Why are these three words so hard to say? Why does everyone from a three year old child to the President of the United States avoid these three words like Bird Flu? When did being responsible for our own actions go out of style?
The Houghton Mifflin dictionary defines responsible this way:
"Liable to be required to give account, as of one's actions or of the discharge of a duty or trust." Another definition is: Involving personal accountability or ability to act without guidance or superior authority: a responsible position within the firm."
Some synonyms include: Answerable, accountable, liable, trustworthy, dependable, reliable, sound. But sadly what we see is a condition that is all to familiar to human kind - passing the buck.
Adam did it; Eve did it. Abraham did it. We all do it, but that doesn't meant it's right. One who did not do it was Jesus. He was perfectly accountable and trustworthy in everything He did. He did not make excuses, He did not try to deflect criticism but answered His critics with wisdom that confounded them.
So why is it so hard to own up to our screwups? NBC had video this week of the Presidential briefing before Hurricane Katrina struck last August. Some say the President was engaged, others say he was clueless, but everybody is looking for somebody else to blame. The President couches it in euphemistic language - mistakes were made. Great! Why can't he just say "I was wrong; I should have acted sooner,"? New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin, the Governor of Louisiana, Homeland Security head Michael Chertoff, former FEMA head Michael Brown - they are all looking to pass the buck.
But it doesn't really matter to those who are out of a home. Everything they had - all their possessions, all their memories and is some cases members of their family - is gone. They looked to the government for help and what they got was excuses. Katrina took no mercy on anyone - it was an equal opportunity destroyer. But the fact that most of those left in the Superdome and the Convention Center were poor, black, and disenfranchised should give us pause.
Former President Clinton and the first President Bush have been raising money to help people in the storm zone. There are people living in tents - tents, not trailers - in Mississippi. This is an AP Photo of some of what people had left. Now they live in tents. Think of Hawkeye and B.J.'s tent on the old tv series M*A*S*H. You know, no heat, no running water, no toilet, no security. And the aid that the government promised seems to be slow in coming. Even this week, the Washington Post carried a story about Bishop T. D. Jakes and several other ministers wondering where $20 million in promised funds from the Clinton-Bush efforts was. Churches are places that people turn in times of crisis, but many churches were also devastated by the storm.
So when is someone going to step up and say "Hey, we screwed up! We were wrong and now we want to fix that." That would show something else - character, one definition of which is "moral or ethical strength."