Blaming “them”; it’s the new American way

Many readers will recall the Trump rally in North Carolina where a 79 year-old elbowed a young African-American protester. The old man, John Franklin (“Quick Draw”) McGraw was unapologetic. “We don’t know if he’s ISIS; we don’t know who he is,” McGraw said. “The next time we see him, we might have to kill him.”

The next time McGraw saw the protester, Rakeem Jones, was in a Fayetteville, North Carolina courtroom at a hearing on a charge of assault. The Washington Post has the story.

When the judge asked Jones (the victim) to speak, he complained that McGraw had not been arrested on the spot, but instead was allowed to go home. He said that he knew McGraw wasn’t going to get jail time, but he has a friend who is facing five years for involvement in what Jones characterized as “at the root of it, a fight.”

McGraw, through his attorney, said that his elbowing of Jones was not racially motivated. The attorney added that his client believes “this country needs to heal as it relates to racial tensions that have been generated as a result of this case.”

Jones responded that he has never mentioned race in connection with the incident. “As far as race, it’s not my concern. I got hit by a man, period.”

Then, according to the Post:

The judge asked McGraw whether he wanted to say something, too. “I’m extremely sorry this happened,” McGraw said, and when the judge told him to explain it to Jones, not him, he turned to Jones and took a step toward him. It was the closest they’d been to each other since the rally.

“This was between two men. You know what you did. And I know what I did. I’m not going to say you were wrong or I was wrong,” McGraw said. “You and I both know what occurred, and I hate it worse than anything else in the world.” He stepped closer to Jones and raised a finger. “We got caught up in a political mess today,” he said. His jaw began to tremble. “And you and me, we got to heal our country.”

“All right, man,” Jones said after a moment. He reached out to pat McGraw on the shoulder, and he seemed surprised by the contact. He put out his hand. Jones grasped it, and, as a few claps in the audience grew into an applause, the two men embraced.

The judge sentenced McGraw to one year of probation.

After receiving his sentence, McGraw said this to Jones:

“We’ve got to stick together. We can’t let them come between us.

(Emphasis added)

There’s plenty to like about this semi-reconciliation, but there’s also something missing. McGraw didn’t apologize for assaulting Jones.

Instead, he blamed the incident in part on heightened political tensions — an accurate but insufficient explanation — and in part on “them.”

Who, in this context, is them? Neither illegal immigrants, greedy capitalists, nor swamp-dwelling lobbyists caused Rakeem Jones to disrupt a political rally and “Quick Draw” McGraw to slug him.

Jones, assuming he wasn’t paid, acted as he did out of disdain for an orderly political process and a desire to silence a voice with which he disagrees. McGraw, assuming he wasn’t racially motivated, acted as he did out of mean streak coupled with a desire to punish someone with whom he disagrees.

McGraw first tried to excuse his conduct by claiming that Jones might be a terrorist. Now, still not willing to say he was wrong, he blames it on “them.”

McGraw is unwilling to accept responsibility for his action. It’s an all-too-familiar feature of contemporary American life.

It’s also consistent with the tenor of the Trump campaign to which McGraw attached himself. Americans aren’t “winning” anymore not through any fault of their own, but because the system is “rigged” in favor of illegal immigrants, greedy capitalists, swamp-dwelling lobbyists, or whomever.

Donald Trump promises an America that will “win again.” But can America really win if Americans are so quick to evade personal responsibility?


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