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Alexandria Shooter -- Not Trump or Sanders -- Is Responsible for His Actions

by on June 19, 2017 5:00 AM

The news was shocking. Elected officials and members of their support staff shot at and injured while they practiced for a charity softball game. We learned of individual feats of heroism that brought the incident to a halt before it could become even more horrible. The suspect eventually died in police custody.  Later, we learn that the perpetrator had a list of names in his personal effects that police officers believe was a politically motivated kill list.

Within what seemed like minutes, people began to assign blame. It happened because of the political vitriol that has become part of the daily barrage of news and opinions. The Republicans are at fault for supporting such an insensitive and disrespectful candidate. The Democrats are at fault because some are encouraging outrage if not violence in opposition to Trump. Blame it on social media. Fake news. Frustration with the economy. Class warfare. Racism. Sexism. Blame it on his mother. His wife. A bad experience in high school. His second grade teacher.

Unless the investigation eventually tells us otherwise, in this writer’s opinion, the man from Illinois, the one who drove to Virginia and who had been living out of his van near our nation’s capitol, is the only one in this case who took a gun to a public park with the intention to do harm. Regardless of what he has seen or heard, or what he’s read, he alone is the one who did it.

Our culture has lost sight of personal accountability.   

The evidence is everywhere. It’s in the news and in our personal interactions. We see it in the workplace and in schools. We see it in our children, our friends, our spouses and our co-workers. We see it in ourselves.

Someone makes a bad decision or make a mistake and we look for someone else to blame. Our self-esteems are so fragile that people seem to be incapable of saying “I am at fault.”  We look to explain or to relieve ourselves of the uncomfortable burden of being responsible for our actions. Even worse, we point the finger elsewhere to excuse the behaviors of others.

I see it all the time as a university instructor. A student doesn’t do what he or she needs to do or makes a bad decision. It’s the fault of the instructor or the computer or the bus or the student’s alarm clock. A young person drinks to the point of blacking out and it is taboo to mention personal responsibility when that person is then victimized. Someone or something else is to blame.

“It wasn’t my fault.”

What does it say about a culture that reinforces placing blame squarely on something or someone else?

More importantly, what does it say when we look to the bad decisions of others to boost our political agendas?

From the riots on college campuses to bullying on the elementary school playground, the trend since the November election has been to blame President Trump. Blaming Trump has become the fall back when individuals say or do stupid things regardless of which side of the aisle the bad behavior falls.

Someone makes a racist comment. It’s because of Trump. Another person says or does something sexist or xenophobic. It’s the fault of the president. We are giving people carte blanche to say and do what they like without responsibility.

We are giving one person way more power than he deserves.

The Alexandria shooter, a 66-year-old unemployed home inspector, has undoubtedly had numerous positive and negative influences in his life. And yet, in what seemed like minutes after the shooting in Virginia, newscasters began blaming Trump.  In this case, because the shooter was a Sanders campaign supporter, we also heard cries that Bernie Sanders and the Democrats are to blame.

Of all of the people with whom the shooter has come into contact in his lifetime, do we believe that the actions of one person or group affiliation influenced his decision more than others?  

In truth, neither Bernie Sanders or Donald Trump is responsible for the shooting last week that almost cost the life of Rep. Steve Scalise. The responsible party is the individual who pulled the trigger.

The person responsible for making the decision is the person who we should hold accountable.

It goes without saying that we are impacted by our environment and the people in our lives. We are influenced by our personal history and our life experiences. The decisions we make come from who we are and what we know. Sometimes humans do dumb things. Sometimes we do bad things. Even with an understanding of the whys, we are individually responsible for the whats.

Until we start holding people accountable, we are not going to be able to fix that which ails our culture.





Patty Kleban is an instructor at Penn State, mother of three and a community volunteer. She is a Penn State Alumna. Readers of State College Magazine voted her Best Writer of 2010 and 2012. She and her family live in Patton Township. Her views and opinions do not necessarily reflect those of Penn State.
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