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Wednesday, 22 August 2007 00:00

It’s always somebody’s fault, isn’t it

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We are a nation of blamers. When something goes wrong, or something tragic happens we, as Americans, are quick to look for someone or something to blame.

This is very apparent to most all teachers. Call out a student’s name and you are immediately bombarded with shouts of, “I didn’t do it!” It doesn’t matter if you were asking what caused the Great Depression or who was going to the ballgame Friday night; their response is an automatic denial absolving them from any wrong doings.

As we now approach the second anniversary of hurricane Katrina and the devastation it left in New Orleans and along the Mississippi gulf coast, blame is still being shoveled out like stinking mud. It was the mayor, the governor, FEMA, the president, the Army Corps of Engineers, global warming, methane-producing cows, cheap Chinese products; the blame just has to go somewhere.

You can prepare all you want for a hurricane, but when a storm of that strength and intensity hits land there is going to be major destruction and loss of life. Despite how ready you think you’re prepared Mother Nature always has a way of humbling the best efforts of man. That’s why it’s called a natural disaster, not a natural occurrence.

It wasn’t long after the I-35W bridge collapse in Minneapolis that the news reports were looking for someone to blame for this unfortunate event. The Minnesota Department of Transportation, the federal government, local and county officials; all were scrutinized in the roles they played in the inspection and maintenance of the bridge that failed.

Whose fault was it and whom can we blame was the cry from the press. The bridge was more than 40 years old and as of its last inspection deemed structurally deficient. I am over 40 years old and without periodic upkeep and resurfacing I too would be deemed structurally deficient.

One just has to look to Washington to see how real professionals play the blame game. Congress could hardly wait for August recess so they could go home and point fingers and blame “those rascals across the aisle,” for all the gridlock, legislative stagnation and cat fighting that went on this session in the House and Senate.

Here locally it’s “an extended period of wellness in the region,” that’s to blame for the layoff of 36 jobs at a local hospital. Yet, 30 minutes away to the west, a neighboring hospital is experiencing a 14 percent increase in patient visitation.

Hospital board members are puzzled and blame external factors for loss of revenue and the lack of patients. Gee, if I don’t like the service or selection at my local supermarket, I’ll shop elsewhere; hospitals, I’m sorry to say, are not that much different than grocery stores, they’re just located a little farther apart. The sooner the board examines “internal factors” instead of blaming a rash of healthy living on their woes, the sooner they can cure what ails them.

In line with dishing out blame, there is also a problem with the unwillingness to accept responsibility for one’s actions. This is hard to do in a school setting. I tell my students that just once it would be refreshing for a student to stand up and say, “Mr. Curtis, it was me who did (pick any typical middle school student infraction), I’m sorry, I used bad judgment.”

Wow, if a kid said that in class I probably would keel over dead in disbelief. Then, of course, the poor student would be blamed for my death, tried in court where their lawyer would blame the student’s parents for his tormented youth and the kid would end up with two years probation and extra math problems.

“Mr. Curtis, it was I who shot Jimmy with the spit wad.” Thank you Robert, is there anything else I need to know? “Yes, it was me that superglued the pencil to Will’s forehead.” Interesting Robert, anything else you would like to share? “Well, that Valerie Plame outing, you know, blowing her cover and all, it wasn’t Scooter, I ... well, it sort of slipped one day in the lunchroom.”

“We at Wal-Mart take full responsibility for the unfortunate rash of inferior products made in China. From tainted toothpaste to lead paint on children’s toys to questionable ingredients in food products, if it wasn’t that we wanted to make a buck by selling cheap foreign made junk, all the while putting Americans out of work, we wouldn’t be selling this crap. Again, our apologies.”

“Please accept my heartfelt apology for creating the god-less abyss I created when I took prayer out of public school. I was wrong to assume that parents were really the Christian influence that instilled the ethical and moral values that would mold little Jimmy, Robert or Mary into respectful, obedient children and that public schools were only here to educate. Forgive me.”

By the way, that traffic circle on old Asheville Highway, that was my idea.

(David Curtis teaches middle school in Haywood County, so it is not his fault. He can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .)

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