By John Pierce

One of my third-grade classmates once offered the classic excuse for not turning in her homework assignment. She told our teacher: “The fan blew it off the table and the dog ate it.”

Those words were so embedded in our young minds that some of my childhood friends and I still resurface them jokingly when looking to explain a failure. But it is an more ancient practice than our own lifetimes.

The story of Adam and Eve conveys the same approach to abandoning human responsibility. He blames her and she blames a serpent.

Comedian Flip Wilson as “Geraldine” was not the first nor last to claim that “the devil made me do it.” Our human tendency is to come up with excuses and blame others rather than accept responsibility for our failures.

All of those things came to mind when I read a news story yesterday about a couple in St. Augustine whose dog ate the $1,000 in cash they had saved. The money was “recovered” in acceptable condition — except for one of the hundred-dollar bills that will require some grace from the bank.

But now I’m wondering: What if my classmate of long ago was telling the truth? Could the fan have really blown her homework off the table and the dog ate it? I doubt it.

Excuses change but our love of scapegoating continues, even in more technologically advanced ways. “The file disappeared from my computer” may be a contemporary version of an old dog tale.

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