Tag Archives: US

It’s My Fault

[Note: this was written to a United States audience on 4 October 2008, in the midst of the US election furor, and before we had a good grasp on where the economy was going.  I believe it is more broadly applicable, however, so am posting this previously unpublished piece here.]

Who’s to blame for the circumstance we find our country in?

I am.

And you are.

And, in fact, everyone in this country who has failed to do what they might to make it better.

Everyone who has purchased something they can’t afford has contributed to the overwhelming debt load.  Everyone who has bought a house that was beyond their means is responsible for the mortgage crisis.  Everyone who has failed to make their voice heard is responsible for the choices of their elected representative officials.

Everyone who has not provided help to the needy is responsible for the failure of the welfare system.  Everyone who has not reached out to the homeless shelters is responsible for the homeless.  Everyone who has not lended strength to those who find themselves in weakness is responsible for the weaknesses in our country.

We are responsible, you and I, for what happens in this country.  It is convenient to point to a handful of men and women sitting in legislative chamber and say that they are at fault for our laws.  But if we haven’t lobbied for good ones, voted for representatives whose views we support, rather than just who seem likely to get the elective support of our favorite party, told them what we expected of them, praised their good choices and protested the bad ones, it is we who have chosen poorly.

It is convenient to point at the president and say, “HE did it!”.  But he is a single man in a democracy, founded on the principle that no King George can ever do anything to us that we don’t have a voice in.  United we are strong–stronger than anything the world has ever known.  Divided against ourselves, our neighbors, and yes, even our leaders, we are weak.  We have the power to make our nation weaker than any the world has ever known, simply because the Constitution has given us that power.

If we choose to work against each other we will lack even the strength that a tyrant or an oligarchy wields to act in a single direction.  We have the power to be great, but we chose at the founding of this country to grant ourselves the power of our own undoing.  If we look for our own arrogant ideas of how we would like things to be, discarding the lessons of the past, the legacy of our forefathers, the wisdom of our peers, we will truly deserve the poverty and desolation we will find ourselves in.

We can build this nation, together.  We can support each other.  We can be responsible for our own decisions, rather than expecting to force others to take care of us.  We can act rather than expecting others to act on our own behalf.  We can build up rather than tear down.  We can praise what is good, provide strong alternatives to what is bad, and pitch in to do our part, rather than complaining about others’ efforts, whining about what we cannot change, and seeking to direct the labors of others.

We must be responsible for our own share of the debt.  If our households are not built on solid fiscal responsibility, how can we expect the government to be?  If we do not lift our neighbors and give to those in need, how can we expect the government to catch those that fall?  If we do not expend our time and effort in the service of our fellow man, how can we ask the government to roll out new services and keep the ones which are already in place?

Before you criticize that teacher, be sure that you are the teaching example that you ought to be.

Before you criticize anyone, be sure of your own place.  If your affairs are in order, you will have no need to whine or complain, because your character will be self-evident and your actions in the home, community, and nation, will speak for themselves.  The little things have the greatest effect, and you don’t know how far your simple actions will reach.

Once you are where you should be, if you truly know how something can be made better, do something about it.  Don’t complain about the schools, volunteer to help in the schools.  Don’t complain about the political system, get involved.  Don’t complain about the companies, found your own company or help build the one you work for into an example of how it ought to be.  If your ability to do these things is not adequate to the task, then your judgment is suspect as well.  Work to gain the insight, experience, and understanding of what needs to be done, and then get to work changing it.

It matters not how well you succeed in each of these.  The effort is worth the doing.  The example will inspire in places you may never witness.  But the combined effect of even a few individuals dedicated to these concepts will be greater than the sum alone.

So don’t tell me about the president.  Don’t tell me about the lawyers or the CEOs.  Don’t tell me about the school system, the disillusionment with the American Dream.  Tell me what you are doing about it.  Tell me what people are doing right and how we can help them to keep doing it.

And then don’t tell me, just do it.

230 years ago this was a land torn by war, conflicting loyalties, uncertainty, and death.  A great nation was forged from those trials, and a great people emerged.  But it didn’t happen with the signing of the declaration.  It didn’t happen with the surrender of Cornwallis.  It didn’t happen, even with the production of the Consititution and its attendant Bill of Rights.  It happened as a people came together in unity and strength.  And it didn’t happen all at once, or in one place.  It happened bit by bit, state by state, town by town, household by household, individual by individual.

I don’t want to hear that things are going to pieces and there’s nothing you or I can do about it.

I don’t believe it.

This is the time to choose.  Which side are you on?  Are you on the side of building up, or tearing down?  Will we see the rebirth of the greatest nation that has ever stood, or the calamitous collapse of pride which will replace the Roman Empire as a standard for civilization lost?

It’s up to you.

And me.

It’s my choice.

I am responsible.

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