Preface: I started this rant Sunday night (Eastern time zone) and hoped to finish it Monday morning before going to the grocery store. Hope springs eternal. So does fibromyalgia. I woke Monday morning with so much pain in my back (hips to neck) and a headache that I was compelled to take some medication and go back to bed. When I finally got up, I felt a little better (pain-wise) than I had hours before, but I also felt exhausted and mentally “fogged out.” So I spent the better part of Monday trying to stay awake while watching TV – no easy task. The fog slowly cleared out as the day progressed to evening and I was able to finish reading the last Harry Potter tome. I will try to finish this post today, before I go to the hairdresser for last weeks’ haircut. Then I have to go the to the market and buy Monday’s groceries. That’s one of the aggravations of fibromyalgia: you often seem to be doing another day’s work. But maybe I’ll take some Tylenol before I begin. It doesn’t take away all the pain, but it usually leaves me awake.
Since I have a feeling this kind of rant will be a semi-regular occurrence, I figured I should start out numbering them. That way, I’ll be able to keep them straight.
I’m sure everyone has heard the story of the two TV news helicopters in Arizona that collided in mid-air while covering a police chase. It appears that the object of the police chase was a man who had stolen a flatbed work truck. At the time the helicopters collided, the flatbed was pretty much disabled, so the thief bailed out and tried to carjack another truck. Then the helicopters collided.
The thief was apprehended and charged with lots of reasonable, reprehensible things: theft of the vehicles, carjacking, failure to stop for a police office, etc. But then the police stated that he will also be charged with the deaths of the 4 persons who were in the helicopters.
I’m not a lawyer, but I have watched my share of law shows. I have worked in insurance claims and do know something about figuring out whose “at fault” for an accident. Here’s the way I see it:
The pilots and cameramen were doing their jobs, reporting on a police chase. Yes, the thief was the object of the chase and was in some way “responsible” for the helicopters being at that scene. But unless he in some way interfered with the pilots who were responsible for flying their machines or the cameramen, how can he be blamed for their deaths? Did he steer one of the helicopters into the other with telekinetics? Did he flash a laser beam into the eyes of the pilot so he couldn’t see where he was going? Did he make the pilots so eager to outdo each other that someone made a human error?
There are two concepts here: responsibility and blame.
One of my pet peeves in this world, and especially in this country, is that individuals are no longer willing to take responsibility for their actions. It is nearly impossible to find people who will say, “It’s my fault. I screwed up. It wasn’t intentional, but I did make a mistake. I’m sorry. I will try to do better in the future. Please forgive me.” This is due, in part, to the inability of most persons to remember that humans are not and never will be perfect. It is also partially due to our focus on self-esteem. We don’t want to do something that might diminish our self-esteem, so we refuse to own up to mistakes, presuming that to admit error is to somehow damage our self-esteem. If we could only recognize that admitting our mistakes and standing up to own them actually strengthens our self-esteem. It takes courage, wisdom and insight to own our mistakes in an honest, accepting way. That is what grows our self-esteem, not infallibility.
Perfection is made to seem attainable in the fictional media. Children are raised watching so much television that they come to believe that every story has a happy ending. There is always closure. The doctor or detective always has the information they need. As adults they think that if things go wrong, it must be someone else’s fault. Someone has to be blamed.
That’s the corollary to the lack of individual responsibility. If it isn’t my fault, it has to be someone else’s fault. It drives me crazy every time I hear someone say, “Someone else (insert person of your choice) made me do that (insert action of your choice). If you are from my “era”, you may remember a comedian named Flip Wilson. Not necessarily one of my favorites, but he did have a memorable line that got used any time he did something that was not right or perfect: “The devil made me do it!” In other words, I don’t have free will and I was forced to screw up by someone else.
Hogwash!! We all make our own choices – acts of commission or omission. We have our reasons, but the ultimate decision for what we do remains with us. There is no one else to blame. We can blame ourselves, but blame rather than accepting responsibility are two different things. Blame is destructive. Accepting responsibility is constructive.
So back to the helicopter accident and the thief on the ground.
The thief ought to accept responsibility for the damage he did, for the acts he committed. He took what wasn’t his. He failed to obey the police authority. He assaulted other people.
The police should accept responsibility for their actions. They did they jobs in trying to apprehend the thief. They succeeded and arrested him.
The press should accept responsibility for their actions. They did what they believed the viewing public wanted: They sent out reporters and camermen to let the public know that a crime had been committed and that the police were doing their jobs. They also sent these men out to capture some of the excitement of “the chase,” to communicate the immediacy of the situation and to allow the public to indulge in some of the voyeurism that the public seems to relish these days. The validity and sanity of what passes for news and whether it makes the line between news and entertainment far too fuzzy is a discourse for another time. But the two TV stations should accept responsibility for the presence of those helicopters.
Even the men who died ought to be allowed to take responsibility for their own actions and decisions. They chose to do this job. They chose to fly that day. They made their own decisions on how to fly. They didn’t ask the thief to come up in the cockpit and fly the copters for them.
These men have been extolled, so perhaps they were men of character who would say, “I made a mistake. I misjudged distance. I got distracted for a split second and did not respond as quickly as I ought to have.” Personal honesty; refusing to blame someone else for my error.
Which brings us back to blaming the thief for the helicopter accident and the deaths of their occupants. You can blame him all you want. It doesn’t make it so. Blame is what people do when they feel helpless to change an event and don’t want to accept any responsibility of their own for that event.
Does that mean we should charge all the people who were glued to their TV’s watching this chase for aiding and abetting the deaths of these men? After all, they are to blame – the TV news had those copters up there, broadcasting the chase live because all those folks in front of the TV’s wanted it. So it must be their fault. Let’s blame them.
I accept full responsibility for saying the following: I hope someone gets that thief a really good lawyer. With all the blame going around, he’s going to need one.