When Christians in the Middle Ages
extolled the virtue of holy missions
and heard that Crusaders killed innocent Muslims,
they cried out
“It’s not our fault.”

When Brigadier-General Reginald Dyer
murdered 1500 unarmed Indians,
members of the House of Parliament,
who had called them “children,” said
It’s not our fault.

When the people of Weimer
who cursed the Jews,
smelled and saw the smoke
coming from Buchenwald
they said,
It’s not our fault.”

When Martin Luther King and Medgar Evers
were assassinated,
Vocal opponents of equal rights said
It’s not our fault.

When the Houties and Toutsies
annihilated each other
former colonial occupiers said,
It’s not our fault.

When the May Lai atrocity was revealed,
politicians who called Vietnamese “Gooks” said
It’s not our fault.

When Harvey Milk was killed,
hate-sign homophobics said,
It’s not our fault.

When Dr. George Tiller was assassinated,
Taunting anti-abortionists said,
It’s not our fault.

When congressional members
supporting health care reform
were spit upon.
The right said,
It’s not our fault.”

And just like the German rocket scientists
who took responsibility for launching V2 rockets,
but not where they fell,
The Glen Becks, Shaun Hannities,Bill O’Reilys, Sarah Palins,
Michelle Bachmanns, and Rush Limboughs
will say,  “It’s not our fault.

37 Responses

  1. Esther Wright

    It’s not our fault, but it is indeed our responsibility to speak up, to be authentic, to be conscious that we all have a shadow..a dark side that pops it’s ugly head in a variety of expressions and circumstances. Could it be that there is a Sarah Palin in each of us?? A Hitler potential in each of us??
    I pray that our loving, compassionate, God like Selves will speak louder than these parts of our selves.
    Blessings

    Reply
  2. Henry Shen

    “It’s not our fault”, then whose fault is this? My question is: do Obama and Pelosi share the fault? If Giffords is really assassinated because of her support of health care reform, I’d believe this would not have happened if Obama, Pelosi and their bloc hadn’t crammed their health care bill down the throats of people. Every reform takes time. You got to explain nicely to people the benefits of the overhaul and listen to them. You got to address their concerns. In this event, the root cause is by Obama/Pelosi whose “violence” is hidden in their mind. I highly believe Pelosi would definitely be a dictator if she was born in a totalitarian state and got her chance to rule it. Americans don’t easily assassinate someone cuz their voice has always been listened to. Not this time. When we rebuke the murder, we got to think this way: it is his fault, yet it’s not all his fault.

    When it comes to something critical to life support such as food supply/price, health care, retirement benefits, government has to be EXTREMELY careful. In human being’s history, many regimes got overturned or thrown into hot water just because of a tiny change in negative direction of these life support systems. When rice prices rose, you saw riot in Haiti for instance. And Chinese Turks took to streets not for independence, but for cheaper lamb meat. Look at what’s happening in France now! Human beings always feel insecure, and they just can’t be sensible and reasonable as far as food, medical care and retirement benefits are concerned and touched. Americans have enjoyed MediCare, they are used to it, they feel secure with it. If you want to change the whole system, you just give them more time.

    In this case, the young man Loughner is a victim himself too, of Obama and Pelosi’s. “No violence”, of course! But is there a clear line between physical violence and politically forcing people to accept what they don’t like? No. The “violence” starts not from Loughner, not Giffords, but Obama/Pelosi!

    There is a Chinese saying that: “those who steals a bread is executed; and those who steals the whole country is crowned.”

    Reply
    • Stan Goldberg

      Hi Henry,

      I have to admit, I’m having trouble understanding the anger in your comments, given that your past writings were filled with acceptance, understanding and compassion. My article only tried to point out that anger, incivility, and absolute positions based on little more than conviction has led to a series of historical events that reek with cruelty and injustice. I lived through communist red baiting, the civil rights era, and the Vietnamese war when how people spoke about those who opposed them politically, became the justification for cruelty and even death. I see ominous similarities in political discourse today, especially when people who normally exhibit compassion abandon it.

      Reply
    • Lynda

      I cannot understand how why you would turn this around. Violence begets violence. Hate begets hate. And, simply, love begets love.

      Reply
  3. Henry Shen

    Sorry for the typo: “the one who steals a bread is executed; and the one who steals the whole country is crowned.”

    Reply
    • Mo Hamesh

      @Henry Shen

      But the country wasn’t stolen. There were elections, not a coup. The basis of your argument is quite irrational!!

      Reply
  4. Steve Schain

    It is too early to analyze who is at fault with the Tucson killing spree. We have no information to help us understand why this occurred except for some disconnected rantings in a 14 minute You Tube piece. It may simply be we have a mentally ill person looking for attention. As for “its not my fault” the right wing entertainers who make millions with their hate speech, most Republicans and certainly the Tea Party folks are pushing a cultural and political war with their big and often repeated lies and distortion of our history. As for the comments blaming Obama and Pelose because of health care, give me and most of us a break. The effort for a national health care program started with Teddy Roosevelt and was pushed by Nixon. We are the only western country that doesn’t guarantee health care to all of its citizens. And, the fact of the matter is that more than 60% of all health care is gov’t funded through medicare, medicaid, tricare for the military (only $450 a month for military families and vets), and the insurance for the congress. The biggest mistake was not having a single payer system along with a supplement for those who want to spend extra money on expensive supplements.

    Reply
    • Stan Goldberg

      Hi Steve,
      I agree with your comments. I didn’t imply that the killer in Tucson was motivated by an anti-healthcare agenda. What frightens me is that in the current political arena, people who profit from political invectives are becoming more prevalant (both left and right) and if we look at history, we’ll see that this isn’t new. But the amount of incivility spiked up with the election of Obama and the introduction of health care reforms. As someone who has been on the receiving end of outrageous hostility (because of my articles) I’ve often wondered where we as a society are going.

      Reply
  5. Barry Willdorf

    One thing about a democracy is that there is a legitimate basis for collective responsibility. Mental health and some rational controls on private gun ownership seem to me would be a helpful starting point, but as a nation we have rejected that approach so that the mentally ill and violence-prone can have their Second Amendment remedies. As a nation we have enabled those least likely to use a firearm responsibly and Arizona is on the forefront of this “movement” to insure the violent and unstable can easily acquire the most powerful small arms on the market.

    Reply
    • Stan Goldberg

      I agree completely. What I’m astonished by is the number of people who believe responsibility rests only with the person who does the deed. There doesn’t appear to be any understanding of causality.

      Reply
  6. Damiano de Sano Iocovozzi MSN FNP CNS

    Since 9-11 the US has become increasingly polarised, black & white, without charity, paranoid, willing to sacrifice personal liberties in the form of the Patriot Act for a symbol of security, although real security doesn’t really exist on this planet. I’m amazed at the level of discourse & toxic words thrown at other Americans by politicians, leaders, religious & otherwise, & the media. I have been here since 1979 after living abroad in N. Africa & Europe. I walk here at home in Palm Springs & feel I don’t comprehend anything anymore. As a provider of health care in California, I cannot even get referrals to hospice for the terminally ill uninsured or for the poor with suspicious lumps or cancer. I’m beginning to think it’s a country without pity. Tell me I’m wrong, Stan. Thanks for the post. Damiano

    Reply
    • Stan Goldberg

      Ah Damiano,

      If only I could be reassuring. I’ve been directly involved in many of the social upheavals since the 1960’s: equal rights movement, war in Vietnam, War on Poverty, integration of the disabled into mainstream society, and most recently, health care reform.

      In the past the rhetoric was often aggressive on both sides, but rarely was it accompanied by violence. But what we are experiencing now is different.

      I think with the election of the President, political discourse became transformed into attempts to hold on to one’s personal value system. If you look at history, you’ll see that when value systems are threatened,people desperately try to justify them, often by disseminating untruths and doing unskillful acts.

      For many people, the election of an intelligent Black man to be the most powerful man in the world was, I think, unacceptable and became fertile grounds for any media person wanting to increase their ratings.

      I don’t think we’re a nation without pity, but one that has lost its way within a sea of fear and bigotry propagated by people with hidden agendas.

      Reply
      • Mo Hamesh

        Stan, just for this comment above, you are a man with a beautiful mind!

  7. Jamie Howell

    We are all both Gabrielle and the shooter, we are Obama and Palin, we are Gandhi and Hitler. Please call us by our true names. Like the people of Denmark, until we all wear the yellow star of David and the American Flag lapel pin, this will not be solved.

    Reply
    • Stan Goldberg

      I agree that we have both extremes of humanity within us, with everything the resides in-between. My concern is when the frighten parts of our personality predominate.

      Reply
  8. Irene Smith

    Thank you for your heart felt cry for all of us to look responsibility in the face. I personally don’t know why this event should be surprising to anyone. When we support inhumane practices such as factory farming where living beings are beat, shoved,tortured, slaughtered and sold;When we mutilate the earth and murder under many guises the most vulnerable of species on a moment to moment basis;when we support child slavery so we can have cheap consumer products;how can we expect our children to respect life.Disrespect for life and needless violence have become very well cultivated behaviors in our society. I am sorry to say I do not find this event outstanding at this time ; just another part of the horror show.

    blessings Irene Smith

    Reply
  9. Steven Evans

    We had a reasonably honest election, after which fully 60% of the elected representatives in the Senate voted for the Health Care Bill. This is called a democracy and how it is to function. In this context, we have one of your readers evaluate this data as a bill that was “crammed down the throats of the people” by Obama and Pelosi, the former having no vote in Congress and the latter not even in the Senate, and but one single vote in the House. With such people with older steel-trap minds [i.e., rusted shut long ago], the polarized society is sutiably reflected even in your own readership.

    I too will hope for the best while recognizing that over the short and intermediate term, things will likely get worse before they get better. Still, I think your essay is vital, Stan, not only to help slow the escalating decline, but also to ultimately add to the mutual respect and self-awareness that will be needed to finally drain the cesspool whose waters we see rising each day. Stay the course. Thank you for your ongoing efforts.

    PS — I do not think for a moment that my comments will influence anyone in any way whatsoever. Simply, in a democracy, each may stand to be counted — along with your other readers and contributors. Part of the problem you described was the spinelessness of the “Silent Majority” who did not stand up for a civil society. It becomes our fault if we do not speak up when we need to.

    Reply
    • Stan Goldberg

      Hi Steve,
      Thanks for your kind words. When I marched in the South and was beaten on the steps of Montgomery Capital building, I realized at that moment that the probability of changing minds holding a position based on saving a value system, was remote. It was true from the mounted police as well as my mother who couldn’t understand why I went to jail for “Schwatzas.” It took her 30 years to change her mind, and then I had nothing to do with it. I try to lead my life now by realizing people do the best they can, given the circumstances of their lives. I’m no longer delusional enough to try to change lives, but I can effect the circumstances.

      Reply
  10. Patricia Grace

    Hi Stan,

    As you know, I have great respect for your writings, however, I think you are way off point here. First and foremost this tragedy is the direct result of a deranged person.

    Just like the VA Tech shooting, this young man was known by many to be unstable and suffering with mental illness – his college professors, classmates, the Army, and his family and yet nothing was done!!

    Why is no one quoting the Daily Koz that was front and center slamming Rep Gifford as being a wolf in sheep’s clothing because she was a Blue Dog Democrat. As a matter of fact last week the blogger/site declared “Gabby Gifford is dead to me.” Are they responsible for this horrible event? No, of course not!

    I find it difficult, if not impossible to believe, that the ubiquitous Chuck Shumer & Debbie Wasserman Schultz would be so quick to assign blame to Keith Olberman, Rachel Maddow,or Ed Schultz if a Republican politician was assaulted.

    This event is a societal issue – multiple generations in the making. This young man is a part of a generation that has never been wrong, it’s never been his fault an of course he has never been allowed to fail. Well guess what – it is our fault, we do fail and many times we are wrong.

    Let’s stop blaming others for our sins & shortcomings!

    It’s time to wake up America and for all of our citizens to take personal responsibility and for parents to actually parent!

    Reply
    • Stan Goldberg

      Hi Grace,

      I respect your opinion but must strongly disagree. Yes, I think it’s important to accept personal responsibility, but to think we act as isolated entities is wrong. I am as much a product of my culture and experiences as the state trooper in Alabama was who had his horse stump on me during the civil rights march from Selma to Montgomery. I believe our lives our interconnected in very direct and also unknown ways. As I look at the level of anger that has been generated since the election of a Black president and the introduction of health care reform, I’m alarmed at the level of rhetoric–on both sides.

      Yes, we must take personal responsibility, but what is that responsibility when people see cross-hairs drawn on the faces of politicians, guns being openly worn at town hall meetings, talk show hosts (both left and right) calling our legislators traitors, and legislators themselves alluding to withdrawal from the United States, and the need to take down the government.

      I believe personal responsibility is not something that is just forged from a personal value system. It resides within a culture. And what I’ve seen over the past four years is that the nature of political discourse has changed, from one that was respectful and rational to one that is based on scoring the most hate points, regardless of the consequences.

      Can a direct line be drawn between the shooter and an outrageous talk show host? Probably not. But haven’t we given license to individuals to shape what is considered acceptable in political discourse? I don’t think my poem is a stretch. In looking at history, periods of great turmoil (both on the left and the right) were preceded by changes in the level of discussions. Calling a legislator or the President a traitor may not rise to the level of yelling “fire” in a theatre, but it begins to bring apart the underpinning of a society based upon logic, reason, and compassion. People will act the way they will act. But we have an obligation to address the circumstances of their behaviors.

      Reply
  11. Katharine Dupre

    I agree with your assessment Stan. These days, many people react violently, verbally and physically, to unpleasant facts which is, in my view, an expression of immaturity.

    Another thing I’ve noticed is the hate filled resentment against people who do well, another sign of immaturity.

    Either I am simply more aware of the lies or there are a lot more lies coming from our politicians and the mainstream media. It used to be that the mainstream media presented only the facts along with proof of those facts but now even simple news stories are filled with opinion, some of it nothing more than outrageous hate speech.

    Physical violence is just a step or two beyond the verbal assaults.

    I have a very bad gut feeling that this is going to get worse before the general public get fed up and insists upon the return to good manners.

    Reply
  12. Val

    I need to voice my opinion on all the hoopla that is going on. You don’t have to agree or disagree, of course.

    I find it borderline disgusting that so many media people are ready to jump on this and attack the other party. The dead are barely stiffened; the wounded are fighting for their lives. Our President showed a very good example this morning -no words, just a moment of silence.

    How can you accuse people without any evidence? One may find some of the words or Internet writing/images vulgar, stupid etc. But to accuse politicians of somehow
    encouraging that idiot!? Just imagine how you would feel if you were Sarah Palin? I saw that map with the targets on it. You know how they get those brilliant ideas:probably an idiot at her office suggested it to emphasize her image as an Alaska hunter, a tough cookie, you know, to attract the votes of a certain kind of people. What a damned stupid idea indeed! But is there a criminal intent? I don’t believe so.

    Look, all those would be assassins are like brothers – same age more or less, same obscure background, same crazy motivations. Remember Hinckley who tried to kill Regan to prove his love for Jody Foster? Should we hold Ms Foster responsible for not answering his letters? Remember Chapman who killed John Lennon while holding “Catcher in the Rye?” should we hold Salinger responsible?

    I mean, it is hard to argue against the loss of civility in politics. That is obvious. Though, it is nothing new in this country. But in all fairness, you can’t accuse just one side. Do you remember the signs in SF during the Bush reign? “Bush is a disease. death is the cure!” All those demonstrations were organized and financed by the (at that time) opposition. Even now the tone of the extreme left radio voices is as harsh as the right wing media figures.

    And lastly; this idiot Jared is no follower of Palin or the Right in general. He is a bloody lunatic. The Arizona Sheriff should investigate how a person like that legally got a gun, instead of making political statements to promote his party.

    Reply
    • Stan Goldberg

      Hi Val,

      I can understand your annoyance with the media for making the tragedy a center point of their newscasts. And yes, you’re absolutely right that the use of unskillful words is not confined to the right. I think everyone can agree with those points. Where I think there is disagreement is between the role of individual responsibility and cultural norms.

      I do believe we are responsible for our actions. However, to view what we do and say as isolated from what occurs around us is not factual. I recently spent time in Germany studying the precursors of Hitler’s rise to power the the creation of concentration camps. If you just looked at the behaviors of the SS guards and those people who allowed Hitler to come to power, there’s no way of explaining what they did just by referring to a lack of personal responsibility.

      The connections we have with our environment are multiple and often not apparent. I had one response to the article from someone who cited a number of things Obama said that he felt confirmed his racism. I later found that he was directly quoting a radio show host whose evidence on everything was suspect. Should this person have first taken the responsibility of checking out the facts? Of course. But isn’t there any responsibility on those who purposely foster inaccuracies? And what about those who incite (both the left and the right) for the purpose of increasing rating or a hidden agenda? Do they get a free pass? I don’t think so.

      Even if they find that the assassin had a direct relationship with a hate group, and I doubt they will, it’s the political culture we have created with since Obama’s election and the debate on health care that I believe become the circumstances for accepting the acceptability of violence in politics.

      Reply
      • Val

        Hi Stan,

        I really liked the part where you are siting Germany. When I was 15 my favorite book was “Drei Kameraden”.
        Because of that book I became fascinated with Weimar Republic, rise Hitler to power. Unfortunately, in my native USSR it was almost impossible to find any printed materials on the subject. I still managed, though. After coming here in 1977 I continued my studies. In 1984 I visited Germany (was a short trip) and in 1987 I moved there for a year. well, I was looking for an aswer that many asked: how could such a cultural nation as Germany surrender itself to the bunch of gansters. Obviopusly I had an idea already but by nature I love to make my own discoveries.
        Stan, this subject can not be discussed here – it’s too big. Let me just give you my observation.
        To me there were two peoples living in 1984 Germany: a bit shy, considerate, intellectually bright, liberal in their views, tollerant Germans. I met them at the museums, theatres, parks. But there were the others – they even look different. Just the opposite of the above mentioned types. They in my opinion were longing for a strong leader like Hitler, they were very happy with the nazis. After all, Herr Hitler & Co
        created lots of jobs, took financial power from those dishonest (Jewish) crooks, closed those Red newspapers.

        Are we today’s weimar republic? No, absolutely not. Can we become one? In my opinion very unlikely.

      • marq

        Dear Val,

        I live in Germany, have been here for 20 years. I am an American.
        Your questions: Are we today’s weimar republic? No, absolutely not. Can we become one? In my opinion very unlikely.
        I answer YES we ARE, yes we have become. 9/11 was Bush’s Reichtags-fire. The Partiot Acts is similar to Hitler’s changing of the constitution. The Muslim of today is the Jew of back then. It is happening before our very eyes, yet we see it not. As in Germany’s case, it is here but we don’t see it.
        Added to that is the fact that the Allied forces did nothing to stop the killing of Jews until AFTER the war. They could have bombed railroad lines leading to the camps, but htey didn’t.

        We are wraped in the mental cloak of “Western society” meaning the West in general and US Americans as top dog. What happens in America may be of grave concern, but “Shock and Awe” is seen as a good thing; dropping bombs is seen as a good thing; “collateral damage” is an aceptable term; “our troops” are to be supported and respected. We do not process the fact that they are supposed to shoot other people, that they are primarily a killing force.
        The US has had a culture of violence not seen elsewhere since WWII. We deplore some domestic violence, but refuse to connect it to foreign violence that WE initiate, support or carry out. We are of the belief that we can have the one and not deal with the other.
        I was taken aback by the phrase “(Tucson) has become a Mecca for terrorism”. Do they not see the reference to Muslim terrorism? Do we not see that we are now putting acts of terrorism at the door of Muslims, symbolicly and literaly?
        QUOTE: …an Israeli columnist describing his feelings on the killings of a hundred cislians in a military skirmish in southern Lebanon. Shavit wrote: We killed them out of a certain naive hubris. Believing with absolute certitude that now, with the White House, the Senate, and much of the American media in our hands, the lives of others do not count as much as our own.”
        That belief is still within US. Democracy means US-styled democracy; when we say “all life is valuable” we mean all American life. We have high Christian morals and values but somehow waver a LOT on “Thou shalt not kill”.
        Sorry, Val, but is is within us and we do not see. Is it our fault that we are so blind? It’s a question some of my German friends still ask.

      • Val

        marq, it seems you sorted everything out. I strongly disagree with your vision of America.

  13. Lee Richmond

    The man is a sociopath, obviously. There can be no doubt.

    However, the venemous rhetoric that fills the airwaves is enough to inflame any normal citizen’s brain, never mind a sociopath’s.

    However, this venemous rhetoric is also protected by the constitution.

    How can we convince our fellow citizens to calm down and engage in civil discourse? I have no idea …

    Reply
  14. Beth

    I think if we all shut off our boob tubes and spend more time doing meaningful and helpful things with other people, we would find that most Americans are not what you see on FOX and MSNBC. The Americans I meet desire to work together to build our communities, educate our children and care for our families regardless of how we each vote or where we go to church.

    Reply
    • Stan Goldberg

      I agree with you Beth. What I’ve found in my work with people from both extremes of the political spectrum (and everything in-between) is that if layers of ideology can be lifted, most people are very similar. Unfortunately, in my experience, it seems that these moments of compassion are often confined to tragedies or when they realize hatred and crossing the boundaries of civility have no value as they approach death.

      Reply
  15. Vonny

    Sorry to burst anybody’s bubble here, but America is not, I repeat not, a democracy. We are a representative republic. In a pure democracy, the rights of the individual are overruled by the demands of the mob majority. The founding fathers wanted to avoid this, and that is why the Constitution was written the way it was, and that is why our government and balance of power was structured the way it was. I take great issue with people insisting we are a democracy when we clearly are not. Although, you wouldn’t know it to listen to anybody who has gone to school in the United States for the last 20 years. History books have been rewritten by people with insidious agendas, our language has become distorted with political correctness, and everybody’s been brainwashed into believing that we are a democracy when nothing is further from the truth. It’s so frustrating to watch this great country fall apart because of miss information and anti-American political agendas.

    Reply

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About The Author

I am an author of eight books in four languages. LESSONS FOR THE LIVING: STORIES OF FORGIVENESS, GRATITUDE AND COURAGE AT THE END OF LIFE is my memoir of being a bedside hospice volunteer for six years while battling prostate cancer. My next book, LEANING INTO SHARP POINTS: PRACTICAL GUIDANCE AND NURTURING SUPPORT FOR CAREGIVERS will be published in March, 2012 by New World Library and focus on caregiving for loved ones who have a progressive or terminal illness.