After presenting evidence that all sides bear some of the responsibility for the loss of 298 lives on Malaysian Air Flight 17, my recent Huffington Post article concludes, “Even without the above evidence, common sense alone would question the overly simplified narrative we have been fed in which the carnage in Ukraine is all Putin’s fault. Wars bring out the worst on all sides, and to be effective in preventing future tragedies such as MH17, we need to stop blaming others and start taking responsibility for our own mistakes.”
One of the most egregious forms of blame is to paint the other side as being in league with the devil, and Saturday’s edition of my local paper, the San Jose Mercury News, did precisely that when it picked up a Mike Luckovich political cartoon showing the devil holding a black box marked PUTIN’S SOUL, and saying, “I retrieved the black box” – a clear reference to MH17. A web search on images of Putin as devil turns up a number of related caricatures.
Comparing Putin to Hitler as Hillary Clinton did in March, similarly feeds our basest emotions and prevents us from responding rationally – which is at the heart of our behaving responsibly, both linguistically and logically.
Demonizing others feeds a false sense of moral superiority typical of irresponsible adolescents. If we want to behave maturely, responsibly, and effectively we need to do what I suggest in the Huffington Post article:
Putin is far from blameless, but we have no control over his actions and complete control over our own. So, to be effective we need to search in the dark recesses of our own nation’s soul, rather than cast stones at others.