Monday, June 29, 2009

The Same Blame Game, It's a Shame

"Blame" for the purpose of this blog, is in a negative sense, finding fault in others, without taking the time to truly understand the situation and all perspectives. Obviously, in any situation there are parties responsible, and “blame” is justly attributed to those responsible.

Perhaps “game” is a poor choice of words considering the repercussions blame has.
Last Sunday I had the wonderful opportunity to spend most of the day with the illustrious Emily Maynard. We explored Berkeley and made fun of each other all day. ‘Made fun’ might not be the right descriptor, “tried to make the other cry” is more what I’m looking for.

To wrap up the day we decided to buy a Frisbee, (Emily needed a souvenir) and we wanted to toss some disc. Knowing that I’d seen a Frisbee before at the Safeway near where I live, I suggested we stop at a nearby Safeway and pick one up. To which Emay looked at me incredulously and with all the confidence of Chuck Liddell in a street fight, tells me there is no possible way that Safeway sells Frisbees. I was sure they would and decided to prove it to her. The entire half-mile drive over we’re deciding the terms of the bet that this disagreement has spawned.

As San Leandro’s pitiful excuse for a Safeway came into view, my heart sank. I began to lose hope almost immediately that this bare essentials Safeway would have a Frisbee.
Emily’s trash talking amped up to new heights.

I went aisle by aisle, becoming more desperate by the footstep that I was going to have to listen to Emay’s gloating the entire night. Just as all hope had evacuated my soul, and we began to exit the store, there in shining, heavenly light, with a chorus of angels, was a disc! It was packaged with some other essentials for a day at the beach, much like the fully loaded Easter baskets or stuffed Christmas stockings you would find at a grocery store, just for the desperate single dad. But it was a disc nonetheless.

Emily had victory in her grasp, she could see it, smell it, taste it, feel it. And in one serendipitous, last-ditch, desperate glance, heaven shined on me instead.

Of all the adjectives that she used to describe me immediately thereafter (lucky, ridiculous, unreal, cheater – yes, cheater!), not one of them was “right.” She could not just admit I was right - that Safeway has discs.

To be honest, I don’t blame her one iota.

We’ve all seen it, since the playground, when something bad happens, someone else is to blame. This continues well on into adulthood as evidenced by the burgeoning personal liability business in America, and its near ubiquity. It usually takes a great deal of self-restraint in conjunction with maturation and personal growth to advance past this sophomoric behavior. (Which isn’t to say that Emily is typically sophomoric, being around me and my shenanigans can bring out the worst sometimes).

Why do we find it so easy to blame others, when many times it is our own fault?
The research and psychological theory attempting to explain this observed human behavior is convoluted and insufficient. Based off of the empirical evidence that does exist, what experts have come up with is not so much “why”….but more of what predictors there are that an individual will other-blame.

Predictors aren’t definite though. What do we know that is definite?

We do know that it can be controlled. We can control whether we react viscerally to a negative situation, or take a minute to analyze why we did what we did, and try our best to understand why others did what they did. Because if you’re pointing a finger informing others why its so and so’s fault, almost without fail, so and so is pointing their finger right back at you.

Between Emay and me, I can’t think of a more innocuous occurrence of blame, but it can be so dangerous. That is why I bring this topic up. Wars are fought because of blame. Lives are lost, peace is sacrificed, friendships ended, souls poisoned, all from the innate human proclivity to justify to others and ourselves our own actions and escape responsibility. I say “souls poisoned” thinking of those who embitter their hearts, holding onto the blame they have for the wrongs visited upon them.

When life goes according to plan, we are quick to accept responsibility, who wouldn’t? When those plans go horribly awry or even just hit a minor speed bump, what happens?

On Christmas day, 2004, a 9.1 magnitude earthquake whose epicenter was in the Indian Ocean off the coast of Sumatra, created a wave of water so destructive over 225,000 lives were lost.
In August 2005 Hurricane Katrina wrought havoc in New Orleans, killing over 1,800.

God was blamed by many for both.

Although some people blame God for the terrorist attacks of 9/11, most of us blame its mastermind, Osama bin Laden. Have you ever listened to him talk? He blames us. As a fundamentalist Muslim, he calls America “the Great Satan” and the nation filled with Jews (those people Muslims have been fighting with for the last 14 centuries), “the Little Satan.” America is a greater enemy than Israel.


In a nutshell, as appealing as Western technology, economic superiority, and freedoms are, they come with Western “sin” – pornography, greed, lack of respect for elders, etc. To a fundamentalist like bin Laden, his thought is “if I can’t have the good without the bad, I don’t want any of it.” So he blames us and our Western evils, and has taken it upon himself to eradicate those evils from the planet.

In America, we think what Osama bin Laden is, and what he’s done as evil and we blame him. We’re innocent in all of this, victims of a religious zealot and his demonic actions. As he hides in some cave in Afghanistan or Pakistan right now, he and many other Muslims are blaming America for all that is wrong in the world, they themselves are innocent in all of this, victims of an evil empire.

What if we’re both wrong?

What if they decided that Jihad was really the inner, spiritual battle the Koran meant it to be, not one requiring bloodshed and innocent lives?

What if we realized that the evils that they hate about America, aren’t freedoms like we think of them, but really are evils, and we would all be better off if we erased them from our lives, living purer, healthier, and with more fulfillment?

The tendency we all possess to blame others needs to be recognized for what it is: detrimental to everyone.

The hope I maintain is in the possibility that exists of conquering it within all of us. As the dissemination of information exponentially increases via technological advancements and the internet, we possess opportunities unparalleled in history to understand the perspectives of others. This wonderful epoch allows us to put ourselves in their shoes, hopefully mitigating the desire to blame.

"Let us not seek the Republican answer or the Democratic answer, but the right answer. Let us not seek to fix the blame for the past. Let us accept our own responsibility for the future.” - John Fitzgerald Kennedy

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