Recrimination waits outside the door, sitting on the top step, ready to trip anyone who dares walk by. This is the summer of drought, pestilence, and politics. Soon, one of the presidential candidates or one of his proxies will start blaming (if they haven’t already) the other for all catastrophes man-made or congenital. We may even reach back to the past to blame George W. Bush (rightly or wrongly) for our present predicament.
Life is not even-handed. It’s random. Our unspoken anxiety is sublimated to a demand for certainty in our political, social, and moral lives. Why should we expect it there when it’s not present any place else?
Remember that little sperm making its way to the egg in those junior high sex education films? Only one wins. How come this one wins and all the other dudes lose? Not fair.
A chance meeting for good or ill can shape the context of our lives. An encounter with an old high school classmate at a reunion leads to a new career opportunity or a rekindled romance, there changing the trajectory of a life with multiple commitments; marriage, family and life pursuits. A car returning from a Christmas vacation spins out on a slippery interstate. All family members save one are killed in a collision with a truck, or a decision to go see a movie in Aurora, Colorado on July 20th this year goes very bad. We can all name countless examples like this, and yet we persist in our belief that there must be a definitive answer to why things happen.
The sperm, the chance encounter, the accident, the trip to a Batman movie, all share one thing in common, they are random. What if that truck driver had stopped for a cup of coffee and a piece of pie? He decides he’s had too much time sitting at truck stops and instead by-passes the pie a-la-mode and heads out the door and the Christmas doesn’t end in tragedy. The class reunion is skipped, and the fabric of a family’s life remains intact.
We don’t get to pick our relatives, or when in historical time we show up. The circumstances of birth are handed us with no discussion. But they do have an impact on the kind of life we live. The child born in a stick hut in the Sudan will have a very different birth and life from the one born in Cedars of Lebanon Hospital in Hollywood. Likewise, the person with stents that keeps blood moving through the marvelous muscle of the heart would be dead or unable to walk across a room without pain if born seventy-five years ago. Being given something, whatever it is, doesn’t mean you deserve it.
When a person is “owed” something, then it must be someone’s fault when it doesn’t appear; the blame game starts. An airplane falls from the sky; a rock rolls down a hill and crushes a house; a baby dies from SIDS. In the case of the airplane there may be culpability, the rock and the baby dying; really no one to blame. We are lucky things work as well as they do.
If God sat on some cloud in the sky, I am sure he or she would be shaking their head at our pretentiousness, our delusionary thinking that leads us to the conclusion that we can understand the mystery surrounding us. Our attempts at tamping down uncertainty and anxiety leads for many instead to an act of faith; the Judaeo-Christian perspective, “My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither your ways my ways.”
So for the politicians and others who want “accountability”, the answer is simple as is most questions of this kind. Who is to blame, who is “responsible” is ultimately an unanswerable question. Money, fame and success don’t really matter. We don’t deserve anything. We are lucky to get what we get.