The Blame Game

Posted on November 29, 2016


You know the “blame game.” We all play it at one time or another to pass the buck. Politicians who lose elections are especially good buck passers.

As a teacher, I always liked, “the dog ate my homework,” updated these days to something like “my computer crashed,” or my “cell phone got wet,” which I usually understand—being a suspicious old teacher of many years—to mean “the cell phone fell into the pool after a long party Saturday night.”

Christians of course are quick to blame the devil, like in “the devil made me do it.” But I think Buddhists, atheists, Jews, agnostics, communists, and Free Soilers (I threw that category in to test you history buffs) can probably do the same thing since the devil, as near as I can determine theologically, isn’t limited to needling and tempting Christians.

Deflecting responsibility is, of course, as old as man, or specifically, as the first man and woman, Adam and Eve.

Regardless of your persuasion, you all know the story. Eve was tempted by the serpent, a reasonable representation of Satan, or evil, and she then persuaded Adam to take a bite of the forbidden fruit also. Adam did so.

By taking a bite of the apple, Adam disobeyed God who had specifically forbidden eating that fruit from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil.

Adam then blamed Eve for his disobedience of God, and Eve, of course, said something like “whaaat, me? It was the serpent that tempted me and made me do it.”

The blame game is played by everyone from the most important person on earth to the smallest child learning to avoid responsibility for doing something wrong.

We almost always claim either innocence or ignorance, although today the fashion is that circumstances beyond our control—from genes to culture—contrive to control us.

We are but children of circumstances, and we are essentially devoid of personal responsibility. We riot in the streets, trash talk with vulgarity, insult national symbols, and take drugs like candy. We are devoid of guilt and conscience. Others are to blame for what we do.

What is truly amazing is that there are lots of people who I admire who are decent, hard-working, responsible, and generally law-abiding.

We have school teachers working hard to bring the glory and excitement of learning to their kids, public officials who care and are really effective in improving their communities, business people growing the economy, and while everyone plays the blame game occasionally, not all are beyond taking personal responsibility for what they think and do.

One morning at my Bible study group a friend told a story that was in effect a good example of how to take and exercise responsibility. My friend was going through a serious diagnosis and his physicians here in Alabama discovered he had multiple myeloma.

“Tommy,” told him, “we know what it is, but there is a world class medical center [turns out it was the University of Arkansas Medical School] who are at the cutting edge of treatment for this.” My friend is now recovering from the cancer they treated him for in Arkansas.

No one here in Alabama blamed the circumstances or covered up their inabilities with excuses. They said, rather, “We know what you have, but we’re not the best to treat you.”

Doctors, like pilots and other high stress careers demanding quick and right answers to life-threatening situations, don’t like to admit defeat or ignorance. They are trained to diagnose and treat the illnesses and problems they face, honestly. Passing the buck is a very weak, and nearly inexcusable, option for people like surgeons and pilots.

To offer an excuse or cover your inadequacy by blaming something or someone else could often prove deadly.

All our small and big decisions are not always as life-threatening as when Captain Chesley Sullenberger had to decide quickly what to do when his airliner’s engines ingested geese as it took off from La Guardia Airport in New York City. The geese turned his powerful engines propelling him up over the skies of New York into a glider over the heavily populated metropolitan area.

With no power and losing altitude rapidly over nothing but buildings, high rises and rivers below him, what to do? Sully didn’t blame the geese, the engines, or fate for this potentially deadly fix. Go see the movie Sully. It’s a great lesson on what to do and not play the blame game.

Published as “Invoking the Blame Game Too Common These Days” in The Tuscaloosa News, Sunday, Nov. 20, 2016

Posted in: Life in America