Cause and effect is a natural law. It’s hard to dispute that one thing leads to another, especially when the links in a chain of events are short and close together. When they are long and far apart, it’s more difficult to see any connection between two events. It’s also easy to deny any connection whatsoever. In that case, it’s easy—intentional or not—to misattribute a cause to an event.

Two current events are examples. Today, the Republican Party begins the process to select a candidate to run for President of the United States. Listening to the news this morning about the Iowa Caucus (not to mention news from the past few years), it’s easy to detect the Republican theme that we have to get rid of Barack Obama to “turn this country around.” The implication is that Obama is the cause of the poor state of the economy and everything else they find wrong with this country. 

Does no one in the Republican Party remember (or care to admit) that the stock market crashed—losing 50% of its value—in October 2008? George W. Bush was President then. Barack Obama was only a candidate. Does no one remember (or care to admit) that economic policies of the Bush administration made Enron possible? 

The other event is far removed from the political arena. But perhaps it shouldn’t be. On January 1, a man shot and killed a park ranger on Mt. Rainier in Washington State after wounding several others at a party. These kinds of tragedies happen a lot all over the world. Some people are unbalanced, angry, frustrated, vengeful, hateful, and will do any number of terrible things to others. Who knows what causes lurk behind such acts?

Yet, one thing about this story that sticks out, begging the question of Why? The shooter was Iraq War veteran who was apparently suicidal and suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder. We don’t know what this person was like before he went to war. But we do know that when he came home he had trouble adjusting to civilian life. His wife had a restraining order against him because she feared for her own safety as well as that of their child. 

Can you imagine, all those years ago when George Bush, Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld and many others were planning their attack on Iraq that they could have seen the consequences of their actions? Suppose someone in the war room said, “If we go ahead with this, on January 1, 2012, a park ranger with two children will be murdered by one of our soldiers.” Would it have mattered?

The law of cause and effect is always at work. And it’s human nature to ignore it just as it’s human nature to ignore an inconvenient stop sign.