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Mea Culpa, and so are you

November 17, 2010

Background: this rant was born from a group of American posters on a message board trying to shift the blame for Iraq on their military as part of justifying “Hating the military”.

The military is not responsible for the invasion of Iraq. The invasion of Iraq was a political decision, taken by your democratically elected chief of state (can the crap about Florida. Evidence since then has shown that Bush would have won that recount), with the backing of your democratically elected representatives. You (the American people in general) elected them.

You, the american people, not the military, not even the government, are to blame for their actions (Of course, I’m aware that many of you specifically were too young to vote, perhaps not even in school back then). The blame belongs to your parents, to your relatives, to your teachers, to anyone you know who was old enough to vote in 2000 and 2002, and either didn’t vote, or voted for those who supported the war (which includes a lot of Dem representatives), or even those who voted against them, but didn’t try hard enough to get other people to do the same.

You are a democracy. The fate of your country is in your hands, no one else’s. Trying to hide behind claims of corrupt government and beltway separation is just a pathetic smokescreen. They are you, and you are they.

Of course, while the above was written addressing Americans, the general sentiment is hardly America-specific. People think democracy just means popular vote, and if you lose then it’s “the other side”‘s fault if anything bad happens (and if you win, and bad stuff still happens? Why, that’s politicians having lied to you! Not your fault!) but it does not.

Democracy means that ultimately, responsibility for your government lies with you. It means that the healthcare bill is not “Democrat Healthcare” or “Obamacare”, it’s “Americanpeoplecare”. The invasion of Iraq was not Bush’s decision, it was the American people’s decision (it’s not like Bush had trouble getting congress support on it). It means that ultimately, it is not Harper, but the Canadian people who violated their constitutional obligations to Omar Khadr; who prolonged the Afghanistan mission beyond 2011. Ultimately, the Canadian people suspended the country’s democracy for the duration of the Olympic games and more to avoid questions about how the Canadian people handed detainees over to the Afghans knowing full well how they’d be treated.

Because, ultimately, how many of us can say they absolutely could not have done more against Harper? I could have done more, for one. I voted against him every time, but I wasn’t out there trying to convince people to vote against him – because I felt there were more important or more interesting things I could be doing, each and every time. It was a legitimate choice. For many of us, there are more important things in our life than politics. Just because we could have made sacrifices to try and stop Harper (or Bush, or Obama, or Chrétien, or Sarkozy, or Blair, or Brown, or Whoever…) doesn’t mean we were in the wrong to not make them.

But at the end of the day, even if it was a perfection rational, reasonable and logical choice not to make those sacrifices, the fact is, we still chose not to make them, and for that, we cannot pretend we’re not responsible for the actions of our governments, because ultimately, we chose to allow them to have power, even if we didn’t vote for them.

Perhaps – perhaps – there are a handful of people out there, a tiny handful, who really did give their everything, sacrificing anything that could be sacrificed, to winning their side the election and still lost. If such people exist, hell, if you can stand and honestly, truthfully say “I never once chose to stand aside, to do something else, when I could have been winning more votes against this”, then perhaps you do not deserve the blame.

But even then, it’s still your country, and your democracy. Losing your elections doesn’t change that.

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3 Comments leave one →
  1. Matt permalink
    November 17, 2010 9:55 pm

    Well said. It reminds me of the Futurama line: “It’s not my fault. I forgot to vote!’

    I also object to people who are convinced that the only reason people disagree with them is because they’re not being clear enough, but that’s a whole other debate.

    Democracy means we’re all in this together. Too many people forget that these days.

    • Guillaume permalink*
      November 17, 2010 11:50 pm

      Well, sometime, not being clear enough/not being persuasive enough IS the reason.
      The problem is that other times, their answer is no less valid than yours. And other other times, you’re just talking to someone who is wrong, but who is absolutely never going to be convinced not even for a Divine Revelation.

      And sometime, just sometime, no amount of persuasion will work because you’re the one who’s in the wrong.

      But yeah.

  2. Phoenicks permalink
    November 18, 2010 12:36 am

    There’s a difference between ‘blame’ and ‘responsibility’ — the former involving fault in an object for having created a problem (‘blame’ always being negative in connotation). ‘Responsibility’, conversely, is the recognition of bearing the burden of a task. It is my responsibility to participate in government, but it is is not my fault — you can not blame me — for how things turned out.

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