My, my, my. This has been an interesting week in the world of politics, hasn't it? Watching the GOP slowly slide into the pits of hell has been more fun than watching the race to the World Series, the opening weeks of football, and the emergence of Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip. There's nothing I love more than hypocrisy on a stick and when it comes to mucking it up, the Defenders of Moral Values in America, the sainted Grand Old Party, does it better than just about any other political group in this country.
Two words for this week's spectacular political implosion: Mark Foley.
In all the Foley Brouhaha this week, my favorite commentary came yesterday on WAMU during "All Things Considered." I don't remember the commentator's name, but here's the essence of a snippet.
"Mark Foley is blaming everyone and everything but himself. He's gay. He's an alcoholic. He was abused by a priest. The devil made him do it. The dog ate his homework. Anything to avoid taking personal responsibility."
And there's the whole point of this and so many other very public acts of indiscretion over the last 20 years or so: a lack of personal responsbility.
No one wants to be responsible or accountable. Everyone wants someone else to blame. And yet, why? Why have we become a nation of fingerpointers, blamers, excuse-makers? What happened in our history that started this wave of supposed personal blamelessness that is now a tsunami of irresponsibility and passing of the buck?
I know I'm engaging in broad generalizations here and I know I've got just as many things to be responsible and accountable for in my own life. It seems, though, that irresponsibility has arrived at a whole new low.
The very worst consequence of this lack of personal responsibility and accountability is, it is turning us into a nation of contemporary victims. And I include myself here as someone who is still looking for a job and is letting what happened to me six months ago hold me back, effectively making me a victim. But the difference between real victims (i.e. the disenfranchised and voiceless like small children who are trusting and end up in the clutches of the sick and insane and then are shot dead on the floors of school rooms, etc.) and the rest of us is, the rest of us choose to be victims. We chose to stay down. We chose to blame and make excuses.
Mark Foley is a classic example of chosing to be a contemporary victim. He is blaming everyone and everything but himself. The roiling and boiling in the media and amongst the public might simmer down if he stood up and said, "I am to blame. No one made me send those emails. No one forced me to drink. The dog did not eat my homework. I chose to send those emails, I chose to drink, I chose not to do my homework. I have no one to blame for my circumstances but myself. I chose."
Okay, I know, I know. You're saying, but wait, many of us have been victims of this, that, and the other. True. We have been. Bear with me, though. Like the word "hero," describing anyone and everyone who does anything remotely extraordinary and awe-inspiring, the word "victim" has become a catch-all basin for every little thing that happens to us. But an attitude of victimhood is something far different from being victimized. Sure, I've had my car stolen and been a "victim" of crime, yet I've moved beyond that. Yeah, I got laid off this spring in a less than professional and legitimate way, and I've chosen to dwell on it, fuss over it, rant about it, get depressed over it--a victim of an incompetent boss and a floundering organization. And I've been stuck because I've chosen to be a victim.
But there's the difference. At some point in our lives, we're all going to be victims of something. It could be as simple as being laid off or as horrific as having a family member murdered. And while we all need time to sort and process, we also have to decide whether we're going to pick up and move or sit. An attitude of victimization keeps us stuck. And blaming.
Let's stop blaming. And let's stop being stuck. It's time to stand up, dust ourselves off, wipe our tears and our noses, and get on with the act of living and behaving in ways that show we're willing to be held accountable and we're willing to be responsible.
I'll start. As of today, I'm no longer going to rant against Kate Krebs and the National Recycling Coalition. I'm going to change my destiny and get back on track with life. I'm going to get up and move. I'm not going to be stuck any longer. And I'm not going to blame anyone for my circumstances except me, because I have a choice and I'm choosing not to be stuck.