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Bob Garner: The badlands of blame

Bob Garner

Bob Garner

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Sunday, January 28, 2018

I recently heard one sensible politician say that shutting down government is like a chemical weapon: It should be banned by thoughtful people of any political persuasion.

“Weaponized” blame is actually what ought to be banned.

Controlled blame directed at ourselves can be a useful weapon against foolishness, as long as the caliber isn’t large enough to result in self-condemnation.

Blame publicly and tactically fired at others is, on the other hand, an actual weapon of mass destruction. It looks useful at the time, but it achieves nothing over time but devastation.

It’s a kid’s game we all ought to try to leave behind as we reach adulthood. Every conscientious parent scoffs at their kids’ trying to blame others. But regardless of what parents preach, children are as observant as foxes in seeing how fast they succumb to trying to navigate adult life among peers with a worn-out compass. Especially when they get lost in the badlands of blame.

One major root of this is that we too often say or write blameful things we would never say to another privately, at least not one-on-one. When circumstances force us to hold our fire — and our tongues — until we can see “the whites of their eyes,” and when no one else is listening, unfamiliar honesty and humility often emerge.

Particularly in the political realm, two adversaries often confess their own culpability for mistakes in that setting. Knee to knee, looking directly into one another’s eyes, it’s difficult not to do so.

But what is also far too easy is to wryly acknowledge to one another that they’ll be leaving the private honesty behind, going in front of a camera and strongly blaming the other — for the consumption of either a fluid constituency or a hard-core base, depending on whether they’re elected only in a district or statewide.

In truth, there probably isn’t more than a scrap of even that bullet-riddled collegiality remaining at present. Hardly anyone wants to get knee-to-knee any longer. Not in politics. Not in any other endeavor or interactive relationship, either.

It’s no good blaming today’s social media or the 24-hour news cycle. Weaponized blame has been deployed far too long for that.

We’ll either become great or return to being great when many more of us start refusing to level blame publicly that we wouldn’t level in exactly the same way face-to-face, in private — where it’s practically impossible not to concede our own failings.

A newspaper editorial from long past posed the question, “What’s wrong with the world?” Theologian G.K. Chesterton answered, “Dear Sirs: I am. Sincerely, G.K. Chesterton.”

In the end, that’s the only way to win the blame game.

Bob Garner is a UNC-TV restaurant reviewer, freelance food writer, author of four cookbooks, barbecue pit master and public speaker.

VIDEO EXTRA

Bob Garner take a deep look at sincerity and blame through ... pottery. 

Guile or Sincerity? from Bob Garner on Vimeo.

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