ESSAY- Blame game: Let's all stop pointing fingers
As we surge into yet another orgy of finger pointing, perhaps it's time to remember that the nature of humanity is to screw up.
Yes, General David Petraeus has some debatable opinions. Yes, Hillary wishes she had never taken donations from Norman Hsu. Yes, the Virginia Tech administrators wish they had locked down the campus after the first shootings. Yes, the counselor who questioned whether Cho Seung Hui was a danger wishes he/she had erred on the side of caution. Yes, Al Gonzales wishes he'd never gone along with the prosecutor's firings. Yes, George W. wishes he'd listened less to Don Rumsfeld and more to Colin Powell. Yes, Bill Clinton wishes he'd listened to himself when he promised America on 60 Minutes that he'd not cause any more pain in his marriage. Yes, Larry Summers wishes he'd never speculated on why there are so few women in science. Yes, Imus wishes he'd engaged brain before mouth.
The judge who decided Cho was "not enough of a danger" is, no doubt, trying to find a place to hide these days. It's either that or blame alcohol and go into rehab.
People make mistakes. People say stupid things. People screw up. It's the nature of being human.
But the way our nation immediately goes into attack mode– from rabid bloggers, to attack journalism, to lawyers seeking contingency fees– we're punishing the majority for the stupidity of the few. We're driving good people away from public positions by our vicious finger-pointing at the "crime" of being wrong, confused, or simply having to act without enough facts.
How could any candidate possibly research the background of hundreds– maybe thousands– of donors?
And the one thing all of us, from all political stripes, should have learned after four years in Iraq is that everything is confusing over there; that "right" may even have the same definition as "wrong."
America needs rational, realistic thinking, but instead we get the blame game. The fastest finger seems to think it wins, but in reality all of us lose.
The New York Post's full front-page headline– only 12 hours after the Tech shootings– was "They didn't have to die," blaming campus authorities for thinking the first two shootings probably resulted from a domestic situation.
Remember that many talented Immigration and Naturalization, FBI and CIA agents took early retirement after the 9/11 orgy of blame. Remember that at least five generals wouldn't take the Iraq czar job partially out of fear that they would catch hell.
How many good, competent, caring people are not going into politics today because they know some 30-second commercial will smear their reputation– possibly permanently?
How many bureaucrats don't act rapidly because they have to study hundreds of pages of instructions to be sure that what they do won't be slammed as over- or under-zealous?
How many of us don't make mistakes daily?
I'm not a Christian– I've spent only a few hours in church for weddings and funerals in the last 40 years– but Jesus was right when he said: "He who is without sin, let him cast the first stone."
Gun control lovers should leave the "Right to Bear Arms" people alone. They didn't shoot anybody at Virginia Tech.
Republican and Democratic candidates should leave Hillary alone. She didn't know anything about what Norman Hsu did– or did not do– years ago.
MoveOn.org, join Rush Limbaugh and move on.
Let's try, as Americans, to take Winston Churchill's message to heart. Defending his decision to keep Neville Chamberlain and others who had brutally mocked his war preparation message in the British government during the dark days of 1940, he said, "If the present tries to sit in judgment on the past, it will lose the future."
Churchill knew, of course, that Chamberlain had never been his friend– their antagonism was as bad as the worst of Washington today– but Churchill also knew that with the Germans swooping down on Dunkirk, it was "no time for proscriptions of able, patriotic men of long experience in government."
But that was the United Kingdom a generation ago. In America today we destroy our own "able" people. This is certainly not our finest trait, and will certainly not lead to our "finest hour."
Randy Salzman is a former communications professor and now a Charlottesville-based freelance writer.