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Blame Game



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, Gen. David Petraeus has some debatable opinions. Yes, Hillary wishes she'd never taken donations from Norman Hsu. Yes, the Virginia Tech administrators wish they'd have 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. 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. Yes, Al Gonzales wishes he'd have never gone along with the prosecutor firings. Yes, George W. wishes he'd have listened less to Don Rumsfeld and more to Colin Powell. Yes, Bill Clinton wishes he'd have 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 have speculated on why there are so few women in science. Yes, Imus wishes he'd have engaged brain before mouth.

Yes, people make mistakes. People say stupid things. People screw up. It's the nature of humanity.

But the way our nation immediately goes into attack mode -- from rabid bloggers to attack journalism to lawyers seeking contingency fees — we are indeed punishing the majority for the stupidity of the few.

We are 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 possibly could any candidate research the backgrounds of the hundreds, and 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."

When America needs rational, realistic thinking, 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 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 were likely domestic.

Remember that many talented Immigration and Naturalization, FBI and CIA agents took early retirement after that 9/11 orgy of blame. Remember that at least five generals wouldn't take the Iraq czar job partially out of fear that they'd catch hell.

How many good, competent, caring people are not going into politics because they know some 30-second commercial will plaster them with hatred?

How many bureaucrats don't act rapidly because they now have hundreds of pages of instructions to look through before actually doing what can't be blamed as either over- or under-zealous?

How many of us don't make mistakes daily?

I'm not a Christian, having only spent 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."

Those of you gun-control lovers, please leave the right-to-bear-arms" people alone. They didn't shoot anybody at Virginia Tech.

Republican and Democratic candidates, 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 take a hike.

Let's try, as Americans, to remember what Winston Churchill said when he kept Neville Chamberlain, and others who had brutally mocked his war preparation message, in the British government during the dark days of 1940: "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, "this 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 we instead destroy those same "able" people. This certainly is not our finest trait and will certainly not lead to our "finest hour." S

Randy Salzman is a former journalism teacher at Virginia Union and a transportation researcher who now lives in Charlottesville.

Opinions expressed on the Back Page are those of the writer and not necessarily those of Style Weekly.

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