Whatever happened to personal responsibility?
A few days ago, a co-worker happened to mention an accident involving Plaxico Burress. Intrigued, I asked what she meant. I was then treated to a little speech about the “accident” where Burress managed to shoot himself in the leg at a nightclub in New York City.
The word “accident” implies that the person involved had no means of preventing the incident. This word gets used a lot, generally to imply that someone who suffered some sort of misadventure was not really at fault. “It was an accident.”
Let us look at the circumstances of this particular “accident”. I am sure that Burress did not intend to shoot himself in the leg, but the resulting injury and criminal charges are entirely his fault. He made the decision to purchase a firearm in Florida. He then chose to take the firearm from Florida to New York City, which is a violation of NYC statutes (even if Burress didn’t know that, ignorance of the law is not a valid defense). He deliberately stuffed a locked-and-loaded pistol into the waistband of his sweatpants (carrying a concealed firearm without a permit is illegal almost everywhere) and took it to a nightclub (which is illegal in many states- including New York). He chose to consume alcohol at this club, when any moron of average intelligence could tell you it is a bad idea to mix booze and guns.
Because Plaxico Burress made a series of bad decisions (carrying an unlicensed concealed weapon in NYC, carrying the loaded weapon stuffed in the waistband of his sweatpants, drinking and dancing with a locked-and-loaded weapon in the waistband of his sweatpants), his stupidity caught up with him and punched a hole through his leg. He was stupid, and is paying the price for stupidity. No accident involved.
I have a concealed weapons permit. I sometimes carry my weapon when I go out in town. I never touch alcohol when I’m wearing, using, or working on any weapon, because that would be stupid. I always carry my weapon securely strapped into a holster. I don’t carry my weapon anywhere it would be illegal to do so. I don’t carry my weapon unless I have a reasonable suspicion that I might need it. I never carry a weapon when it would be more likely to get me into trouble than it would be likely to get me out of trouble. I always treat my weapon with respect and care, and I always remember the responsibility inherent in the right to keep and bear arms.
Maybe the difference is a matter of money. Plaxico Burress is a wealthy man. He has had a remarkable, marketable talent, which earned him a great deal of wealth and fame. He earned that wealth because he was good at what he did, and people were willing to pay him to do it. More power to him. But he seems to have developed the idea that his wealth and fame made him immune to the effects of reality. The cultural medium in which we live does promote the idea that money trumps everything.
Plaxico Burress is (hopefully) just now realizing that the Law of Averages trumps money. I hope he learns something from it. I hope other people learn from his mistake. Check out this series of Tank McNamara comics.
Of course, Plaxico Burress is not the only wealthy person to assume money and fame would shield them from the consequences of their actions. This story from the Houston Chronicle shows that attractive white girls have the same wrong idea.
And we’re back to my original questions: What happened to personal responsibility? Taking responsibility for your actions lets you learn from your mistakes. Unfortunately, everything we see in print, on TV, or online tells us that nothing is our fault. Everything that happens to us is entirely beyond our control, and is usually fodder for expensive litigation. In the 80’s, for example, a few people managed to hit the wrong pedal in their cars and accelerated instead of braking. This led to a whole series of lawsuits against various car makers (especially Audi), because the drivers of those vehicles refused to admit responsibility for their actions.
What the Hell is wrong with these people? Everything that happens to you is the direct result of some decision you have made. Every choice you have made has led you to where you are right now. Choice. If you want to know whose fault it is that you’re not a multimillionaire, look in the mirror. Some circumstances can be beyond your control, but how you react to those circumstances is your responsibility. You made the decisions. Choosing not to make a decision is also a decision, so you can’t escape your responsibility that way.
I made a stupid mistake five years ago. As a result of this mistake, I am in pain every day of my life. I used to run three miles a day. Now, I can barely walk. This was my fault. I stopped paying attention for a few minutes and screwed up the rest of my life. Worse still, I wasn’t the only one affected. My command had to find an emergency replacement for me. My wife has had to make some serious changes to our lifestyle and finances. The big difference between me and those people who blame everyone but themselves is that I accepted responsibility for my “accident”, and did what I could with my remaining assets.
I refuse to believe that I’m special for doing this. Anyone can do it- all it takes is accepting personal responsibility. Pity that so few Americans seem to be willing to do anything of the sort. Especially those with money, fame, or power.
Current status: Irked
Current music: Coffee Song by Frank Sinatra