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I heard the State of the Union message, and a friend and I discussed it. Yes, we agreed, we do have some serious problems in America today. So, who’s to blame?

President Barack Obama alternates between blaming President Bush and the Republicans in Congress (never mind that the Democrats had the majority in both houses until the last election); the speaker of the House blames the president; the minority whip blames the majority speaker; the Senate majority leader blames the Senate minority leader; and the congressional minority blames the majority. Democrats blame Republicans and vice versa; liberals blame conservatives; conservatives blame the liberals (and their media); the banks are blamed; capitalists are blamed; the rich are blamed; the poor are blamed. Blame, blame, blame. In the immortal words of Seinfeld; “Yadda, Yadda, Yadda.”

Well, perhaps we should not be too hard on all those people; after all, it’s really our fault. It starts early in life. The little boy looks at his dad with pleading eyes amidst the wreckage of his mother’s favorite potted plant; “Daddy!!” he wails in his most plaintive tones, “the monsters did it!” From the very beginning, we try to find a way to shift the heat, point the finger and find someone to blame. All of us (especially elected officials) easily and often assign blame, but we seldom volunteer to accept the responsibility for any negative actions, as evidenced by the most oft-used phrase, “Who, me?”

Fortunately, social engineers, sociologists, psychologists, psychiatrists and other escape artists have arranged for universal absolution. “It really isn’t anyone’s fault,” or at least “it certainly isn’t your fault.”

There are your handy parents, who may have disciplined you too enthusiastically or maybe, heaven forbid, even spanked you or otherwise damaged your fragile psyche. Perhaps it was an insensitive teacher who, while insisting that you learn how to conjugate a verb, spell or do math at your grade level, somehow damaged your self-esteem. Maybe you had the misfortune to be born in a less than perfectly ordered social circumstance, in which case society is to blame. For all us minorities – blacks, Hispanics, Native Americans – there is, of course, the evil white man. Finally, if you are spiritually inclined, then you know it really isn’t my fault: “The devil made me do it.”

So now we find state and federal governments getting in the act by insisting that society (read: you and me) is actually responsible for much of the immoral behavior emanating from our statehouses. Overspending, borrowing, Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac and losses (as in the Pentagon lost, spelled L-O-S-T, $2.3 trillion), certainly cannot be laid at the feet of the statesmen who have done this, can it?

Entitlement (entitled? based on?) payments out of hand? Well, you can’t blame Congress. After all, it’s really the immoral behavior of the citizenry which has resulted in the inordinately high number of illegitimate children, sexually transmitted diseases, drug addiction and crime to support (legal and illegal) drug habits.

And hey, if some guy has had six doubles, a couple vodka cocktails and is drinking a cold one on the way home when he smashes into the back of your car, well, it really isn’t his fault, is it? Society has driven him to this deplorable state. “Who, me?” See, there you go again, trying to weasel out of it. Aren’t you ashamed? It’s society’s fault! There, that solves the whole issue of whether not the individual should take responsibility for his/her actions.

Let us not insist on excellence, quality, hard work, sacrifice, self-denial, thrift, personal initiative and responsibility, or any of the other virtues that are the foundations of our past and vital to the continuing greatness of America. After all, since no one is responsible, shouldn’t everyone shoulder the burden of bad decisions?

Let’s not blame the robbers, murderers, thieves, drug addicts, rapists or other culturally challenged individuals. After all, it is not really their fault. You probably know the story of the judge who suggested that a pedophile buy his six-year-old victim a new bicycle, and then released a man who raped a 10-year-old girl who was “acting provocatively.” That is a true story! Let’s put the blame where it belongs: on society – otherwise known as law-abiding, hard-working you.

There is a principle that exists in business, society and the family: “What gets rewarded gets done.” Let me say that again, it’s important. “What gets rewarded gets done.” We have actually created rewards for anti-social behavior. Think about this word again: entitlement. Reward a behavior, and get more of the same.

Drug addicts and alcoholics have now been granted disability status to qualify for disability checks. People who didn’t honestly qualify for government assistance were actually taught how to get their entitlements by lying. Others are convinced, like the woman with no husband and 15 kids (by at least three baby daddies), that “someone needs to pay for this.” Guess who?

I remember one former candidate for president of the United States declaring that for many young blacks, prisons were preferable to living at home. After having visited some of the prisons where the grounds look like college campuses, with the best gyms, superb cafeterias (with nutritionally balanced meals prepared by registered dietitians), color televisions, college courses, superior libraries (where they learn to file endless appeals), I’m inclined to concur with the gentleman. In fact, if the truth be known, it is cheaper to send someone to Harvard than to keep them in one of those prisons. Obviously, I am not advocating a return to whips and chains and time in public stocks, but I do wonder if perhaps we all should at some point be held at least partially responsible for our decisions. You think?

Perhaps we might be able to convince government bureaucrats and professional social engineers to consider that maybe, just maybe, individuals should be treated as though they have a modicum of intelligence and are, therefore, capable of making decisions for which they should reap the benefits and/or consequences of their actions.

But no, I guess not. That would mean society wouldn’t know who to blame, would it? After all, we have to blame somebody!

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