A man can fail many times, but he isn’t a failure
until he begins to blame somebody else.
- John Burroughs Quotes, Brainy Quote
The Dissection of Blame
Sometimes our legacies do not fully blossom until long after we are gone. We live quiet lives, far from the public eye, and even with an inner drive, that attracts hundreds, then thousands to stand beside us and follow us, our humility makes it difficult to understand it is a leader they see. Some of us come into our own at a very early age, knowing exactly where we want life to take us, becoming focused in reaching that stage. Many of us, grow into a self, that we may have never known was there. No difference in what age of life we discover our paths, our gifts, our happiness, as long as we grab hold of them, and understand that blame resolves nothing within.
Harvey Bernard Milk belonged to the latter group. He grew into his role as a leader and activist for change, absorbing three straight defeats in his bid for public office, but in 1976, he would finally win an election, making history in the process, as the first openly gay city commissioner in the United States. Even in San Francisco, one of the most liberal cities in the world, a fight for marriage equality was unthinkable, for at that time, it was a battle for acceptance. Still relatively unknown to the rest of the world, Harvey Milk’s determination, pride and victory made him a rock star in the City by the Bay.
On November 27, 1978, the blame game would materialize and start to take shape. Bitter and disgruntled by his perceived slights, former county supervisor Dan White, refused to accept responsibility for the sinking ship, that was his life. He had earlier resigned from public office, then at some point, had a change of heart. When the request to reclaim the job, he had abandoned, was denied, he would raise the stakes in a game, that only he knew he was playing, by blaming anyone but himself. He would walk into City Hall, a monument serving the people, gun down Mayor George Moscone, then took the life of Harvey Milk.
Impossible to deny he pulled the trigger, and with no other defense, Dan White’s attorney elevated the blame game, to a whole other level. Once a stalwart of nutrition and physical fitness, White’s professional decline, not only poisoned his marriage, but led to a change in diet. No longer eating healthy carrots, he began to consume only junk food. It is known as “the twinkie defense”, that a change in his eating habits, led to a diminished capacity, so his lawyer blamed the pastries, as the reason why he killed two men. Verdicts in high-profile cases have been stunning, but no one could have ever predicted this. A jury of his peers, accepted the theory of blame, finding him not guilty of first-degree murder, reducing two meaningful lives, to the lesser offense of voluntary manslaughter, for which he served only five years.
When our decisions and our choices, wreak havoc in our lives, we may tend to become more defensive, angry without knowing why. We are challenged in getting back on track, everything we do derails, and everything we try does fail. So we begin the dissection of blame, assigning each disappointment to a family member or friend. We blame our parents for something they did, ignoring the reality, it has been 40 years since then. We blame immigrants for taking our job, dismissing the notion, that we were caught sleeping, while guarding the store. Obsessed by blaming others, becoming a victim in our own mind, leads to a confusion so complete, we live in a belief, based on our own lies.
Stumbles, free-falls and mistakes happen, but most scars are not permanent, if we accept, we can learn from and avoid the same mistakes. Blame is not always malicious or done with intent, it protects our psyches, when they are frail, offering self-esteem when needed,rejecting the reality of its false existence. The importance of accepting responsibility for our choices that turned bad, cannot be understated. It is how we start to heal. How we learn to love ourselves, of which Dan White never would. He convinced the jury he was blameless, but he could not convince himself. And two years into his freedom….Dan White would kill himself.