The Blame Game
Dana Williams
It sometimes seems to me that people in the US have been programmed to respond to anything that they disagree with or have never considered with immediate contempt and dismissal. This also leads to people seeing the Left as a “bunch of complainers” who are “blaming everyone” for the problems that they see. I'd like to point out that the toughest thing to do is actually look in the mirror in the morning. How's that old saying go? “When you point your finger at someone, the other fingers point back towards you.”

As Noam Chomsky is fond of pointing out, there are two fundamental moral truisms we ought to recognize and live by. First, we are responsible for the foreseeable consequences of our own actions -- we're not responsible for things that others do that we have no control over. And secondly, it's our actions we can actually affect and change. The conclusion Chomsky draws from this is that before we accuse others of doing something horrible, we should look at our own behavior and actions to see if we play a role in what we criticize. And if we our partially responsible, to do something to change that first, before we blame others.

Yet, he says this is really hard to do. It's far easier to blame others for things that go wrong in the world, and its very tough to accept the fact that we may play a role in supporting those wrong things. Shuffling off the blame is convenient and relieves one of the need to analyze personal responsibility. Convenience is nothing, if not the “American way”.

A good example is the bloodshed occurring in Israel and the Occupied Territories. The American media and establishment commonly blame Palestinians for the bloodshed -- even though suicide bombing is a very recent phenomena, is an act of isolated individuals, and kills far fewer Jewish Israelis than the Israel's military kills.

Instead of pointing the finger at an entire generation of Palestinians who have been expunged from their homes and terrorized daily by the Israeli military, us Americans might rather want to deal with the fact that the US gives the Israeli government billions of dollars every year (far more than any other nation in the world), which is used to repress Palestinians. Logic would dictate that our tax dollars are actively being used to murder Palestinians and to enforce an illegal occupation.

But, we instead blame Muslim fundamentalists. We blame Osama bin Laden for the atrocities that occurred in 2001, even though the US government has yet to provide proof of his involvement. The US invaded, killed thousands of Afghans, and overthrew the government of a country on the say-so of Bush, not because of any proof. As if proof would have made the invasion legal.

The US media concocted (by the prodding of the Bush Administration) the lie that Saddam Hussein had a role in the 9-11 crimes, even though it's well known that bin Laden and Hussein are mortal enemies with incredibly antithetical ideologies. But, the US blamed Hussein, because it needed an excuse to invade Iraq. It also blames Hussein for gassing Kurdish Iraqis in the mid-1980s. Of course Hussein did this, but he did it with the full political and economic support of the Reagan administration. But, instead of blaming Ronnie for covering for his pal Saddam, the current US administration has made it seem as if Iraq's chemical weapons just grew on trees (and didn't come from the US) and that the Hussein regime was so powerful to get away with the crime (it didn't, but it had the US running defense for it).

When the anti-war community points out these simple, well-known historical facts, they are accused of “aiding the terrorists” (which ones?). When they speak out against war, they are accused of “hurting the troops”, regardless of the fact that peace activists would not have “the troops” invading other countries illegally or without merit in the first place. Playing the blame game with protesters is more effective than admitting that “supporting the troops” is far different than supporting the actions of the troops.

Closer to home, we blame crime (especially blue-collar crime, the only kind the media seems to care about) on deficits in “character” of the criminal, instead of considering the motivations for these crimes, such as poverty, drug abuse, or other social ills. Americans also blame poor people for being poor (as if newly born infants can choose their parents, but instead of rich ones, they pick poor ones) and think that if they do not succeed economically that it must be because “they didn't work hard enough”.

And, if we're fundamentalist Christians like Pat Robertson or Rush Limbaugh, we blame feminists, homosexuals, pacifists, environmentalists (a.k.a. “femi-nazis”, “homos”, “wimps”, “tree-huggers”) for social problems, despite the fact that these people and groups are in fact trying to overcome the deep-seated social problems of patriarchy, domestic violence, homophobia, war, and economic destruction. Blaming the victim (and kicking them good and hard when they're down) is an American tradition.

Even the Left is responsible for partaking in the blaming frenzy. Liberals (who are showing their true class sympathies) blame the progressive activist Ralph Nader for “giving the 2000 election to Bush”. Discounting the fact that the 2000 election was stolen and given to Bush (by the Supreme Court, the antiquated Electoral College, and recurring electoral violations), the fact that over a million people voted for Nader instead of the conservative Gore doesn't make Nader responsible for that. Clearly, those people were not forced to vote for Nader (he didn't have guns to their heads), rather they did so on their own volition and by their own consciences. Democrats would have us believe that candidates are responsible for the actions of voters (and not responsible for this shit they do after elected), while I feel that only voters are responsible for the outcome of fair elections and that politicians are responsible for the shit they do once elected (or selected). Blaming Nader for what Bush has done in office (and not Gore or Bush himself) is just as disgraceful as all the other blame games being played.

If we really want to be moral people, we need to take a deep look inside and consider where our culpability and responsibility is. Blaming the victims and convenient boogeymen is an easy way out, and often serves to soothe are guilt instead of solving the problem and creating a better future. As the old saying goes, “the buck stops here”.

05/25/04