Warm Southern Breeze

"… there is no such thing as nothing."

Institutional Failure: UAH, Discovery Middle School; Killers Amy Bishop, Andrew Pakhomov & 14 year-old

Posted by Warm Southern Breeze on Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Exactly what are the rules of “the Blame Game?”

We certainly know how to play it. And it seems that the silly little games we adults often play at times like this – in the midst of tragedy – rather than accept responsibility, we adults behave as if we were once again, carefree 6th graders on a playground somewhere, dodging and deflecting a kickball thrown at us.

Games however, are as much for adults as they are for children, and perhaps more so, because in learning to abide by rules and cooperating, we come to understand strategies, tactics, and how best to utilize opportunities – things and events – that come our way. Essentially, it is “the hand that is dealt us.” Hopefully, we learn how to be gracious losers, and equally humble winners, understanding also that no one always wins, and that “our time is coming.”

Yet, it is game-playing at inappropriate times that characterizes and differentiates children from adults.

Granted, jesting and conviviality can be, and is a part of any emotional healing process, and “Everything has its own time, and there is a specific time for every activity under heaven,” so says “The Preacher,” in Ecclesiastes 3:1. (GWT)

Reeling from two horrible campus tragedies that struck our community in exactly two weeks, first at Madison’s Discovery Middle School, then at the University of Alabama in Huntsville, we are again attempting to return to a modicum of normalcy. And for all the words of various soothing voices – the sotto voces – we strongly sense something has gone terribly awry. And it has. It’s analogous to setting out on a trip of a thousand miles; only after traveling a significant distance are we aware that the course we charted was slightly off.

Failure is rarely isolated. Rather, it is systemic, frequently affecting all other parts. For example, when a tire blows out the driver stops the entire vehicle. Unfortunately, progress is temporarily impeded to effect a necessary repair, to allow continued progress. Similarly, when any other part of an automobile malfunctions, the essential, or overall functions may not be ceased, but eventually, if not tended to, operations will cease until such time as proper repairs or overhauls have been performed. And so it is with the university.

In the coming days, weeks, and months, we’ll hear phrases like “if only…, was not…, did not…, could not…, if there were…, wasn’t my/our responsibility…, should have…, because of…, due to…, beyond control…,” and inventive catchphrases galore – all which mean, “it’s not my fault, and I refuse to accept responsibility.” Such phrases are attempts to deflect, dodge and shirk responsibility – the proverbial “games people play” – all in the aftermath of tragedy.

No one, ABSOLUTELY NO ONE will accept even the slightest responsibility for what happened at either of the two schools.

However, NONE of those excuses will work, because there ARE NO EXCUSES! That is a fundamental lesson that, hopefully, our parents taught us. To deny responsibility is to revert to the level of a 6th grade child on a playground. Yet we know that even among the youngest children, they instinctively know the difference between right and wrong, because we hear them cry, “that’s not fair!” Really? Who told them? What ethics courses or books did they read to so inform them?

Only now, it’s not time for game playing. It’s time to “man up,” to be an adult, to act your age, to accept responsibility for, and in the aftermath of tragedy.

It’s been said that the seven most important words in the English language are, “I made a mistake and I’m sorry.” Corollary to that, respect is earned when humility is donned.

So I ask rhetorically… “Will the REAL leader please stand up?”

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4 Responses to “Institutional Failure: UAH, Discovery Middle School; Killers Amy Bishop, Andrew Pakhomov & 14 year-old”

  1. AwS said

    Is this like a self-fulfilling prophecy ?

    People are scared to speak out and blow the whistle about some suspected wacko, for fear that that person may go wacko in their presence – and blow THEM away.?. Well, guess what – it goes unspoken, and sure enough they go wacko and blow someone away…. And the potential whistle-blowers sigh in relief, and say “Glad it wasn’t me”.

    I guess it is a logical extension of “Not in my back yard”.
    I guess it has become a logical extension of “Sue somebody else, I covered my a$$ …”

    Thanks /;^)

    • Warm Southern Breeze said

      Thanks for your comment!

      Fear… it’s rarely a good motivator, as you illustrate. Again, as you illustrate, the “NIMBY” ethos is a self-centered, self-serving, one, for it does not consider anyone else. I, me, me, my. Not, we, us, or our. It’s all about… ME! That’s NOT how we raised out children (hopefully). So why do we revert? Has our culture devolved to the point where we no longer reward righteousness, and instead reward evil?

      Oh, my!

  2. Anthony said

    In instances where tragedy strikes I am sure there are some that can see how they might have contributed to the situation but are afraid to speak up for fear that the whole thing will be placed upon their shoulders. Of course, there is probably just the plain ole fear that acknowledging some kind of responsibility will lead to massive lawsuits. Contrary to this, people in positions of leadership, even when they have technically fulfilled their responsibilities, need to know that in some way just by being a figurehead, they need to take some sort of responsibility. This is part of what makes genuine leadership such a challenge.

    By the way, have you seen the new Toyota commercials and how they are trying to present the failures that prompted a recall as basically an expression of their greatness. It goes something like “Good companies learn from their mistakes, but we are doing more than that…” You get the gist. When companies go right to damage control, it is hard not to be cynical.

    • Warm Southern Breeze said

      Thanks for commenting!

      Video today shows Mr. Toyoda breaking down into a teary state as he read remarks to his Japanese audience. In Japan, apparently, such as demonstration of humility is considered a genuine and honest characteristic. Toyota is doing the right thing by picking up the affected automobiles, paying for rentals and much more. THAT is the GOOD, JUST and PROPER action to take.

      In stark contrast, Dr. Williams’ cardboard-standup delivery was prepared by attorneys, to whom he fled almost instantly upon news of the tragedy. Not to the families, not to the scene, not to the students or victims… to the attorneys. Must be that “stiff upper lip” for which the Brits are so renown.

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