David Carlson: Playing the blame game

I’m sure many readers have noticed that TV meteorologists often sound apologetic when they forecast approaching bad weather. If there have been days and days of rain, weeks with insufficient rain, or bad weather expected for an upcoming holiday, meteorologists often adopt that “I’m so sorry” tone in their voices when they tell us that unpleasant weather is on its way.

I wonder if viewers have actually called TV stations and complained that their meteorologists haven’t brought enough good weather of late, as if the meteorologists had some control of the weather.

Perhaps the instinct to blame someone for what we don’t like is a human trait. In the Judeo-Christian creation story found in the second chapter of Genesis, Adam blames Eve for disobeying God’s command, and Eve blames the serpent. That suggests that we are a race of blamers.

But blaming seems to be a particular tendency of us Americans. This is particularly true in the political realm, where blaming the opposite party for everything unpleasant that we have to deal with is a tactic used by both Democrats and Republicans.

Consider the COVID pandemic. Yes, Donald Trump should be held accountable for his response to the pandemic, but he did not cause the pandemic. As is clear from anyone who has paid attention to COVID’s rapid spread, the virus was and remains a global crisis. Every nation, not just the United States, struggled to deal with something unexpected and new to world history.

The same is true for the current crises of inflation and high gas prices. To listen to some of the recent political ads, Joe Biden is personally to blame for inflation and the higher price of nearly everything. But, as the Pew Research folks have noted, “At least one thing is clear: A resurgent inflation rate is by no means solely a U.S. concern.” To a lesser or greater extent, every developed nation is suffering with inflation in our post-pandemic world. This is not to deny that Biden must address our nation having the eighth-highest rate of inflation over recent months.

Current skyrocketing gas prices are something else Biden must deal with, but he is not to blame for this uncomfortable reality. While there are many factors behind the rise in gas prices, Putin’s war on Ukraine has to be at the top of the list. In recent decades, many European nations became dependent on Russian oil and gas. One of Putin’s most effective retaliatory measures against European nations that stand with Ukraine is to cut off or reduce those countries’ gas and oil. With that cutoff, demand increased as supply decreased.

So, when you are at the gas pump and feeling your blood pressure rise with the price for a gallon of gas, keep in mind that Europeans are paying almost twice as much as we are.

Knee-jerk blaming of government officials for whatever we don’t like is lazy thinking. Blaming our government leaders for everything we can’t control is also not what our nation’s founders had in mind when they instituted our democracy. Our democracy arose in the Age of Reason, meaning that democracy is meant to be not just the rule of the people, but the rule of rational, reasonable people.

What this means as we approach the next election cycle is that we should pay attention to the rhetoric of candidates, both Republican and Democrat. If those who are running for office are simply blaming everything on the opposite party, let’s not be satisfied. If blame is their only game, let’s send an email and demand, instead of playing that game, that they present their ideas for improving our country.