“Yeah, but what about …?” If you had a brother or sister, you probably said it when you were a kid. If you had a cousin you played with, you probably said it when you were growing up. You probably said it while you were in elementary school to a teacher. Okay, let’s admit it, we all said it when we were kids. Well, at least I did.
I said it when I had to do a chore on the farm when my sister didn’t. I said it when my cousin, Mike, and I would misbehave, and I would get punished and he wouldn’t. (He always got away with things because he was younger. I had older cousins who said I also got away with misbehaving because I was younger, and they didn’t. I don’t remember it.) I said it when I had to do a school project or assignment, and others didn’t.
Whether we admit it or not, we often carry on the same pattern as we become adults. We still say, “Yeah, but what about …?” We’re driving down a busy interstate highway. Everyone is going well over the speed limit. But you are the one that gets stopped by the highway patrolman for speeding.
As he writes out the ticket, you say, “I was just following everyone else. What about them?” A friend of mine told me what happened when he was stopped in a similar situation. The patrolman smiled, as he continued to write out the speeding ticket, and said, “You don’t stop fishing just because you can’t catch all the fish in the pond.” (I got a feeling that wasn’t the first time the patrolman had ever used that line.)
Back during the days when I worked with the N.C. Dept. of Revenue, I often heard taxpayers complain about having to pay their taxes. They would gripe about why they had to pay while others, they believed, didn’t. But what about the welfare cheats? What about the rich people who use tax deductions and loopholes to avoid paying taxes? Or someone that they know who doesn’t pay? (To that, I would usually reply, “Give me a name and we’ll check into it.” They would quickly move on to another excuse.) My standard response was to agree with them that I wasn’t just a tax collector, but a taxpayer, too. I didn’t like to way the system often worked, either. But that didn’t excuse the fact that they owed taxes, and that they needed to be paid.
In other words, the “yeah, but what about …?” excuse is a method of deflecting blame and responsibility from ourselves onto others. We did it as children, and we often do it as adults. It’s tiresome to have to put up with it while dealing with kids. It’s even more frustrating when we see those same actions in adults. Yes, and it’s just another reason to be frustrated with politics.
Democrats ask, “But what about Roy Moore?” Republicans reply, “But what about Senator Al Franken?” To that, the Democrats continue, “But what about Donald Trump?” The Republicans respond, “But what about Bill Clinton?” And so it goes, as politicians, commentators, TV hosts, and others, attempt to deflect off the responsibility for the actions of members of their own political party, and onto someone in the opposition party. It’s no wonder that approximately one third of American voters now no longer identify with either political party.
It’s often easy to excuse someone’s actions if it suits our needs. You know, “He may be a jerk, but he’s our jerk, and we need him to help to promote our agenda.” And it’s easy to attack others for their actions if they are the opposition.
But what about on a personal level? How about a family member, a neighbor, or co-worker? Maybe we shouldn’t be so quick to criticize them. Former President George W. Bush recently in a speech reflected on the subject. He stated, “We often judge others by their worst actions and ourselves by our best intentions.” Yeah, President Bush, you may be right. But what about …?
Mac McPhail, raised in Sampson County, lives in Clinton and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.