The wheels on the bus, as the popular children’s song reminds us again and again, go ’round and ’round. Over the past few years, however, a refrain of “the wheels on the bus go over and over,” could be added to the popular children’s song.
This seems to have become the case with a monotonous and infuriating regularity. And unlike the big yellow school bus — which has a specific destination, purpose and educational value — the bus most of us are riding these days is a drab, gray affair that meanders blindly, reacting to whatever comes its way, and has all of the educational value of turnip ice cream; it is pointless and unpleasant, and the only thing it teaches is that we should not have eaten it.
But the big gray bus trundles on nonetheless, bouncing over the latest inconvenient truths and/or scandals, its wheels “going over and over” various members of the inevitable opposing sides while the bus speakers blare a little ditty about how grand turnip ice cream is, and oh how fortunate we are to have it because the other bus line’s turnip ice cream is made from lower quality (and possibly spoiled) turnips. And should you point out the bumpy ride to any of the earthbound flight attendants, and say that all the lurching about has caused granny to dump her “ice cream” all over her new pinafore, then they smile like crocodiles and say that she must be a “bad passenger.”
There seems to be an extreme deficit of people who address the issues these days, and the reason the wheels on the bus go “over and over” is that everyone’s first response when asked a question is not to answer the question, but to chuck someone else under the bus to deflect any sort of responsibility. Perhaps the conventional wisdom (and I use that word in the most sardonic sense) is that if everyone is mad at someone else, then they can’t be mad at me. The result, of course, to this behavior is that everyone is standing on the roadway chucking people and issues under the wheels, and an answer — if there is one — still hasn’t materialized.
And another thing, a much more alarming question than all the others that have gone unanswered, is this; if everyone who is supposed to be in a position to answer questions and deal with issues has sidestepped the bus to join the “chuckers,” then just who is left driving the bus? It isn’t the bus attendants, because they don’t have CDLs, and their job is basically distracting us with generic “sprinkles” for our turnip ice cream. Meanwhile, the drivers seem preoccupied with making other bus drivers look bad while their own is bumping over a field of marginally flattened questions and heading for the river. But hey, it’s OK. Our bus has more sprinkles than the other buses, and those little flat wooden “spoons,” too.
Deflection has become a knee-jerk reaction with everyone in any sort of position where the public might ask questions. In a very real way, it is spin control at its finest. Someone asks someone a question for which there is an uncomfortable or unsatisfying answer, and the temptation is to either blame it on someone else, or accuse that someone else (any someone else) of doing something worse in an effort to remove their own treasured behinds from the “hot seat” of public judgment. And it does work for a while, especially if one of the assorted “someone elses” did something truly awful. But it only works for a while.
That stuff adds up, sometimes with alarming speed, and then more effort is required to cover it up or distract from the fact that the problem (surprise!) is still there because absolutely nothing has been done to fix it. And because “chucking” worked so well to deflect ire, the “chuckers” start tossing people under the bus that had no connection whatsoever to the original problem. The result to this, of course, is that the original questions are lost in all the thumping and jostling, gallons of turnip ice cream and sawdust sprinkles, and ruined pinafores.
It might be interesting (and surprisingly refreshing) for someone to answer questions without first looking for someone to chuck under the wheels of the bus. Honestly, if I wanted to know the counterpart’s answer, I would have asked them the question; and I probably will ask both anyway. But what I really don’t need is the same “deflection” from each individual because if everyone gives the same glib answer, then it most likely is suspect.
At least give the public the courtesy of not insulting their intelligence. There is enough guilt to go around, after all; and since no one seems to be using it much, there is also a lot of responsibility as well. It’s right next to all those unopened boxes of integrity.