The Dissection of Blame


A man can fail many times,
but he isn’t a failure until he
begins to blame somebody else.
– John Burroughs Quotes



Anna Kendrick w/ Cups


written & edited by Kendall F. Person

San Francisco 1978

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.
The Dissection of Blame


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.

this is…. The Neighborhood



  1. I would almost go so far as to say we have a culture that glorifies victimhood in many forms. From major news outlets publishing articles about minor social incidents (a grocery store clerk was rude, etc.) to the quest for specialness through an imagined or fairly minor health issue the victim mentality seems quite popular.

    My theory is that when people see themselves as innocent victims, even if they do overcome very serious life events, they tend to have trouble letting that go. It’s like the millionaire who grew up poor but has been wealthy for decades, or even half a century! If that person is no longer the young upstart swimming upstream with no silver spoon…who are they?

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you for your personal insight and examples. The victim syndrome that you describe is so puzzling, that it has triggered The Neighborhood to host our first Mental Health awareness week with the topic front and center. Thank you again and so good to have you in The Neighborhood.


  2. This line should read:

    If the kind of stigma induced homelessness that we have today began in 1980 and only 3,095,825 people died as a direct result of homelessness in the United States PER YEAR since 1980 then an estimated 1,111,449,700 (one billion one hundred eleven million four hundred forty-nine thousand seven hundred) people have died as a result of the stigma induced poverty we call homelessness.

    I hate the fact that we can’t edit our comments…:)

    Liked by 1 person

  3. A thought provoking post Kendall.

    Gay men did not stop being victims until they began to say no to a culture that imprisoned, shamed and murdered them with impunity…

    Part of the process of ending victimization is the recognition that one is a victim…the next step is forcing those who victimize to take responsibility for what they do.

    Dan White may have been one of the last straight men to get away with murdering a gay man.

    At that time it was not uncommon for straight men to fag bash and murder gays and claim the ‘homosexual panic’ defense.

    It’s hard to believe that we once lived in a society that simply accepted the idea that a sexual advance from a gay man justified his murder…I mean, what else is a ‘real man” to do?

    The only reason we live in a different world is that Gay men stopped accepting and internalizing the lies that justified their oppression.

    Even in the darkest days of the AIDS epidemic we took care of our sick and demanded that our government recognize us as citizens.

    Some people lack the courage it takes to stop living as victims…and some people are too ill to stand up for themselves.

    There is another group of people who serve as the targets for institutional oppression and they are the mentally ill.

    Mental illness affects people in very different ways.

    Some of us lose complete contact with reality.

    Some of us lose the ability to concentrate…

    And some of us have disruptive symptoms that leave our intellects intact.

    I live in the last category.

    My illness takes me ‘away’ but I am slowly learning how to compensate for the lost time and how to use my blog for my art and to advocate for those people who are too ill to speak for themselves.

    There are real victims in this world but they are usually unable to announce the fact…

    The genuine victims are the ones that we crush even as they lay helpless at our feet.

    We call these people who are ill and who have been betrayed by their countrymen ‘the homeless’ and our current solution to the problem of ‘the homeless’ is to pretend that we as a nation didn’t create their suffering, are not responsible for them, and aren’t kicking them in the teeth by blaming them for what we have done.

    For over thirty years the citizens of the United States have ignored the stench and suffering caused by their greed and their false claim to victim hood as taxpayers.

    Citizens are “victims” you see, when we expect them to participate in creating a government that is more than a ponzi scheme for rich gamblers and their suckers.

    Citizens are “victims” when we expect them to pay into a common fund designed to lift all Americans out of the squalor of unnecessary poverty, suffering and illiteracy.

    The difference between real victims and these tax cheats who have rigged the system is that real victims are grateful for any break they get, the fakes can never get enough.

    So we have the tawdry sight of a wealthy kid who gets away with a double murder because he is a “victim” of his affluence while a working class kid with schizophrenia winds up homeless and is sent to a “for profit” prison for losing control and breaking a window.

    It is up to those of us who ‘would be’ victims to speak out and put an end to the systemic victimization of the mentally ill.

    I did a little thought experiment the other day.

    I wanted to know how many men and women have died as a direct result of homelessness.

    It’s difficult to determine how many have died since the nightmare began in 1980.

    I had to extrapolate the yearly death rate based on the few statistics that I found.

    The median age of death for a chronically homeless person is 44.

    The average life expectancy for people in the U.S. is 80.

    Therefore, if an average of 123,833 people were homeless in the United States in 2007 and 123,833 are homeless in United States in any given year then the estimated yearly death rate as a result of homelessness, based on a media age of death at 44 using the lowest possible number is 619,166 deaths from homelessness per year.

    I cut that figure in half and multiplied it by 36 years.

    If the kind of stigma induced homelessness that we have today began in 1980 and only 3,095,825 people died as a direct result of homelessness in the United States since 1980 then an estimated 1,111,449,700 (one billion one hundred eleven million four hundred forty-nine thousand seven hundred) people have died as a result of the stigma induced poverty we call homelessness.

    Even if that number is sliced in half that’s still an atrocity.

    It’s past time for the voters in the United States to take responsibility for electing to pretend that they play no part in it.

    There are victims.

    All we have to do is take a walk around the block to see who they are.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. I carry a journal around with me that at any given moment when someone says something insightful, funny, profound, etc. I can cite their quote, one particular one stands out to me when I read this blog – June 20, 2014 by Bruce Anderson entry “If you feel the need to NOT take any responsibility for your actions….. I will RIP your face off…”

    Liked by 2 people

  5. Pingback: Relationship Help: Stop Blaming Others. Give Up The Blame Game.

  6. Thank you for posting truths. I had once heard of “The Twinkie Defense” but never knew the backstory. That’s crazy! But that’s what happens when we teach people they can do what they want, when they want, how they want, and as long as they say “Sorry” later or “I didn’t know”. It really is in our psyche like you said, even if we don’t mean to blame. By forming and living according to certain opinions, we have blamed. Good observation. Your page is filled with very engaging and thought-provoking ideas. The art and music, your words. Will have to take time to read more of your posts. Tres magnifique. Thank you also for following my blog recently. It’s how I found yours. And what a find it is. ^_^

    Liked by 2 people

    • My pleasure to have become a part of your community and I thank you for adding such a beautiful, sincere and wise voice to this forum. Here, in the neighborhood, the discussions at the end of each post, are often as or more inciteful than the show that they follow. Welcome to the neighborhood. so glad you are here.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. So very true, Mr. Person! I’m still scalded by the miscarriage of justice by the jury of Dan White’s peers in sentencing him so lightly…ironically, nobody remembers Dan White without thinking “twinkie”…but Harvey Milk is remembered for his brilliant work and assassination…just like a lot of other revolutionaries.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. You´re right on the money.(does that sentence actually makes sense?forgetting my english here) That Borroughs guy quite smart, isn´t he from the Beat generation with Jack Kerouack and Ginsberg? Also saw the film on Harvey Milk, great film by the way. And what you say that when all things seem to go hay wire to a person the person does tend to assign blame to everybody around them except for them. And it tends to be the people closest to that person. I say it because I found myself in that situation, what I do now. Is step backwards, take a breath and think not what the others should do or should have done but think what I can do.
    Great post.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. The Dan White verdict was actually unthinkable. It was ludicrous, that this guy didn’t know what he was doing, and at the same time some abused, battered wife, who has tor rely on public defender, is automatically convicted for killing her husband. The blame game is a whole different game there.

    But anyway, it’s true that we too often look elsewhere for reasons for why our lives stink. Then again, I know a few circumstances myself, about which I can do nothing, and they’re handicapping me. But I would hope that I mostly know what I’m doing?

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Interesting post. I have no personal recollection of this event as I wouldn’t even be born for another 12 years but I do know a little about Milk. I have also heard the term “twinkie defense” a few times before, but I never knew the two were connected.

    I found your blog by the fact that you followed mine about a month back. So first of all, thank you for taking the time to follow a brand new blogger who is still trying to find her voice.

    I look forward to reading more of your material as what I’ve read so far has been thought provoking, fascinating and at times even emotional. Great work!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you for adding such a beautiful voice to this forum and it is my pleasure to become a part of your community as well. I consider myself a performer, but I do not take this forum for granted and always attempt to present material that provokes thought as it entertains. As you can see, your comment has placed a smile on my face. So glad you are a part of The Neighborhood.


  11. Thanks for the follow.
    I remember the case, paying some attention though I was on the opposite coast. I didn’t hear much about the trial, but I do remember the verdict and my reaction was one of disbelief.

    I’ve always found it easier to accept my faults than trying to justify blame. Makes it easier to correct said faults.

    Liked by 1 person

  12. For me FAILURE is a way for a perfect life journey. Don’t blame others, just say “thank you, you tought me how to stand back. LOL.. nice post bro…

    Liked by 1 person

  13. This is a great post. I happened to use Harvey Milk in a post of mine just yesterday. I would like to add this, and not in opposition to what is stated here, but as different light on a similar subject. A Defense Department contractor once told me, blame is an important part of project management.

    We need blame as a way to ensure people, systems, and mechanisms don’t repeat the mistake. It was a faulty washer that eventually destroyed the Space Shuttle Challenger as I watched it on TV in my fourth grade class. Blame of the washer and the maintenance checks and the maintenance engineers were important to ensure it never happened again. And as Kendall has pointed out here, taking ownership of that blame will not only help you, but it will help those you are involved with and your relevant projects – but potentially more important – it will help those you will never meet who are affected by your work.

    Liked by 1 person

  14. Pingback: The Dissection of Blame | precipuaconsilia

  15. Very astute – and it strikes a chord with all of us if we’re honest. It certainly did with me, and it was useful to be reminded of the judicial absurdity of White’s trial. Thank you.

    Liked by 2 people

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  17. Wow, only five years for snuffing out two lives. I remember this case but had forgotten about–if I ever knew–the paltry sentence the murderer received. And I can hardly believe a jury buying his defense. Goes to show you how screwed up our judicial system is.

    Liked by 1 person

  18. I never thought about this before. How true it is and comforting to know that when you own up to bad choices and mistakes, you aren’t a failure unless you cannot grasp to acknowledge what you have done. Thanks for sharing.

    Liked by 1 person

  19. The one area so many of us never mature is in taking responsibility for our actions. You’d think that’s something a person ought to outgrow.
    It boggles the mind how the twinkie defense won.

    Liked by 1 person

  20. I like your post because it reminds me that we are responsible for our lives. We are the creators of what happens to us and although we cannot change certain circumstances in our lives we can change our attitude.

    Liked by 1 person

  21. Everyone errs because all all humans are flawed in one way or another. Accepting responsibility when one errs is an essential step towards achieving personal growth. Some of the greatest lessons I have learned were the result of having made a terrible mistake. Such lessons stick with you, like the first time you grab the handle of a hot iron skillet with your bare hand. The key to learning from one’s mistakes, failures or sins – whatever you choose to call them – is owning up to them. Accept personal responsibility and then move on, having learned and grown from the experience. Don’t let, “It wasn’t my fault,” become part of your vocabulary. You’re will make new mistakes; strive to avoid repeating the old ones.

    Liked by 1 person

  22. I was only a child when Harvey Milk and George Mascone were murdered, and it wasn’t until I heard The Dead Kennedys song “I Fought the Law” later as a teenager that I even heard about the Twinkie Defense in all it’s absurdity. It was probably a few years longer before it sank in.

    It does become much easier to blame other people than to entertain the thought that it is our own shortcomings that might be troubling us. Blame, however is not limited to people. I am learning how much I blamed alcohol for my misfortunes now that I am living a sober life.
    Great article, and once again a great piece of music chosen for it.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Blame is an excellent way to avoid confronting our fears. But fears can be turned into extraordinary strengths. When you focus on your fear and start planning on how you will mitigate or come to terms with that which you fear, blame becomes irrelevant.

      Why was Dan White so afraid of homosexuals?

      One can speculate lots of salacious theories, but it really does come down to fear.

      Had he dealt with that, he would not have needed someone to blame.


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