The heroin epidemic, the culture wars, a broken jail system, a broken education system, too much corruption in politics at all levels, too much greed, too much anger. As we face this upcoming presidential election that few average people actually want, accusations are flying: This is all the Millennials’ fault, it’s because of liberals/conservatives, it’s because of greedy politicians, it’s because of those who are uneducated/those who are educated, it’s because of sin, it’s because of religion, the arguments never end.
And yet there is a root cause, a common thread among all this: The fault lies with “The Blamers” (yes, I just blamed them), I’ll call them, and they are everywhere and of all ages. Blamers are quick to point fingers, swift to judge and condemn, and slow to apologize. Here a few examples of how Blamers work.
When a certain little boy jumped into the gorilla pen at the Cincinnati Zoo this spring, social media blew up with outrage from Blamers who, knowing almost nothing about the situation, had already tried and condemned the boy, his mother, the zookeepers, and zoo management in what amounted to an online mob-lynching.
Thankfully, there was a good deal of intelligent and thoughtful push-back-commentary from those who actually knew about parenting, and those who realized that accidents sometimes just happen. Where did the vitriol and judgement come from, lamented one popular author via Facebook. Where does it come from? From older people who’ve forgotten what parenting is like, and younger people without kids. It comes from folks with unrealistically high expectations.
The entire year of 2016 has been one diametrically opposed debate after another: guns, drugs, presidential nominees, parenting failures, religion, political parties, ethnic races, wealth status, and more. There is no middle ground allowed on any of these topics. If you propose measures for simple, common sense gun laws, you are labeled a liberal control-freak (is that a contradiction in terms?). If you believe in no restrictions, you are “clearly” responsible for every mass murder in America.
Where does it come from? It comes from people with unrealistically high expectations, either of their own superiority or the banality of others. Blamers, who seem only motivated to avert responsibility away from themselves without ever really thinking about the issues, attempting to compromise, or conceding that the other side might have a point. Whatever it is that’s happening, you need to know it’s not the Blamers’ fault! Is it possible this is a sign of a guilt complex? For, by refusing to talk to all sides, by casting the blame on others so quickly, these problems are never solved and are in fact exasperated. What is it Blamers are so afraid of?
Have you eaten from the tree that I commanded you not to eat from?” The man said, “The woman you put here with me—she gave me some fruit from the tree, and I ate it.” Then the Lord God said to the woman, “What is this you have done?” The woman said, “The serpent deceived me, and I ate.” – Genesis 3:11-13, Blame: The 2nd Original Sin
I follow a few emotional abuse blogs but have become frustrated with the many 20-somethings who seem to think their childhoods were from the pit of hell because their parents were less-than perfect, not because their parents were genuinely abusive. There is real abuse, and emotional abuse is “a thing” but these young adults cannot see that people are multi-faceted, that people can be wrong in one thing and still right in another. These young adults cannot see that sometimes crap just happens and their parents did their best.
Where does it come from? These young adults are not “spoiled”, they have been drilled to think that anything less than perfection (as outlined by their parents/celebrities/authority figures) is simply not trying hard enough. Accidents don’t happen, they are made. These young adults are understandably angry that, after having been held to impossibly high standards by their parents (and often failing and then believing their failures to be an ineptitude of their own selves), they see their parents gave themselves slack when humanly necessary, while never giving their children that same grace.
I have seen first-hand the pressure, the high expectations, the workload of so many students. They are expected to be Straight-A students, scoring high on standardized tests, while also striving to be an athletic or music or science star, while also being in several clubs, while sometimes also holding a part-time job, while also staying positive in mind and healthy in body. These poor kids are crushed under this load, which is meant to pave their way into college, which then in turn is meant to pave their way to a successful (read: money-making) career and easy (read: materialistic) lifestyle.
At the same time, if these kids are not able to handle so much (and who could?) parents turn to labels and/or legal hoops to get their kids out of actually learning. They search until they find a doctor who will affirm a made up “disability”, they hold kids back in school so Johnny will be more competitive as an older child, they push kids forward so Suzie will be more impressive as the youngest child in her grade. If those tactics don’t work, parents can always use their favorite whipping boy: teachers and/or administrators.
Where does it come from, this drive to be “perfect”, the perverse need to be razor-sharp no matter who gets hurt or how deeply? Where does it come from, the arrogance of “knowing” you’re right without having to actually consider all sides, or the hypocrisy of squeezing kids into college so they can be educated, and then promptly dismissing that education with the words, “dumb college kid”?
Claims of police brutality and racism are running rampant, with few actually evaluating each case, preferring instead to draw blanket and sometimes wild conclusions about “the other side”. Two years ago, in a Walmart in Beavercreek, Ohio, a young man was shot by police after a 911 call was made. While verbal shrapnel and blame flew, the long and short of that particular incident was that everyone was wrong, with the exception of other shoppers, one of whom died from fear. The result was protests for months outside Walmart, coupled with fear of retaliation from all parties, anger, and resentment on all sides.
Where does it come from, the fear and anger? Surely there is some truth on both sides, but those great expectations have reared their ugly heads once again, telling lies and causing strife, inciting violence and more agony, where there should be unity and a resolve toward peace.
There are Blamers in every generation and in every culture. At the same time they condemn others for a seeming lack of hard work, Blamers don’t want to do the hard work of taking on proper and personal responsibility for their problems. They just like to watch the world burn, it’s entertaining and invigorating for them. It’s time we stopped listening to the Blamers, and started fixing our country.
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A Culture of Individualism Without Personal Responsibility Makes for Spoiled Adult-Children
“There’s something unique about the United States, a sense of individual rights and freedoms, and a sense of social and civic responsibility that we contributed to so much of the world. We lost that mission in the 1980s and 1990s, when we entered a gilded age, and the culture of individualism became a culture of avarice.” ~George Hickenlooper
In America, we value individual freedoms and rights very highly, even passionately. I’ve seen many people on either side of a hotly contested political or cultural fence, still refuse to back a movement, idea, or law that seeks to restrain the personal freedoms of the other side. But in the last 15 years or so, it seems that America has forgotten an important part of personal freedom: Personal responsibility.
My dad has often said that a great part of the many problems in America is our cultural belief that everyone has “rights”. Not meaning the individual freedoms and inherent rights of all people for life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, but the idea that every person has the right to do whatever they please, however it pleases them to do it, regardless of consequences.
I have a very obnoxious neighbor who likes to play rave music with a strong beat at the oddest possible hours. The houses in our neighborhood are older (1950s), fairly close together, and there happen to be a lot of them. My neighbor always chooses to play his music on random week nights, beginning at 3am.
Despite politely asking him to turn down his beat, despite agreeing to text him rather than always call police, despite the ire of other neighbors, despite plenty of phone calls to police when said text messages were ignored, despite a desperate letter in which we explained that his living room is situated next to our daughters’ bedroom and they do, in fact go to school, and my husband does in fact, work an 8-5 job, despite trying to compromise with him repeatedly, he continues to insist that in his house, he has the right to play whatever music he wishes, at whatever volume and whenever he wishes.
I don’t dispute his choice of music or timing, only the volume, and only then because it is highly disruptive to our sleep and peace. We have an equal right to not listen to his (or any) music in our house. When we finally became frustrated enough to call police, he would send lengthy, angry texts to us highlighting how he had gotten (or almost gotten) in trouble and that it was all our fault.
Back in college I worked at the campus dining hall as a cashier, swiping meal plan cards or taking cash. I was frustrated one day by some of the specific rules about how students could spend their own money for meals. These university students were limited by the computer to a certain number of swipes per day and week, a kind of way to help balance student meals for them. It was a pain if you wanted to treat a visiting friend or if you knew you were going home that weekend and wanted say, breakfast for a few days instead of the weekend meals. I asked the dining hall manager about it, and he replied they had to put the program in place because parents were calling to complain that their kids had blown through their meal money. And I had thought we were responsible adults.
When I tutor students, the first thing I tell them and their caregivers is that it is my job to teach and give tools for learning, but it is their job to study. So many students and parents do not seem to understand this. They expect and believe that if teachers can just be entertaining enough, then kids will magically internalize the necessary information. Caregivers do not always want to take responsibility for their children’s education, and as a result their children never learn to take responsibility for it either. As a further-reaching result of said lack of personal responsibility, educational standards and society overall suffer.
I could go on and on with examples of embarrassing “helicopter” parents who refuse to allow even their adult kids to fail, frivolous lawsuits, big business finger pointing, and community programs that allow abusers to manipulate the system, rather than cutting them off to save funds for people who might use the opportunities to actually better themselves. These well-intentioned parents, programs, neighbors, etc. are short-sighted. They do not or will not see that taking a stand and stopping abuse, enforcing the rules, cleaning up their own messes, or expecting others to take responsibility by facing consequences/being appropriately rewarded, results in healthier people and a healthier community.
We Are Only as Strong as Our Weakest Link
“I said to my children, ‘I’m going to work and do everything that I can do to see that you get a good education. I don’t ever want you to forget that there are millions of God’s children who will not and cannot get a good education, and I don’t want you feeling that you are better than they are. For you will never be what you ought to be until they are what they ought to be.”
― Martin Luther King Jr.
Being personally responsible is an extremely important part of being an adult in an individualistic society. Taking responsibility benefits those immediately around you, as well as those much farther away in your community. When a community is healthy, you benefit too!
We have a lot of cultural and political debates going on right now: Vaccines, home education, education in general, poverty, drugs, high medical costs, the value vs. price of college, and many more. Most of these wouldn’t be such big issues except that some people want what they want, without taking responsibility for it. They want other people to pay, and no society can function for long with that mindset. If you want certain rights, you should be prepared for the possible consequences, or at least accept responsibility for them. Sometimes we make mistakes, and most people are generous and understanding and willing to help and forgive. At least be honest and own up to your mistake.
“This is my doctrine: Give every other human being every right you claim for yourself.” ― Robert G. Ingersoll, The Liberty of Man, Woman and Child
You have a right to life. You do not have a right to expect others to provide you with a life. You have a right to liberty. You do not have a right to trample the liberty of other people. You have a right to pursue happiness. You do not have a right to pursue happiness in ways that hurt others. Your rights are important, but they are not more important than your neighbor’s. America is a land of equal rights, after all.
John Donne, No Man is An Island