Who is responsible?

Bill O’Reilly commented this week on a recent murder-suicide. His comments brought to mind what a Navy officer did to me and others years ago.

O’Reilly referred to the crime committed by an NFL player. People everywhere blamed the NFL’s culture of violence. They blamed drugs, guns in our communities, head trauma from the game, etc. O’Reilly called that a lot of bull. Blame the guy who did it, he told us. Hold him responsible. Stop blaming others.

He went on to talk about how too many people take no responsibility for their actions. They blame others. They expect others to solve their problems. He has a point.

Think how many millions of us bring kids into the world without a father around. Knowing that kids in single parent families are far more likely to live in poverty. Knowing they are far more likely to get into drugs and crime. Is this responsible behavior?

Who is responsible for feeding your children? Who is responsible for feeding you? Who is responsible for your housing, your heat? Think how many millions of Americans answer that question with “Not me. Government is responsible.”

Who is responsible for making sure your kids learn the basics of reading, writing and ‘rithmetic? Who is responsible for pushing them to focus on their studies? How many millions of parents answer that question with “Not me. That’s the schools’ responsibility.”

When we are out of work, whose responsibility is it to find more work? Who is responsible for taking advantage of training programs to learn new skills? Who is responsible for taking on other kind of work? And for learning to do new things? How many millions of folks answer that it is not their responsibility. Instead, it is government’s responsibility to send them checks.

We have had millions of folks who took the unemployment checks until they stopped. Then they became “disabled” and applied for checks from Social Security. They figure it is government’s responsibility to support them. One way or another.

Who was responsible for buying houses they could not afford? Who was responsible for reading and signing mortgages they could not hope to pay off? Who was responsible for expecting house prices to go up 20 percent per year? In other words, who was responsible for the housing mess we suffered?

“Not us,” said millions. “Not them,” said their supporters. They blamed the evil banks. Those evil banks forced them to feel greedy. Those banks forced them to buy houses and take on stupid loans. The banks were responsible.

It would be refreshing to hear our president suggest to folks that they ought to take on more responsibility. They ought to pull up their socks. They ought to expect less from government. It would be refreshing to hear more minority leaders do the same. Instead we hear endless excuses. We hear the woes of the poor blamed on the rich, for instance.

And that Navy officer? After screw-ups he would ask his men the reason for them. Well, sir, it was this. It was that. “That’s an excuse,” he would snap. “What is the reason? The reason?”

Well, sir, those guys did this. Or this equipment failed. Or we ran out of time. “Those are excuses. I want to know the reasons.”

Eventually we would get to the reasons: We used poor judgment. We acted stupidly. We did not anticipate. We did not plan. We did not allow enough time.

He taught us to take responsibility for our actions. And if we did not, he would assign that responsibility to us.

I wish we had a few million more of the likes of him in our society.

From Tom ... as in Morgan.

For more columns and for Tom’s radio shows and new TV shows (and to write to Tom): tomasinmorgan.com.

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