We Choose to Suffer Because We Need to Blame Someone

Official White House Photo by D. Myles Cullen

President Donald J. Trump delivers remarks during a coronavirus (COVID-19) update briefing Monday, March 30, 2020, in the Rose Garden at the White House. (Official White House Photo by D. Myles Cullen)

As a teacher and as a coach, I am forever correcting students who will respond to “Why did you do this?” with, “Well, he/she said…,” or “They started it!” or something equally clever.

The correction is always the same. “So, that person made you do this?” It sounds silly actually writing it down, but that’s how we always address that issue. We look for our students and athletes, our children, and even our friends to be better than that. We want them to stop blaming others and accept some level of responsibility and maturity in a given situation.

We do this because if our children are always looking for scapegoats, they’ll never learn from a mistake. They will always be the victim. They’ll never be forced to mature and grow, and that is something we all want for our kids. Many of you who are reading this will likewise complain about people in your lives or who you see on TV or social media complaining and playing the victim. You will scoff and tell them to grow up.

You see, we live in very tense times. That should not come as a shock to anyone, by any means, but I don’t think it fully registers at times. “Us versus them” has become so deeply ingrained into who we are as a society now that the tension we feel is just the norm. But, it shouldn’t be. It’s not healthy for a society to be living in such tension.

No matter in which direction you look, you can’t find consistent information. We have a President whose best work is done in celebrating the Airing of Grievances during his daily press briefings. We have a Democratic Party that is so tied up in trying to discredit the President that they’ll clear the Chinese government of any blame in the COVID-19 outbreak just to pin it all on Donald Trump. We have a mainstream media that is so opposed to Trump that I remain convinced he could come out tomorrow and praise CNN as a valid news source and CNN would furiously fact check him on it.

Trump’s supporters look to blame anyone — from the Deep State to the medical experts — in order to explain away his flaws. His opponents will straight-up cite Chinese propaganda in order to bash him.

All this is happening at a time in which we’re experiencing a major pandemic, the likes of which none of us have ever lived through before, having to shelter in place, watching our economy grind to a halt, and sitting in our homes praying that our next trip to the store won’t be the trip that gets us infected.

That is, of course, assuming you’re following the social distancing guidelines. You could be out and about, flipping off those guidelines, and interacting with anyone and everyone you meet.

We aren’t doing all these things because we are so secure in our lives. We do this out of fear. We are terrified that someone we disagree with could be right. In order to make ourselves feel better, we look for a person to blame.

Insofar as there is someone to blame for the situation we currently find ourselves in, clearly the Chinese government has a lot to answer for. The World Health Organization desperately needs a change in leadership, perhaps one that doesn’t bow to Chinese dictates.

But should we really be blaming each other for what’s going on at home? Should we be stoking the fires of rage and inciting people to be angry over the state of our economy?

You can’t simply blame the experts here. You can’t blame the models. The former followed the data that was available (thanks again, China!), and the latter would take new information into account and frequently make adjustments. The medical professionals are not economists. They are people who deal in the very real world of health and infectious disease. Their job is to prepare us for situations like these. When they are unprepared, we are unprepared.

Likewise, we can’t blame economists who specialize in an area completely separate from medical doctors. Their job is to worry about the financial health of America and its citizens. In this extremely unique case we find ourselves in, the groups find themselves at cross purposes.

The Democrats and the media, meanwhile, would like for you to believe that Trump is responsible for everything bad that is happening. There is a disease running rampant through several parts of the country? Well, he clearly didn’t do enough to stop it. The economy ground to a halt? Well, clearly Trump ruined it.

We are either victims of the health experts or victims of the economists. We are either victims of the journalists and the Democrats or the victims of Trump and the Republicans. Rather than take this seriously, we go out, people get sick, hospitals get overwhelmed, tens of thousands of people die, millions are out of work, and we look for someone to blame in all this.

Maybe, in our urge to find an enemy to blame, we ignored that we all could have done better. We were so busy planning who we were going to blame here that we didn’t stop to think about maybe doing what we could to make things right. I know I could’ve done better.

We’re not in a healthy place as a society. We would rather suffer and find people to blame for what’s going on than do the right thing in the first place.