There is an insidious disease that has infected politics and U.S. society. I call it the “Yeah, But” Syndrome.

It is easy to recognize. It starts when someone is confronted with his or her own lies, shortcomings or unethical or illegal actions. The person immediately cries, “Yeah, but (insert name of opposition and laundry list of real or perceived wrongdoings).” The allegations aren’t refuted, but suddenly the attention is diverted to the new suspect, who decides to play the same game.

This virus knows no political, racial, cultural, religious or gender bounds. It is practiced by the far left, the far right and those in between. Don’t believe it? Check out the posts on social media or even reports in the mainstream media. Instead of providing facts to support their beliefs, policies, statements or actions, people try to smear someone else. It is as if they believe they are beyond reproach if they can drag someone else lower.

The sad part is not only do they get away with it, but they are successful in getting others to follow in their footsteps.

When I was young I remember trying this. My mom alleged, “You didn’t eat your vegetables. You threw them in the garbage.” To which I replied, “Yeah, but Kevin fed his serving of liver to the dog!” Now Kevin, in his own defense, pointed to our sister and declared, “Yeah, but Deb snuck a second piece of pie.”

Before our sister could answer, mom halted the conversation, lined us up and tanned our backsides. This abruptly put an end to our “Yeah, But” Syndrome. One good trip to the woodshed and we were cured.

But how can the country be cured if the politicians and the public are equally infected?

It starts the same way the syndrome did – one person at a time. Simply refuse to play the game. Imagine a professional quarterback (or any leader) standing in front of people and saying, “This loss is entirely my fault. Don’t blame anyone but me. I made bad choices and mistakes. I have to do better or someone will have to take my place.”

At this point, continual haranguing makes no sense. He has already said he was to blame, and he didn’t throw anyone else under the bus. He took responsibility for his own actions and even assumed some for his team. This is a good start.

For the next step, imagine a baseball pitcher after a complete-game shutout. He is being praised for his prowess. He replies, “Thanks, but a lot of the credit goes to the catcher, who called a great game.” The catcher shrugs it off by saying, “Thanks, but it was our manager and coaching staff who helped me prepare.” The manager says, “Thanks, but without the great defensive play and timely hitting the result would have been different.” And so on until every player, every coach, everyone in the front office and every fan felt they owned a piece of the victory.

When is the last time you’ve seen something like that happen in government at any level?

Our country is sick and We the People need to nurse it back to health. But first, “physician, heal thyself.” Refuse to stoop to “yeah, but.” Hold yourself, your family, your friends and your elected representatives to the highest standards. Insist on facts not rhetoric. Don’t spread unsubstantiated stories.

This does not mean we can’t disagree. It doesn’t mean we can’t point out wrongdoing or things we disagree with. But it does means we look at the issue and the information. We work together to try to make things better rather than attacking the integrity of those making the proposals or offering the ideas. When we get it right, we share the credit.

Our Constitution proudly proclaims, “We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union …” Nowhere does it say “We the Politicians” or “We the Political Party” or “We the Gossips.”

Yes, this is an idealistic and naïve viewpoint. But wouldn’t you rather shoot for the stars than wallow in the gutters?

Rick Doyle was the editor of the Walla Walla Union-Bulletin from 1984-2016.

Rick Doyle has served as editor of the Union-Bulletin since 1984. Prior to that he worked for the Springfield (Mo.) News-Leader as a reporter, copy editor, news editor and sports editor. His first job was at the Louisiana (Mo.) Press-Journal.

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