Marines.Together We Served

Monday, August 06, 2007

The Mantle of Responsibility

It seems to be something of an epidemic. Has our society chosen to ignore all sense of responsibility?

I was reading through the list of news headlines the other day, and noticed two things that clearly stood out. First, the news stories looked just like any other day’s headlines. Second, the level of irresponsible behavior seems normative today. Allow me to give you some examples: 1) GI Guilty of Rape and Murder of Iraqi Girl, Family, 2) Man Guilty of Going to Moldova to Have Sex with Boys, 3) NYC Councilman Charged with Raping Woman in Office, 4) ‘Radioactive Boy Scout’ Charged in Smoke Detector Test, 5) Telemundo Newscaster Suspended for 2 Months Over Affair with Los Angeles Mayor, 6) Dogs Belonging to 'Pulp Fiction' Actor Ving Rhames Maul to Death a 40-year-old Caretaker, 7) House Devolves Into Verbal Fracas, 8) Pakistan Criticizes Obama on Comments. There’s Michael Vick and the dogfights that have been held at his home in Georgia; the Tour de France cycling event that is drawing more attention today for drug abuse than for sportsmanship and athleticism. Or Barry Bonds attempting to break Hank Aaron’s home run record – only Hammerin’ Hank didn’t use steroids. Or Tim Donaghy, a National Basketball Association (NBA) official who has admitted to betting on games where he officiated. Supposedly the money he made calling fouls that weren’t came from the Mob. I wouldn’t want to be in his shoes. Even golf has recently been implicated in the drugs/steroids scandal that is running rampant through all of sports. Golf? Say it ain’t so! Where’s Bobby Jones when you need him? Anyway, you get the idea.

Is it me, or does it seem that the Hollywood types and the glamoratti behave excessively badly? I realize that they are watched in ways that “Joe Citizen” could never appreciate, but that goes with the role. When you are in the spotlight, you’d better understand that you need to “Mind your Ps and Qs,” as my grandmother used to tell me. Whether it’s Mel Gibson being pulled over for drunk driving and then spewing out vile anti-Semitic hate-speech; or Paris Hilton tearfully going to jail after repeatedly driving under the influence; or Senator David Vitter using Capitol “escort services”; it boils down to taking a close look at yourself and asking some hard questions. Is my behavior appropriate for my position? Is this behavior I would accept from my subordinates? How would I react if my children acted the same way I do? If there is a God, and he has standards, should I not expect to meet with his disapproval?

The high-profile personalities we see daily come under such close scrutiny that they can’t even breathe without a camera or a microphone in their face. Most of us wouldn’t want that sort of intrusive attention. I wonder to myself sometimes just how I’d handle a situation like that. I like to imagine I’d handle it with grace and dignity even if being rudely accosted by some news reporter who’s looking for some sensationalistic angle for the next day’s edition.

Most folks have a pretty good sense of what responsibility means. But just so we have a level playing field, here’s Miriam Webster’s definition: moral, legal, or mental accountability; reliability, trustworthiness. Microsoft founder and guru, Bill Gates, discovered a new level of responsibility once he burst out of his garage and onto Wall Street. “There is a certain responsibility that accrued to me when I got to this unexpected position.” I’d love to know what changed for him. Not only is he the wealthiest man in the world (or second wealthiest), but he discovered that besides having more money than is even imaginable, and a place of power and influence unheard of, he still must be responsible in all aspects of his life.

I find this quote from Pope John Paul II, now deceased, to be rather telling, both for us as a nation and as individuals: “Radical changes in world politics leave America with a heightened responsibility to be, for the world, an example of a genuinely free, democratic, just and humane society.”

Are we a genuinely free, democratic, just and humane society? Or do the headlines tell a more sordid and revealing tale?

America’s greatness resides in the moral character of her people. Let us determine today to be the right kind of people.

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