May 27, 2005

Cornucopia / Cynthia Dewes

What happened to being responsible for our actions?

One of our sons sent me a funny Mother’s Day card that showed a bunch of kids looking up at something and yelling, “Wow! Look at him go!” Inside, it continued, “Well-trained by their mother, they were perfectly content just to watch their friends jump off a bridge and felt no compulsion to join them.”

Now, why do you suppose my son gave me that card? You’re right. He and his siblings had heard that same speech many times about not doing what everyone else does just because everyone else is doing it. I guess he must’ve listened.

This card reminded me that those were the days when we expected to take the consequences for our actions, whether good or bad. If my son foolishly jumped off a bridge despite all my warnings, he’d be the one to blame. It would never occur to us to think we’d failed as parents or to sue the bridge manufacturer for negligence. Or, for that matter, blame God for letting someone invent a bridge high enough to jump from.

No sooner had I digested this thought when I read an article in the newspaper about a person who sued an amusement park because his child fell off one of the rides. There was no mention of the kid wearing a seat belt or sitting down or using any other safety precaution that might have prevented the fall. No, the assumption was that the ride was faulty, despite a long history without accident, because someone other than the child had to be blamed.

These days, it seems that blame has become a state-of-the-art tool in relationships of all kinds. We love to blame the deep-pocketed, faceless corporation over the pathetic individual or the divorced husband still living the good life while his ex-wife and their children struggle in near-poverty.

We regularly blame weather reporters on TV for unexpected storms, unrelenting heat waves or the lack of rain when we need it. Somehow, their minor prediction inaccuracies seem major. We even like to blame Father occasionally when something’s wrong in the parish, although the shortage of priests could soon put a stop to that.

Democrats blame Republicans, and Republicans blame Democrats—for almost everything. Senate committees love to dissect bureaucratic appointees, while oversight committees are busy dissecting lawmakers. Whoever is president is fair game to be insulted, criticized and second-guessed.

When our country makes a treaty or goes to war or cooperates with this country or that, it’s always a mistake in someone’s opinion. It seems that there’s never enough blame to go around for all the wrongs we discover in life. But, who is actually responsible for all these things? Surely it can’t always be the other guy.

Memorial Day is a good time to remember that this country was founded on ideals of human aspiration, based on moral attitudes about public and private ­conduct.

Somehow we’ve become lazy in following the imperatives those ideals demand. We need to remember what it means to have God-given free will.

We are the ones responsible—for our own behavior and for taking responsibility for our country’s, our Church’s and our family’s welfare.

God bless America and her ideals that we try to uphold.

(Cynthia Dewes, a member of St. Paul the Apostle Parish in Greencastle, is a regular columnist for The Criterion.)

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