Mowing Down Personal Responsibility
“If you want children to keep their feet on the ground, put some responsibility on their shoulders.” – Abigail Van Buren (Dear Abby)
I thought of this quote when I read a letter to the editor of this paper written a few editions ago. The writer took me to task for an earlier column in which I expressed incredulity and eventually anger over a CVHS student who purposefully walked in front of my moving car on Ramsdell Avenue.
Briefly, the primary point of my column was not that the kid was simply careless or had absentmindedly wandered into traffic as he was distracted by friends or texting or simply a glitch in his teenage programming. Nope, his condescending smirk and absolute refusal to acknowledge that my truck was within inches of his awesome self (how do you ignore a horn?) telegraphed that he knew exactly what he was doing and could not have cared less.
In her letter to the editor, the woman was loath to judge the young man as being anything but “goofy and lovable” but quick to suggest that I was surely driving above the speed limit (I wasn’t). She also recommended that I attend anger management classes. To that I can only say – the fact that I was able to restrain myself from circling the block, hunting down the loveable chucklehead to pummel some sense into his bad self speaks to my obviously impressive ability to control my anger, thank you very much.
Speaking of impressive, I’m fascinated that the letter writer had the skill to discern what really happened without being a passenger in my car. After reading the letter to the editor, my immediate response was, well, now I know whose kid was hell-bent on becoming a human hood ornament.
But then I began to wonder how it is that so many folks today are reluctant to judge the actions of people (especially teenagers and young adults) or make excuses for their behavior. Instead, they point the finger of blame at other people, situations, supposed inequalities, injustice, economic conditions, and on and on and on. It seems to be a national epidemic.
Take, for example, the recent syndicated column by veteran reporter John Stossel. In the column, “Longing to Be A Victim” Stossel recounts that Vice President Joe Biden’s niece was arrested last month for throwing a punch at a cop. Although major media reports had detailed the woman’s well-known addiction to alcohol and pills, even this wasn’t given as the reason for her attempt to deck the cop. Nope. Rather than take responsibility (or even acknowledge that her substance abuse played a part in the incident), the niece excused her actions saying she is a victim of the “pressure she faces” because her uncle is vice president. Poor baby. I’ll be she’s really just a goofy and loveable gal.
Another quote I like is from Anne Frank, who said, “Parents can only give good advice or put them on the right paths, but the final forming of a person’s character lies in their own hands.”
What worries me is that too many parents (and adults in general) refuse to take responsibility for correcting and guiding upcoming generations. When excuses are automatically made for our kids’ behaviors, or if responsibility is deflected to others, how will they learn responsibility?
Even the new federal mandate that “kids” can stay on their parents’ health insurance policies (those who still have a policy, that is) until age 26 is part of a troubling trend. News flash: if you’re 26, or 21 or even 18, you’re not a kid. Sorry.
I certainly don’t want to turn one encounter with a jerky kid into an indictment on society. But seriously, if we can’t even agree to call the act of purposely walking in front of a car a dangerously stupid thing to do, we’ve got big trouble.
I’ll see you ’round town.