Who’s to Blame?

My curiosity has been peaked about so much these last few weeks.  Of late it is the debate regarding who is to blame for this pandemic we have come to call COVID -19.

I find it interesting – the subtle difference between responsibility and blame.  An on-line dictionary source gave me these examples: 

  • the state or fact of having a duty to deal with something or of having control over someone.

“a true leader takes responsibility for their team and helps them achieve goals”


  • the state or fact of being accountable or to blame for something.

“the group has claimed responsibility for a string of murders”


  • the opportunity or ability to act independently and make decisions without authorization.

“we would expect individuals lower down the organization to take on more responsibility”

  • a thing that one is required to do as part of a job, role, or legal obligation.

plural noun: responsibilities

“he will take over the responsibilities of overseas director”


  • a moral obligation to behave correctly toward or in respect of.

“individuals have a responsibility to control personal behavior” (Oxford, 2020)

Responsibility has an air of positivity – one takes responsibility, whereas blame is assigned by someone else. 

Which is it?

Blame is the knee jerk response to what is becoming an ever increasingly stressful situation. The spectrum of where people fall with regard to this outbreak land anywhere between merely aware to outright frightened.  As one becomes more fearful, the tendency is to want to assign blame.  Who caused this?  Who failed the American people – for that matter the people of the world, and allowed this virus to spread?

Oddly, we don’t hear much about concern for the world here in America.  Our concern lies wrapped around our own people.  Oh, there will be acknowledgements of other countries battling this disease and ‘our heartfelt wishes go out to them’, etc.  But the real focus lies within our own shores, moreover our own communities.  Depending upon which part of the country you reside, you will see a vast difference in the level of infection and the level of needed response accordingly.  Where I live in Morgan County Alabama, we have had 42 cases to date.  My friends in New York City, however, have seen multiple deaths and thousands of cases of infection.  It seems to be everywhere – up there.  So when the conversation on social media turns to how quickly we should be responding or how soon can we all return to our normal day-to-day activities, New Yorkers are screaming that it is too soon to talk about this while Alabamians are ready to resume life as we know it.  It really is all about perception.

Likewise, the extent of the concern because of the vastness of the spread then causes people to want to know – who they can blame for this?

Well, we saw very quickly the backlash of hostility than arose when COVID-19 was referred to as the Chinese Virus on a news brief.  First announcements of this were introduced to us as a virus that mutated as a result of unsanitary conditions in a wet market in Wuhan (which is located in China).  But we don’t want to say that. 

Next, and most logically, the fingers began pointing at the President of the United States.  It is his job to protect the American people.  Well, he tried.  President Trump stopped all air travel between China and the US and then systematically put a halt to travel between the US and other countries until lastly, all of Europe was ceased from entering as well.  At that time, (and I can only speak for myself), my travel plans within the United States were still all systems go.  Yes, there was an outbreak and I was made aware of it.  Yes, I knew it was showing up in New York.  But, I still had every intention of flying right into the city to spend a long weekend reuniting with childhood friends.  It was not until the very end of February that I began to even question if I should go.  As it turned out, plans changed, the event was postponed in the interest of safety and I backed off my travel plans to NY. 

When the strong suggestion to shelter in place came from the Governor of Alabama, I took that advice with a grain of salt.  I continued to go to the store as needed.  I performed the same job tasks that I do daily.  I probably washed my hands more than usual.  But I remained detached and a bit inconvenienced.  I remember thinking, “I don’t actually know anyone who has this disease and I surely do not know anyone who has died from it.”  In that regard – COVID-19 was “over there” and by over there I mean elsewhere. 

By the end of March, that fact changed, and I began to hear of deaths that occurred to people connected to people I knew.  Someone’s husband; someone else’s brother, etc.  The disease is now creeping its way into my world. 

From the cheap seats, I can see both sides of this now.  I see why people are frightened about this disease and exhausted from the battle and I understand the lack of panic for those who have not come to see the battle up close.  There lies the disparity.  Has it personally affected “ME”?

The same can be said about the difference between responsibility and blame.  In this writer’s opinion, blame is what we assigned to someone else for not taking care of this for us; He should have done this – They should have done that.  But responsibility is what we take on ourselves.  They told us this was showing up and we needed to stay home, we needed to avoid groups, etc.  Simply put – blame is someone else’s fault.  Responsibility is what we own.

This virus, albeit – the invisible adversary – will not be defeated until each and every American takes responsibility for his/her own health in this pandemic.  We need as much information about this as we can get.  Knowledge really is power.  We need to follow the advise of our community leaders.  Likewise, they need to take heed from their state officials and those state officials should take their cues from our government leaders; both political and medical.  We can sort out the “blame” later and address this as a lesson learned on many levels.  Should we have done this?  Would this have helped? Was this enough?  But to sit back pointing fingers at those trying to sort through this is counter productive.  We each need to take responsibility for our own health and the health of our families and loved ones.  It cannot be about everyone else.  It must be about us.  Take responsibility and be the keeper of your community’s health.

Reference: Oxford, Retrieved from the world wide web on April 15, 2020 from

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  1. Dave Grossbard on April 15, 2020 at 11:57 am

    I enjoy reading your posts Ellen.

  2. Jane on April 15, 2020 at 1:27 pm

    Well said!!!