well, extreme. It’s as natural as the reflex to push back against any force trying to move you.

    Sheila asks if it is functional and possible to meet extremism with moderation. I’d love to report data that says yes. But I don’t see any.

    President Obama’s tenure will be recorded in history as the defeat of statesmanship by extremism. While I don’t think that he’s capable of extremism I’m pretty sure that he’s gotten quite intractable in his mission and I consider that a necessary reaction to his responsibilities.

    If one assumes that ultimately the “cure” for extremism is only and always war, it’s easy to fall prey to pessimism. Another type of dysfunction that may be a fuel for extremism.

    My hope, in order to stay optimistic, is that in the times coming up the ultimate cure for extremism and the key to renewed progress will be, believe it or not, anthropogenic global warming, a threat that overwhelms all others. A threat whose magnitude could fuel another great enlightenment where our common plight overwhelms our individual greed.

    It will pull its survivors together and knock our heads back into collaboration after………after………after what I fear will be terrible times. A repeat of the likes of WWII in order to figure out who the survivors will be.

    Perhaps the effort and resources and attention necessary to adapt to a new world and mitigate the change in climate and recover from what we are too late in mitigating or too unimaginative to adapt civilization to will blunt our capability to war. Hopefully all of the nuclear swords will remain sheathed.

    Sorry kids. The best that we could do was woefully inadequate.

  5. A few folks have made a lot of money promoting our American pastime of finger pointing. I was taught, “It’s not polite to point your finger.” I was also taught, “Everything in moderation.” While more than a modicum mentioned might not deserve the finger pointing, may I contend, a few still deserve the finger. 🙂

  6. One of my grade school teachers pointed out to us that when we point a finger at someone there are three fingers pointing back at us.

  7. Sitting with my son on Xmas day and the subject of race came up. ( as usual in America. ) When I related that the murder of blacks at the hand of whites, be they cops or no, would continue because that’s just the way it is in this country. He was very surprised and wondered where such line of thought could have originated. I explained that, at one time, it was the law of the land and he couldn’t believe it. I told him about the Dred Scott decision and dhe, not his daughter and son, had never heard about it. Black History month for decades and all they got was MLK and Dr. Carver’s peanut butter. Black history is not on the menu. Thusly, we are destined to repeat it and we are.

    White America knows that black America owns no rights that they are bound to respect.

  8. Thank you, David, couldn’t remember that name.

    Earl; the young woman who has done my lawn care for the past 4-5 years is mid-late 40’s and black. We often have iced tea and talk when she is here; she is an intelligent Christian woman and super hard working, we met when she came around passing out flyers looking for lawn care as her second job. I have been totally amazed at what this young woman does NOT know about her own history; not only in the distant past but the Civil Rights movement and the horrors we saw only a little of on the news. She had no idea what “red lining” or “white flight” were here in her hometown and was amazed to know such things existed during her own early lifetime. I have watched every February and at other times for informative, truthful, historical programming but sadly, maybe “Roots” was the last and the best we will ever see. I remember Kenny and Biddie on that flight years ago when “Roots” was first published, they were reading it together. They didn’t notice Alex Haley sitting in first class when they walked through but he noticed them with his book. He walked back and stood in the aisle to talk to them about his search for his own history. The movie “12 Years A Slave” made another weak attempt at the truth; the book of course came somewhat closer.

    Let’s be honest; those of us who were adults during the Civil Rights movement and the assissinations of President Kennedy, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and Bobby Kennedy, we lived that part of this country’s history. To younger generations those events are words on the pages of some history books; to us they are our memories and they can still bring grief to our hearts.

    Irvin; the sad truth is that those blacks pointing fingers are almost always pointing to the truth. There is no excuse – no reason – to condone the violence, rioting, looting, burning and killing in an effort to “get even”. There has never been and will never be a “getting even” for all wrongs done by both sides of this issue. Sadly I must agree with Earl that it wil not end; it is too deeply imbedded in the hearts and souls of too many whites and blacks in this country. I fear deeply for my intelligent, beautiful biracial great-granddaughters Jayla and Kiera and my intelligent, handsome great-grandsons Marcus and Tre. I now must add my darling one year old Mexican-American great-granddaughter Anel to this list. I fear for their safety, their futures and what will be imbedded in their hearts and minds with the racism being so much a part of America with no end in sight.

  9. Stuart, I have read about all those events that you mention. I did not experience many of them nor did my fellow black citizens. I do know a little about the “education” part of it and there is no one to blame except the student (parent ) themselves for their lack of success. Yet most all of the events are thrown back in my face as though they were my doings.

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