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President Harry S. Truman famously kept a sign on his desk that said, “The buck stops here.” It’s likely Give ‘Em Hell Harry (and the buck, for that matter) would be appalled at how badly the buck’s brakes seem to have failed of late. From politics to sports, from business to everyday life, folks seem to have become quite practiced at the art of passing that buck, actual culpability notwithstanding.

Years ago, we were taught the wisdom of this axiom: Never believe anything until it’s officially denied. How apt. We’ve gotten significantly more subtle about our denials in these, the Golden Days of the Age of Irresponsibility. But we deny accountability for anything, nevertheless.

Here’s a random sampling of the some of the more popular ducks, dodges, disclaimers and disavowals:

  1. “I didn’t do it.” (Translation: I damn well did it. And I did it with prejudice, deliberateness, and malice aforethought.)
  2. “I didn’t say it.” (Translation: See #1.)
  3. “It was taken out of context.” (Translation: Damn! I couldn’t have been caught any more red-handed if I’d tried.)
  4. “Well, he did it, too.” (Translation: What he did wasn’t fractionally as heinous as what I did. But I believe you’re naïve enough to think they can be equated.)
  5. “But there weren’t any witnesses.” (Translation: I did it as blatantly as if I’d called the cops, told them what I was going to do, where I was going to do it, and what time I was going to do it. But I didn’t call the cops. And I made sure no one else was around to do it, either.)
  6. “You can’t prove a negative.” (Translation: You poor sap. I swore up, down, on a stack of Bibles, and on my mother’s grave that I’d do it. Then I didn’t do it. And there’s no way you can corroborate that I didn’t.)
  7. “In response to another opportunity, he took the opportunity to pursue other career opportunities.” (Translation: He wasn’t a team player, so we greased him. And we couldn’t care less if he never finds another opportunity.)
  8. “He’s Kramden. I’m clean.” (Translation: Fast forward to 22:37.)

In the Age of Irresponsibility, if there’s something you can’t deny, pass the buck.