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Beyond the Blame Game

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Rabbi Ted Falcon, Pastor Don Mackenzie, and Sheikh Jamal Rahman, known collectively as the "Interfaith Amigos," have been learning and teaching together since 2001. They blog weekly for YES! Magazine.

I would like to believe that I am free. I would like to believe that I am awake and aware. And I would like to believe that I am generally a loving and compassionate person.
I would like to be free, yet I realize again and again that I am not. I am open to manipulation and control when I least suspect it. In a flash, I am not a loving and compassionate person at all.

Flotilla Protest

Israeli activists demonstrated in support of the flotilla on May 31, 2010.

Photo by zion

The Power Game

Take the Gulf oil spill (spill? It’s more like a geyser, a gusher) or the recent Israeli military action against a blockade-busting flotilla of humanitarian supplies aimed for Gaza. Neither event is just news—they are direct calls to take sides. And, for those of us who find our side quickly, we are pretty sure that our side is clearly the right side. The others—they are criminal, if not in intent, then certainly in action.

Sometimes I just want to blast the stupidity of Israel's policies toward Palestinians, the horror of the occupation, and the marginalization of its Arab citizens. Sometimes I just want to vent my fury at the Big Oil for catastrophes of climate that so many have seen coming well before the current crisis. But I know that such blasting and such venting will only add to the difficulties and inhibit the healing that needs to be.

This is where I strongly suspect I relinquish not only my freedom but a good share of my awareness. In the virtual clarity of my response, I hardly realize that I have surrendered myself for manipulation by media and by my own preconceptions. Obviously, the big oil company and the occupying Israeli presence are at fault. The powerful, in their unending lust for more power, have once again created great suffering for the innocent and for the environment (also, of course, innocent).

Good Guys vs. Bad Guys

These are terrible events—but how shall our righteous indignation solve anything? When we divide folks into the Good Guys and the Bad Guys (and how fortunate it is that we are always with the Good Guys!), we save ourselves from confronting the deeper ambiguities of life, and we distance ourselves from our own culpabilities and our own responsibilities.

Oil protest photo by fibonacci blue

People gathered to protest the BP oil company in Bloomington, Minnesota.

Photo by Fibonacci Blue

Suspecting that I have fallen prey to media and to preconception, I sometimes remember to take a few conscious breaths and invite an awareness beyond the headlines and the hype. The population of Gaza has been suffering under a blockade enforced by both Egypt and Israel that, while attempting to prevent weapons buildup, has prevented the delivery of needed medical and humanitarian supplies and building materials. The recent flotilla attempting to break that blockade was violently stopped. Along with so many others, I felt outrage at the Israeli response. But then I noticed, for example, that the violence met by the flotilla has incited world anger against a country that many believe should not even exist. There are those who suggest that inciting this anger was the deeper purpose of the flotilla. And what other country do people think doesn’t even have a right to exist?

What kind of consciousness would such thinking motivate in such a country? Could it motivate more violent responses than others can understand? Could it support unconsciousness about the suffering of the other? How can we step into the experience of the other and learn that true dialogue is possible only when blame is shared.

And I notice the silence in this country of all those whose voices have been demanding an increase in off-shore drilling, as well as a silence from other oil companies who are probably thanking their lucky stars that the geyser is not theirs. But where are the scientists of the other companies? Are they really willing to sit back and simply witness this environmental destruction?

And what about all of us and our addiction to oil? Even most of us who have been opposed to war have been quite happy to find gasoline prices lowering so we can more comfortably get on the road again.

Everyone Did It
And so I wonder whether real solutions, real healing, is once again frustrated by our own anger, our finger-pointing, and our self-righteous indignation. There is a tag-line that I’ve been noticing at the bottom of some emails lately, where many of us put quotes that matter to us. This particular quote is from Lao Tzu, and reads: “In the end, everyone will know that everyone did it.”

We all need to take a few breaths when we catch ourselves in the Blame Game and enter together into the Same Game. Because whatever the end is, we shall all have contributed to it.

It is a basic truth that when a relationship works or when it fails, both parties always share responsibility. While this insight might inhibit our perception that the Other is to blame and we are clearly in the right, the abdication of responsibility actually is a denial of our freedom. If it’s all the Other’s fault, then war is inevitable, and no one really ever wins at war. Accepting our shared culpability and responsibility allows us to enter into a greater dialogue—learning to collaborate on the path to greater healing.

This is a time of emergency. We need to meet it with great compassion for our shared culpability and with great creativity and hopefulness for our healing. We need to seriously but gently assess our addictions. What are the changes we would have to make in our lives that would reflect a healing from our addiction to oil? How would we respond to crisis situations in the world if we were no longer addicted to war? We all need to take a few breaths when we catch ourselves in the Blame Game and enter together into the Same Game. Because whatever the end is, we shall all have contributed to it.


Ted Falcon bio pic 2Rabbi Ted Falcon, Ph.D., wrote this article for YES! Magazine, a national, nonprofit media organization that fuses powerful ideas with practical actions. Rabbi Falcon has taught Jewish traditions of Kabbalah, meditation, and spirituality for over thirty-five years. He is the author of A Journey of Awakening: Kabbalistic Meditations on the Tree of Life and co-author, with David Blatner, of Judaism For Dummies.

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