NORTH ADAMS — The 21st Century just gets worse and worse, doesn't it? And no one wants to take any responsibility.

It's the Republicans' fault! No it's Obama's fault! It's the Muslims! No it's the Christians! It's the feminists' fault! No, it's the misogynists' fault! It's the gays' fault! It's the media's fault! It's white people! It's immigrants! It's black people! It's the police! It's Millennials! It's corporations! It's institutions! And on and on.

It's everybody's fault but your own.

Good lord, people, listen to yourselves. The takeaway message from all the ranting is that it's the fault of humans. What a bunch of sociopathic, narcissistic psychos we are, refusing to take any responsibility for ourselves. We have managed to so neatly divide up the human race into factions based on race and nationality and gender and religion and sexual orientation and class and political affiliation and what side of town you're from and sports teams that it's very easy to point a finger at one of these groups when something goes wrong.

It makes it easy to find a scapegoat and guarantee that no one thinks it's your fault.


Despite all those divisions we've concocted, humans are one species. When things go wrong with humans, there is but one culprit — humans. When people blow each other up or shoot each other or try to limit each other's rights or scream horrible things at each other, the group it all reflects on poorly is humanity.

When a radical Islamic suicide bomber takes lives anywhere in the world, it makes humanity look awful. When a white person steps into a school and starts shooting at kids, it's humanity's shame.

And if we can't find another kind of person to target, we'll create an artificial group. After the Paris attacks, some people felt the only way they could express shock or grief at what had happened was to change their Facebook profile picture to a French flag, or to filter a French flag over their own photo. This was a prime opportunity for the more-liberal-than-thou types to berate anyone who did that, but did not have any reaction to the attacks in Beirut that had happened previously.

No one is allowed to react with shock or grief on their own terms anymore. It must be according to a very special checklist that is apparently only available to the types of people who, in the middle of a tragedy, chew out people showing sympathy and support because it's not the right tragedy. I dislike watching the spectacle of well-intentioned people lashing out at other well-intentioned people.

But that ire was nothing compared to the growing number of opportunists, usually conservatives, who leapt on the chance to characterize Syrian refugees, women and children, as terrorists out for our blood who must be blocked from entering the safe space we call America, despite all evidence to the contrary.

In one of our most disgraceful national moments, fear seized a number of Americans without any arm-twisting, and caused them to not only turn their backs on victims of oppression and atrocities, but to do so by painting them with the same brush as the evildoers they flee from.

Using a tragedy to justify your own racism in order to turn away people in need, now that's truly disgusting. And when the national conversation turns to tracking and marking Muslims, I think you know where we're headed.

There's one thing everyone might consider doing not only now, but maybe for the rest of this century — back off of each other. Stop politicizing people's grief. Stop rooting out scapegoats. Stop using people's lives to justify your own hate. And take some responsibility for the wrong in the world.

John Seven, a writer, lives in North Adams. He can be reached at or at