Calling time-out in the blame game

Renee James Contributor
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I keep trying to pin down exactly what makes today’s headlines so different from the headlines of even a few years ago. After some good, solid introspective thinking—in other words, based on exactly nothing but my own notions with no serious research to back me up—I’ve concluded the following: we used to get all indignant about apologies; now we get all worked up about assigning blame.

I realize we’ve heard our share of apologies from Messrs. Letterman, Woods, Sanford, Edwards, James and Spitzer in the recent past. That’s not what I mean. Just five years ago, you couldn’t turn a page or scroll down a screen without hitting another strident voice insisting on an apology. A few that grabbed the headlines of yesteryear: Al Sharpton demanded an apology from Vincente Fox, President of Mexico, for his comments regarding jobs held by illegal immigrants in this country, the GOP demanded an apology from Nancy Pelosi for her verbal attack on President Bush, Hillary Clinton demanded an apology from Karl Rove and the GOP, Islamic groups called for an apology from evangelist Pat Robertson for his remarks that disparage American Muslims, Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist demanded an apology from Senator Dick Durbin for his comments about prison conditions and treatment of prisoners at Guantanamo Bay, Billionaire George Soros demanded an apology from House Speaker Dennis Hastert for implying that at least some of Soros’ money was a result of illegal drug operations, Brooke Shields wanted Tom Cruise to apologize for his remarks about depression and prescription drugs, both North Korea and Iran demanded apologies for different reasons from the United States, Estonia wanted an apology from Russia and high school graduate Thomas Benya requested an apology from his school’s officials after they withheld his diploma because he wore a bolo tie to his graduation ceremony.

Demanding apologies is so 2005. Who has time for apologies when you can assign blame instead?

I did a Bing search of the word “blames” and here’s a just sampling of what came up: Naomi Campbell blames violent outbursts on abandonment issues; American Spectator blames liberals for $26,000 shortfall; Lohan blames Ronson for club ejection; Venezuelan President Chavez again blames Columbia for domestic crime, and Man blames paralysis on raw milk.

Want more? Here you go, courtesy of Google: Biden blames fiscal mess on Bush in talk to Texas; Left Media, Bloggers blame Times Square bomb on Tea Party; Arizona Governor blames Obama administration for failing on immigration; David Gregory blames Republicans for 2007’s Immigration Reform failure; Obama blames mining deaths on failure of management, oversight; Holder blames Gitmo lag on Congress; and Faldo blames ‘the moon’ for Tiger Woods’ missed cut at Quail Hollow Championship.

Finally, the Gulf Oil spill has generated an entire cottage industry of assigning blame. Here’s a small selection of headlines. Follow along this progression if you will: PETA blames meat-eaters for Deepwater oil explosion; Rush Limbaugh blames oil spill crisis on Obama; Obama blames BP for gulf oil spill; BP chief blames equipment in weekend of oil spill activity, and Rick Perry blames God for gulf oil spill.

But wait: a ray of hope in this sea of accusations and outrage, from the most unlikely source: Hollywood. “Mickey Rourke blames himself for his mistakes.” Unbelievable. In the U.K.’s Daily Record, Rourke said, “I would have enjoyed [my success] if I could have kept it the first time, but I let it go. I understand you pay the price if you’re not accountable or responsible or professional.” He’d better watch out. If he keeps talking like that he’ll never get a book deal or a slot on Oprah.

How about we try this: “no-blame” day.  Naomi Campbell can still throw a fit, or a cell phone (or both); Lindsay Lohan can still get trashed and thrown out of another nightclub somewhere; and liberals and conservatives can still throw verbal punches as they report on each other’s indiscretions. I’m not asking for miracles, here. I’m just saying that once a week, no one is allowed to assign blame to someone or something else for the news of the day.

Okay, so even that may not be possible. No one, save for Mr. Rourke apparently, appears to be able to comment on anything without assigning blame elsewhere.

At times like this, I turn to one of my favorite websites of all time, despair.com, for a moment of clarity.  And there it is. A poster that says it all; and no doubt a bestseller. Blame: the secret to success is knowing who to blame for your failures.

Renee James writes social commentary and keeps track of the things that mystify her on her blog: It’s not me, it’s you, found at reneeaj.blogspot.com. Her email address is raaj3@msn.com.