"Whenever I go into a restaurant, I order both a chicken and an egg to see which comes first"

Thursday, June 8, 2017

The Russians Did It–Shifting The Blame Is Easy For Spoiled Americans

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The Spanish language is great for deferring blame by using the passive voice. Se me cayó – it dropped, I didn’t drop it, but somehow I was involved – is a polite, non-accusatory, even deferential way of describing an event.  I dropped the dish, but there were extenuating circumstances.  I did not drop it on purpose, and even if I may have been handling it carelessly, it could have been wet and slippery, the real cause of the accident;  or I was unexpectedly distracted and whereas in most cases I would have paid attention to the dish, this time I could not have.

We don’t have the same convenient grammatical form in English, so evading responsibility is a bit harder.  We have to explain the mitigating circumstances – the dish was wet, Aunt Tally hollered out at just the wrong moment – and it is up to the listener to determine their plausibility.  There is no room for linguistic subtlety to get English-speakers off the hook.  We are forced to come up with excuses that are reasonable, obliging the listener to be a part of the assignment of guilt by judging. 
Children learn how to do this very early on.   If there is an easy way out such as telling a partial truth, they will do it.  A child might have indeed intended to discuss homework with a friend but never got down to business, lost track of time, and arrived home late for dinner. 

Explaining away bad grades (the teacher, the unfairness of the exam, too little time), the poor appetite (not the McDonald’s hamburger but a queasy stomach), and not calling home (the phone died and there was no charger) – all are the stock in trade of childish evasion and avoidance of  responsibility.

Parents should know better, but either want to believe in the honesty of the children they have raised; or more likely do not want the aggravation of a confrontation with them.  In fact, they go through the same evasive process that their children do.  What does it matter if they occasionally come home late for dinner? Or do poorly on a spot quiz? Or fib about their whereabouts?

It is far easier to shift the blame for raising an irresponsible child to others and in fact to use the same lame, childish excuses as justification.

It is not surprising, then, that adults routinely evade responsibility.  A disciplinarian boss who dresses down an employee becomes a harridan, out of her depth and resorting to martial abuse to cover over her own insecurity.  A talented colleague who receives a quick promotion must have friends in high places or is rewarded thanks to complaisance and toadying.  A girl who falls for an attractive friend only sees skin deep and misses his callowness. 

No one wants to admit failure, irresponsibility, ignorance, or stupidity; and if there are plausible ways to avoid responsibility, why not take them?

Unfortunately, American society seems to be moving towards a collective evasion of responsibility.  A diagnosis of ADHD gets lax parents off the hook.  The antics of their disruptive children have nothing to do with them but a congenital disorder easily treated with drugs.  A diagnosis of a ‘learning disability’ gives parents an out and a legitimate social cover for their children’s poor academic performance, and exonerates teachers who fail to make them learn.  Worse, such facile categorization of less-talented children allows both teachers and parents to stop driving them  to the highest point of their excellence on the bell curve.

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Entire groups are relieved from individual responsibility by the culture of identity politics. Minority groups are expected to fail because of persistent racism and white privilege; are entitled to government support; and should feel no shame in relying on those who have persecuted them.  Allegations that communities are dysfunctional because of their own neglect are immediately branded as racist.  The refusal by these communities to accept blame and responsibility and the insistence on liberal observers to persistently look elsewhere for the causes of antisocial behavior is the perfect storm of moral neglect.

Why, then, is anyone surprised that the Russians have been blamed for everything that went wrong with Hillary Clinton’s campaign?  Putin in a recent interview on American television (a Megyn Kelly moderated event) said that Mrs. Clinton had made so many blunders, missteps, and miscalculations that she was bound to lose; and that Trump had successfully developed a winning strategy based on a core group of defiant voters.  Clinton self-destructed and Trump needed no help.

“Hackers”, Putin smirked.  They are everywhere and capable of anything.  Why automatically place the blame on Russia? Backdoor deals? Realpolitik diplomacy is not Disneyland.

In this and other public statements Putin has laughed at the naivete of America and its arrogant sanctimony and hypocrisy. America has never accepted responsibility for its dirty tricks in Latin America, failed, ignorant imperialist war in Vietnam, Bush family vendetta in Iraq, and an undisciplined, chaotic society so concerned with diversity and inclusivity that it has lost its center, its focus, and its backbone.

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Putin is not the only one who wonders about America’s incoherent foreign policy and hysterical support of social factionalism at the expense of national unity and integrity.  Putin’s autocratic rule may be criticized by the US but his popularity is well over eighty percent, and his  sense of direction and purpose are unequivocal and crystal clear.  Terrorism is a danger to national integrity and a threat to his goal of creating a neo-Imperialist state and he has no hesitation in identifying it, attacking it, and destroying it. 

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American navel-gazing, pusillanimity, and distorted democracy will be the country’s own downfall.
Putin is right.  The world is too dangerous a place for America to be continually tangled in domestic politics which can only serve to further erode its international influence.  Democrats who have lost the election not only refuse to believe they lost (“Hillary won the popular vote”) but continue the same destructive ad hominem attacks on the President as they leveled during the campaign.  They continue to pursue whatever witch hunts that will discredit the President and lose him support. 

There is no doubt that Trump’s inexperience is showing and is the cause for his many missteps.  No one expected a man of Hollywood and the streets of New York to have a seamless transition to the White House.  It is certain that he misunderstood the complex interrelationships among law, politics, Congress, the courts, and insider political trading.  He is not blameless in the current state of affairs.

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Nor is Vladimir Putin virginal.  There is no doubt that he, like any US adversary, did and would do anything to promote his own interests.  Whatever he did during and after the election is irrelevant because no one doubts his intentions. 

The only interesting in this whole Affair Putin is the American refusal to accept responsibility for the mess we’re in.  It is no surprise that Putin watches the food fights, playground brawls, jealous infighting, and outrageous posturing and laughs at American ‘democracy’.

We are to blame for the chaos.  We elected Donald Trump for his outrageousness, braggadocio, street smarts, and defiance.  We are responsible for the progressive policies of the last two decades which have increased petty factionalism, eroded the core principles of the Republic, and further promoted an increasingly discredited moral exceptionalism abroad.

Blame the Russians we may, but ignore our own responsibility we cannot.

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