Responsibility and accountability -- a lost art


The following essay was produced as part of my 2013 effort for the November National Novel Writing Month effort. As such, please understand that while I did give it a quick review, it has not gone through the same proofreading and editing I normally try to give all of the material posted on this site.

I always make some mistakes. There are errors to be found throughout this web site, and many exist despite dozens of attempts to correct problems. That said, ask that you approach this material in the spirit intended – a basic thought, slightly worked out and very informally researched, delivered in the hopes of writing more than 50,000 words by the end of November.

Thank you.

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After some thought… A LOT of thought… I have basically come to the conclusion that virtually all of the troubles around us can be summed up by two words.



A good portion of examples come from recent politics. I mean, honestly, I don’t believe any of these people actually are sincere when they claim to be accepting responsibility for the messes that are playing out in front of us.

At an early age, don’t our parents and family and friends more or less get across the concept that often times it isn’t enough to say you’re sorry… you actually have to have some depth of feeling behind it.

Ok… story number one… check out this passage…

I like to think of myself as a smart man. Unfortunately, most of my friends are significantly more likely to first say I’m a smart ass. Regardless, I’ve been quietly sitting on the sideline, trying to take in everything swirling around with this health care debate, and the time has come for me to say something. So here it is…

Enough already.

Stop it.

Because this has turned into a game of push and shove. Who can yell the loudest… who can defend positions they don’t seem to understand, but don’t want to look like a fool by changing their mind (and looking exactly like a fool when they do)… and all sorts of other assorted hilarities and oddities. We’ve got members of Congress yelling at the public… we’ve got the public yelling at members of Congress.

And nothing is getting done.

Welcome to the new Washington. (Same as the old Washington.)

I wrote those words, four years ago, in an essay titled “Put health care reform on hold… because Obama’s new Washington can’t be trusted to do it right” here on this web site. And in that article, I questioned whether Obama’s administration was really the right group to attack this health care debate.

In my essay, I pointed out things like the underfunded initial stimulus package, and the repercussions felt by many from the cash-for-clunkers effort. And, basically, I came to the conclusion that this group: (1) loved acting quickly for the sake of acting and not for the sake of truly finding solutions, (2) seemed completely shocked that, in fact, every action does have an equal and opposite reaction, and (3) when called upon for a response, tend to blame the other guy.

Of course, this is Washington, and EVERYONE thinks the other guy is to blame. (While failing to recognize the capitol version of a classic old joke: if one out of three out of three politicians are idiots, and you look to your left and then to your right and see idiots, the math actually still concludes that you too are an idiot.)

And now… story number two…

More than a decade ago, Tom Gamboa stood on a baseball field. He was a coach for the Kansas City Royals, and they were in Chicago playing the White Sox. Gamboa was coaching at first base.

Two fans came out of the stands, raced to Gamboa, and attacked him.

After the event, those “fans” made claims that Gamboa deserved to be attacked, as he had been provoking them. I saw articles outlining how drugs, and alcohol, and circumstances at home were involved in outlining a troubled-life defense that directed the responsibility for the attack at anyone and everyone except the two people that ran onto the field and assaulted a man.

Since that time… and I bet you couldn’t have predicted this… the father and son tandem have continued to create a stunning history that includes troubles with authority, parole violations, positive tests for drugs, returns to jail, and… ok… the son has had articles written that outline how he’s still proud of the his role in the event.

Obviously politics and people like those that attacked Tom Gamboa are not the norm, and represent far and distant examples. Still, I think the general concept works here.

We live in a society where people do not want to accept any responsibility for the events and surroundings of their life, and do not want to take any accountability for their actions.

And why should they?

Take a look at television. If you watch it for an hour, I guarantee you that… without changing the channel, and by watching the commercials… you’ll see that: (1) There is something wrong with you. And, there is a drug for it. (2) It isn’t your fault. Whatever “it” may be. And, there’s a lawsuit for it.

Does anyone else watch this stuff with a questioning eye?

There are commercials that crop up every so often saying that if you owe money in unpaid taxes, so-and-so can help you settle for significantly less than you actually owe.

Let’s think about that again.

You owed taxes. You didn’t pay them. The government figured it out and found you. And now someone is saying they can get you out of the bill.

You’ve seen these… yes? Ok…

First up -- Did you owe the taxes? Did you not pay them? Are we talking about a legitimate tax bill? Because these commercials make it look like the big, bad government is on a quest to punish evil-doers. However, if you didn’t pay a true bill, that seems to say you bear some of the responsibility for this situation.

Put another way… if you’re driving 85 on a stretch of road where the speed limit is 45, and there is no surprise involved because you know the speed limit is 45 and that you are way, way, way over it, then you really don’t have much of a case complaining about the police officer that pulled you over and gave you a ticket with a court date involved.

Second up -- Hold on. I can decide not to pay my taxes, and when the IRS finally catches up with me, throw my hands in the air and offer them forty-cents-on-the-dollar for what I owe to settle up? Good lord, why would anyone pay their taxes?

No wonder society has such a harsh view of whistle-blowers and authority figures. It’s not the person that actually does something wrong that we hold in a dark and unfavorable view, but often the one that points out that they did it.

Ok… maybe I crossed a line there. I wrote an article that pointed out “The tradition of Officer Obie is alive and well…” where I discussed my getting a speeding ticket.

The trick is… there are three sides to every story. Yours, theirs, and the truth. The truth is in the middle. Seldom is anyone 100% accurate in their interpretation of a story. If we’re being realistic and honest, the world is full of gray areas.

What I’m finding so disappointing is the number of people that want to operate under the delusion that they are the audience of their own life. That for every situation that goes wrong, the fault belongs someplace else.

Growing up, the expression used to go something like this -- when you point a finger at someone else, remember there are three pointed back at you.

I like that concept. Not because I want to bring about some ratio that says everyone is 75% to blame for their own situation. Not because I think that there are never scenarios where others may not be involved.

Instead, just because I like the idea of a deep breath, making certain that one’s own affairs are in order, and at least considering things before lashing out at others.

A few moments ago I overheard someone say “common sense is dead”… and perhaps that might be the greatest summary of this essay.

We have the ability to make decisions and take actions. And that freedom carries with it the basic law of physics I expressed earlier -- action, reaction. And to that end comes a responsibility for our actions, and an accountability for our actions.

Simple enough.

But then again, common sense is dead.

If you have any comments or questions, please e-mail me at