Friday, March 12, 2010

An American Contemplation

Kevin McCullough wrote a column for Townhall magazine, entitled Why the Left Despises Personal Responsibility, in which he asks Americans to contemplate: “As an individual citizen, is it more American to believe that you have a personal responsibility to be personally accountable for your actions, and those of your family? Or is it more American to believe that you should wait for the giant collective to take care of you?”

I believe that I am responsible for my actions; however, other than my underage children, I am not legally responsible for the actions of my family, or for the actions of others.

But, more to the point, I have always believed that one must take care of themselves and their families first before they should help anyone else. Beyond that, we do have a responsibility to others, especially if they are disadvantaged and less fortunate then ourselves: those lacking the where-with-all to make it in America, homelessness and those living with hunger (starvation), the indigent, or those encumbered with infirmities.

That responsibility takes different forms. Some Americans have the where-with-all to give independently direct financial and personal assistance, while others may give assistance or participate in other ways. There are many organizations that do outstanding work for humanitarian causes. But, beyond that, there is a role the government must play when those efforts are insufficient: Katrina is an example

Would any American be willing to accept as it was in British-administered Bengal, India, in 1943, where people, once they left their homes for work or play, would need to navigate through the dead and dying; where the unaffected middle-class, government and professional men and women lives continued normally, and who were completely complacent with a catastrophe that affected their fellow countrymen/women. Could any American responsibly say at that point, because of homelessness, hunger, lack of adequate medical care, or for any other reason, it's their problem.

When Mr. McCullough and others use words like “collective”, they reveal a misunderstanding of collectivism: “the principles or system of ownership and control of the means of production and distribution by the people collectively, usually under the supervision of a government.” Nothing that has been done or contemplated comes close to that definition.

Those of us who believe we have a necessary interdependence and interconnection with each other are not collectivist or socialist. We do not “despise personal responsibility.” We are not egalitarians who wish to divvy up everything and share it with everybody. There are those who will make sure that the welfare of a parent, brother or sister, relative or friend is maintained when they cannot do it for themselves, and there are those who will not. Actions taken as neighbors helping neighbors or providing help for others is American, but so is it American to have the freedom to do nothing, except when it comes time to pay their taxes.

Today in America, due to the crisis in our economy, emergency food centers face constant threats to their ability to continue operating. A study, Hunger in America 2010, found that 37 million people received food aid in 2009. That's a 46 percent jump from a similar survey carried out in 2006.

Today in America, according to estimates by the National Law Center on Homelessness and Poverty, about three and a half million people are homeless.

It is morally reprehensible that we live in the wealthiest nation in the world where we allow men, women, and children to starve, where we accept homelessness, and accept a condition where its citizens do not have adequate, accessible, and affordable healthcare.