Soon after I turned forty, I looked back on my life and decided that there was some things I did very well and some things I didn’t. I was professionally successful. I had wonderful friends and family. I was a multiple pet owner who loved and indulged her animals in every way possible. And I was the worse practitioner in the world of the art of dating and relationships.
I realized, as I reviewed the detritus that passed for my romantic life, that I had a problem. Put one thousand wonderful men in a room with one scumbag and I would gravitate towards that scumbag like metal to a magnet. Try as I might to weed them out, I apparently did not find a man attractive unless he had one foot on the line and one foot dangling over the precipice.
So, I made a decision. If relationships were what I did worse, then maybe I needed to take some responsibility for my choices and not have anymore bad relationships. If I didn’t find myself attracted to someone who wasn’t going to need bail money frequently through the year, then I would simply consider that part of my life on indefinite hold while I concentrated on those things I did better.
Twenty years later I can say that was the best decision I ever made. I have a great life with great friends, great pets, and great passions. I am not held back or held down by a negative relationship that takes all my energy and money to keep up. I made a wise decision and even if it wasn’t always easy to stick to it, I did.
Why do I tell you this now? Because I think it is time that personal responsibility become fashionable again. Why do I think it’s fallen out of fashion? Because from my perspective, we have become a nation of victims who take no real responsibility for anything we do. The current fracas in Washington over ex-congressman Foley is a perfect example.
When Foley was outed as both gay and a pedophile, he promptly decided he had a drinking problem and signed himself into a treatment facility. The message? It wasn’t him. It was the alcohol. When the heat was raised on Dennis Hastert based on statements from congressional staff that his office had been warned a long time ago about Foley’s problem, he promptly threw his staff to the lions saying that he knew nothing about it and if he found out some members of his staff did, they would lose their jobs. Am I the only one who senses that some poor staffer is about to take the fall for him?
Finally, in the most egregious of examples to come out of this fiasco, Connecticut Representative Christopher Shays defended Hastert by saying that at least no one died like they did in 1969 at Chappaquiddick.
There is no arguing the fact that Ted Kennedy is the poster child for irresponsible behavior. You don’t get much scummier than his actions that day and in the days to follow. But do we really want him defining the lowest common Congressional denominator so that anyone who doesn’t sink quite that far is considered ok?
Remember when you were a kid and you tried to argue with your mother that your misdeed wasn’t half as bad as what Billy down the street did so you shouldn’t get such a harsh punishment? You know the line. “But mom, Billy did something really bad and his mom didn’t take his privileges away for a month. You’re not being fair!”
Your mom didn’t buy that argument back then and we shouldn’t buy that argument now. Hastert, Foley and Kennedy need to stand up and take personal responsibility for the actions they took based on the decisions they made. Foley knew what he was doing was wrong. He should not have done it. If it was a compulsion, then he should have sought help. Hastert should have taken action much sooner. He is the head of his party in Congress. If he takes the glory that goes with that title, then he must also take the responsibility. This buck ultimately stops with him. And Kennedy should have never left Mary Jo to die in that car in that river.
They were responsible for the decisions they made at every turn. They need to stand up, acknowledge this, take their punishment like the adults we expect them to be and let us get back to the real issues affecting this country.
Personal responsibility…an idea whose time has come.