Tuesday, September 13, 2005

The Blame Game: Home Edition

Ever since Pres. Bush proposed last week that we not play "the blame game," that phrase has gotten tossed around a lot. What bothers me is not so much that the Bush administration has come up with one more cynical catch-phrase to deflect justified criticism of its policies; or that it has been opportunistically blaming everyone it could at the same time; but that the "blame game," at least in the case of Hurricane Katrina, seems not to be much of a game at all.

Any game worth playing needs to present some sort of challenge - but the Bush administration's policies seem perversely designed to create just such a disaster: from their disregard for the poor, to the shortsighted energy policy, to the underfunding and mismanagement of emergency services. Playing the blame game against the Bush administration on Katrina seems a little like playing one-on-one basketball against your cat - it might put up a fight, but it won't score many points.

I was thinking that if I did want to play the blame game, and have an actual challenge, I should play it against myself - which is why I decided to think back on some of the biggest disasters of the last 27 years, and try to figure out how I may have been personally responsible.

1980 Eruption of Mount St. Helens

It is difficult to pinpoint with any precision the causes of the geothermic disturbance which triggered this massive volcanic eruption in southwest Washington state - could it have been the overly rambunctious playing of two-year-old twins Daniel and Matthew in nearby Tacoma?

1989 San Francisco earthquake

Now known by their shortened names, Dan and Matt were rabid Oakland A's baseball fans who would have readily sold their souls to ensure victory over the San Francisco Giants in the '89 World Series. Did they somehow repeat their seismic voodoo to cause a 6.9 earthquake on October 17th, right as game 3 was scheduled to begin? The world will never know, but the A's did win in 4.

Florida recount of Nov. 2000

At the time of the 2000 presidential election, I was living in Chicago, and my vote for Al Gore was utterly meaningless. Had I practiced more diligently for my New World Symphony audition earlier that year, though, and gotten my Bach Prelude more reliably in tune, I might have had a chance of moving to Florida. Had I been here in Miami, I might have cast one of the 537 votes that determined the election outcome; I might even have volunteered for the Gore campaign, and persuaded another 536 people to vote as well, and who knows what could have happened? We might now have a president who could actually pronounce 'nuclear'....


In June of 2001, I took a taxi from New York's Penn Station to the JFK airport - I had to find a station wagon cab, since I had an enormous bass trunk. My cab driver was a Middle Eastern man who seemed to take the size of my luggage as a personal affront. At least that was how it seemed at first - he spent most of the ride scolding me for my American complacency and ignorance, informing me of the wretched conditions of his countrymen, and predicting a quickly approaching disaster. I finally figured out that all this was not just surliness about having to put his back seats down; and I started asking him more questions about what he had seen, and why he had become so angry.

It was a really fascinating conversation, and before dropping me off the taxi driver wrote down the name of an influential Islamic guy in Chicago, telling me I should look him up and give him a call. Of course, I never did, and I never told anyone else about that conversation; on Sept. 11, 2001, though, I suddenly remembered everything the taxi driver told me, and I wished I had done something. Or at least tipped him a little better.

2004 Indonesian Tsunami

On Christmas day, 2004, I was visiting my family in Las Vegas, including my twin brother Dan. We decided to go out to an Indonesian restaurant that evening. I had never had Indonesian, but I definitely enjoyed all the satay, padang, and rijstaffel - I think we even left a pretty good-sized tip. Nothing seems to have provoked us to use our psychic powers to trigger any natural disasters on this occasion. However, a powerful earthquake struck in the Indian Ocean just hours later, early on December 26th, causing a horrific tsunami. I can't help thinking I was somehow to blame.

If you are aware of any other disasters I may have caused, please let me know - this is just a short list off the top of my head. And I'll do my best not to think any more geothermically disruptive thoughts in the future. And play Bach better in tune.

1 comment:

Lydia Si-Ngaw Lui said...

Hm...Hurricane Andrew? The 1996 Kobe Earthquake? You guys are really quite dangerous! I should have known...
I read two days ago that Bush actually apologized, and admitted he was wrong in the way he handled the disaster of Katrina. Did you ever think that was possible? He couldn't apologize for risking the lives of millions of people in Afganistan and Iraq, but he could do so in a disaster relief program? Think of the billions spent in the Department of Homeland Security, and how the nation is protecting its land. If we can't even deal with a natural disaster, how are we ever going to deal with an attack from "outside terrorists?"