Can’t we all just get along?
I’ve noticed a disturbing trend over the past several months in what I would call public international perception. The shooting down of the American missionary plane in Peru, the collision between the American and Chinese planes, and the collision of the American submarine with the Japanese fishing boat all have one thing in common: the need for placing blame.
But it is not any ordinary blame we are talking about here. It is not the good old-fashioned blame my mother used to lay on when she would claim that I was the cause of her ulcer and her gray hair.
It is not the type of blame that spouses hurl at each other like monkeys who hurl their own feces at inquisitive onlookers. No my friends, this ain’t no ordinary blame. This is national blame.
This is what disturbs me. It is not Commander Scott Waddle that is to blame for the horrible submarine accident, but rather the United States. It is not the pilot Wang Wei (the reckless Chinese fighter pilot who collided with the US EP-3A Aries II reconnaissance plane) who is to blame for the accident but rather China (or the United States, depending on who you ask).
To be sure, politicizing international accidents is nothing new. We all remember the situation of the U.S. fighter plane smashing into that Italian ski gondola and killing 20 Germans in 1998.
Going even further into the archives, who could forget the “accidental bombing of the French Embassy in Iraq during the Gulf War? This “accident” was seen by many as a deliberate retaliation by the United States. on France for not letting U.S. planes fly through French airspace towards their targets in the Middle East.
Yes, it has always been policy to use these unfortunate events as opportunities for political leverage. We do it. China does it. Russia does it. Japan does it. Everybody does it. In fact, this is just a bigger version of what we do to each other on a daily basis.
A guy steals a purse and there is always somebody there who wants to discuss the criminal instincts of all people. A man gives you incorrect change at the movie-theater and people break into a half-hour conversation about how people are cheap. So why am I surprised that governments act in a similar fashion?I’ll tell you why. Just because something is done regularly does not make it a good idea. These blanket accusations are always frightening and always somewhat counterproductive.
Look, none of us know the real stories of what truly happens in these situations and the convoluted political rhetoric that is churned out faster than ‘N Sync’s new record by both sides only makes matters worse.
When we decide to blame groups for the actions of individuals we all lose. Whether they be ethnic, racial, gender or national is not important.
It seems to me that the first obligation in situations like these accidents is to the families of those hurt or killed in them.
When I think of the missionary plane shot down over the Amazon, I don’t think first of running smear campaigns about the Peruvian government, or the U.S. government, or about Christian missionary organizations. I think, rather, about the tragedy of Jim Bowers watching the same bullet pierce his wife’s heart and his seven-month old daughter’s head.
The instinct to assess blame on entire groups of people is perhaps as old as civilization itself. I think it betrays a deep mistrust of one another and a desire to use anything and everything as a means to “one up” each other at any cost. It is the “will to power,” as Nietzsche put it, that is the engine of this grinding political machine.
It is foolish and unnecessary if you ask me. Once nations start blaming each other for things like this, war is almost always not too far off. War is the national blame game taken to its fullest and most logical extension. That is something we can all do without.