We’ve heard a lot of debate in America over the years about “equal rights,” but a friend of mine made a great point to me this week based on scenes he had witnessed in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina: How come we rarely, if ever, hear debates about the merits of equal responsibilities?
Generally speaking, most major media did their stereotypical hatchet job on government, the military and a number of other federal and state officials for – as they defined it – failing to “provide” adequate relief efforts and support for all the hapless souls “trapped” in New Orleans and elsewhere by Katrina and, to a lesser extent, follow-on Hurricane Rita.
But do you remember hearing any of the multiple sob-story news reports even once suggest that it might just be the responsibility of those hapless souls to take care of themselves first and foremost?
It’s not as if these people have never experienced storms before. For crying out loud, they live in “storm row,” and every year about this time is “storm season.”
Yes, I know, some residents tried to justify their bad decision not to evacuate the Katrina landing zone with something like, “Gee – we just didn’t think it’d be this bad!” Well, it was that bad. And that’s not the Bush administration’s fault.
Let’s look at it another way. If you choose to stand in the middle of a busy interstate, is it the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s fault if you get plowed under by a tractor-trailer rig?
Let’s say you choose to be a white supremacist and you holler a racial epithet at a group of men whose ethnicity is different that yours. Is it the NAACP’s fault if those men hand you your rear end in a hat?
Suppose you believe you’re Benjamin Franklin reincarnated and you decide to tie a key to a kite and fly it during a lightening storm. Is it the surgeon general’s fault if you get lit up like a Christmas tree?
The point my friend was making is plain: We are all responsible for ourselves, first and foremost, whether or not others try to tell us differently. We are also the beneficiaries of our own actions and decisions. We may not always make the right choices – after all, we’re only human – but they are ours to make nonetheless.
As humans we seek credit for all of our correct decisions, but far too many of us seem willing to let someone else take the blame when we make a bad one. In this land of opportunity, there is no reason, unless you’re completely physically disabled, not to find some way to pull yourself up by the bootstraps and take charge of your own life. That’s not “easier said than done”; that’s a fact hundreds of millions of Americans live every single day.
If there is one glaring lesson from Katrina it is not that “government wasn’t ready” to handle the emergency. It was that too many people are incapable of accepting responsibility for themselves. Government has some blame to share – generations of “Great Society” welfare and subsidization of irresponsible behavior come immediately to mind – but most often, in the end, our own well-being still comes down to personal choices and decisions, then living with the results or consequences.
Hopefully, more than a few people now stranded in the throes of relief bureaucracy are beginning to realize they are where they are because of their own poor life choices.