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nellie On November - 11 - 2009

800px-FEMA_-_13355_-_Photograph_by_Kevin_Galvin_taken_on_01-01-2004_in_MassachusettsOne of the frustrations I have with conservative talking points is that they contain a grain of truth. Arguing against “personal responsibility” can be like trying to argue against feeding your own children.

Thinking about the phrase and what it means, the interpretation that leaps to my mind is: “People should be responsible for their own actions.” It’s hard to take issue with that. If I do something, unless someone made me do it—which, in my fortunate case, hasn’t happened since I left my parents’ home—I’m responsible for that action. What am I going to do? Blame the post office because I forgot to mail my bills on time? This is my gut reaction when I hear the phrase “personal responsibility.” And that’s exactly what modern conservatives intend.

Because they need to use my gut reaction—my gut interpretation—to manipulate my buy-in when they argue their re-constructed meaning of the phrase: “People are responsible for what happens to them.”

It’s not a completely erroneous leap, logically speaking. People are responsible for their own actions. Therefore they are responsible for the consequences of those actions. Therefore, they are responsible for what happens to to them, and to other people, as a consequence of those actions. And so, by extension, whatever situation a person finds him or herself in, he or she has no one to blame but him or herself.

With that simple reasoning exercise, conservatives get millions upon millions of people to believe that poverty is a person’s own fault, Katrina victims are responsible for their own predicament, soldiers have no right to complain about the hardships of service, and we don’t need to help other people. Under any circumstances. In other words, “personal responsibility” becomes the moral argument against compassion.

Anyone with a functioning part of the brain that separates feeling human beings from sociopaths probably feels a little uncomfortable with that paradigm. So where did our brains go wrong? Our collective cerebral cortex is buzzing with neural transmissions telling us that something is amiss here.

Because while the conservative reasoning is accessible, it is offensive—particularly on two levels: (1) it is facile, if not specious, and (2) it depends on a humanity that operates without emotion.

The logic problem is easy to expose, although difficult to sum up with a two-word talking point. While I may be responsible for my actions—and even that is highly debatable in some instances, but for the sake of argument let it be a given—I’m not always responsible for their consequences, hence the concept of “unintended consequences.” If I have two job offers, and in good faith I choose the company that one year later goes out of business, am I responsible for being unemployed? Of course not.

The consequences of our actions depend on a myriad of other actions that we have no part in. It should be a no-brainer understanding this—that the things that happen to us, that help determine our situations in life, are in large part completely unrelated to things we have set in motion with our own actions. Yet even a powerhouse like Oprah Winfrey would have it otherwise.

It’s an empowering thought, that we have complete control over our destinies, and it’s one of the reasons the “personal responsibility” meme is so appealing. It not only gives us full credit for anything we’ve accomplished, it also releases us from any responsibility to empathize with those who fall on hard times. Releases us from the responsibility to do anything about it. Releases us from the responsibility to care and to sacrifice. It is a world view that is especially appealing to those who have much material fortune.

Those emotional implications make up the second and more onerous offense that results from the “personal responsibility” mantra. Most reasonable people know that random chaos has a meaningful role to play in our lives. And most reasonable people feel for others whose random chaos has landed them in difficult circumstances. We are our brothers’ keepers. Yet, we have allowed this simple two-word phrase to remake our policy agenda for far too long. We have, in effect, given our policy makers license to behave like sociopaths because of a talking point. We have voted into office over and over again the program slashers, the war profiteers, the health care obstructionists.

Martha Stout writes the following in her book The Sociopath Next Door: “Not to have a moral sense flags an even more profound condition, as does the possession of conscience, because conscience never exists without the ability to love, and sociopathy is ultimately based in lovelessness.” It is the genius of the modern conservative movement that they can take a fundamentally immoral idea and dress it up as a moral imperative. That they can turn such simplicity as the phrase “personal responsibility” into such destructive power. That they can convince otherwise decent people to think in very inhumane ways.

I would like to think our country is finding its humanity again and turning a deaf ear to this kind of clever manipulation of language. We elected a man who ran on the idea of hope and harmony among people. We continue to turn out of congress people who campaign on selfish and hateful ideologies. The health care debate is being driven by people with insurance as enthusiastically as people without, evidence that the punitive idea of “personal responsibility” is giving way to a more compassionate and realistic view that we bear some responsibility for the lives of others. It’s something to be proud of—and hopefully something we will hold onto for a while.

Categories: Featured, Observations

57 Responses so far.

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  1. Beachchick says:

    Great post —

    Deeply ingrained in American culture is an antiauthoritarian streak. Americans want to control their own destiny and place value in self reliance and achievement gained through hard work. Intrinsic to the value of hard work and self reliance is the reward of financial success and upward mobility. One might be born poor, but, in America, achievement is based on merit, if a person works hard success will follow. This is the American promise.

    The problem is: the American promise is no longer real; hard work is no longer justly rewarded.

    Personal responsibility has become an empty slogan used to blame the victims of a corrupt and predatory economic system.

    Sloganeering is a marketing technique skillfully used by a corporate power structure to peddle myths to a desperate public eager to make sense of an economic reality that contradicts the long held and valued American promise.

    • KevenSeven says:


      You’re here! About bloody time? How many more times did you expect for me to invite you????

      • Beachchick says:

        Thanks you guys.

        It is great to be here. Thank you for inviting me over. Keven, you know I am your number one fan.

        This site is a wonderful idea. The HP is not designed for meaningful debate or discussion. The fact that I can actually use words like sick and atrocity without being censored is liberating.

        Let me just say for the record that I fucking loath the GOP.

        You guys rock!

    • AdLib says:

      Welcome to The Planet Beachchick!

      It seems to me that people live dichotomies…which in some cases may be a polite way of saying “hypocrisies”.

      On one hand you have people who rail against authority…but follow Rush and Beck like mindless lemmings…not to mention their unquestioning allegiance to the ultimate authority figures, their religion.

      Take the teabaggers who are rabidly anti-government yet jealously hold onto their unemployment insurance, Social Security and Medicare, even yelling, “Keep your government hands off of my Medicare!”

      Americans have racked up the most personal debt ever in the history of the U.S., not by practicing self-relience but by buying into the corporate/government mantra of, “Being a good consumer is being a good American,” and “You deserve to have whatever you want, use your credit card or your home equity to buy it!”.

      There is an ignorance to American society, that everyone will eventually become millionaires and that denying oneself what one desires is not American, even if it buries one in debt.

      There is a sense of self-entitlement which has been sold through the media to Americans to keep them consuming.

      This creates a disconnect between the value of one’s work and the fruits that it produces.

      The “You can have it all” mentality is a corporate construct that melded the promise of “Anyone can succeed in America” with “Buy, buy, buy!”.

      And despite the recession and the hard economic times people are having, I would guess that many of these same people are looking forward to the day when they can resume the excess consumption to which they’ve grown accustomed.

      Surely though, some will have learned through this the need for government involvement in our society and the trap and danger of unbridled materialism.

    • kesmarn says:

      OT, but it sure is great to see you here, BeachChick!

  2. AdLib says:

    The GOP’s dishonesty in advancing their “personal responsibility” argument becomes crystal clear when the table is turned for them or their corporate allies to show personal responsibility.

    Remember the last GOP House, allowing corruption to run rampant and sex scandals to be swept under the rug?

    I remember Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, Gonzales, etc. not taking personal responsibility for their actions.

    What about Larry Craig, John Ensign and Mark Sanford? Did any of them take personal responsibility for their actions and resign?

    What about Haliburton and KBR? DId they take any responsibility for war profiteering and electrocuting, murdering, American soldiers?

    What about Blackwater? Did they take responsibility for all of the innocent Iraqi’s they killed?

    What about the GOP itself, did they take responsibility for destroying our economy and spending our government into a deep hole?

    This is a very long list but that’s more than enough to prove what bullshit this argument really is from them.

    I notice how it’s only people who are likely to vote Democratic that Republicans think should take personal responsibility, never themselves or the corporations they serve.

    • kesmarn says:

      We can add Beck, Coulter, Limbaugh et al to the list of righties who don’t take responsibility for their actions as well. When they’re confronted with the fact that they’re fanning the flames of anger and racism, they say: “I’m just an entertainer.” “I was just kidding. Can’t you guys take a joke?” (Coulter’s personal favorite.) Or, possibly worst of all: “I never said that.” (Even when it’s on tape or video.)

      Anything but: “I blew it. I was wrong.” (Words our Prez has spoken several times already in his brief tenure in office.)

  3. Grabamop/Obama20082012 says:

    Why does personal responsiblity even have to be discussed? It’s like the discussion of whether lying is wrong or not. I am not dissing Nellie. Nellie your post is excellent……..my point is that the people I have ever known that talks about personal responsibility the most, exercise it the least.

    • nellie says:

      I wrote this post partly because I continue to see the concept of “personal responsibility” used to argue against social services, health care reform, veterans’ services, FEMA, and any other safety net our government might see fit to provide.

      But mostly I wrote the post, not as a discussion of personal responsibility per se, but as an examination of how right wing talking points are used—in particular how they take concepts that seem to be unquestionable, as you pointed out, and transform them to mean something entirely different. I think it’s a very sophisticated manipulation of language, and something that works all too well, all too often.

      • choicelady says:

        Nellie -- you are SO correct! We have to turn the tables. Grabamop is quite right (in the “correct” sense of that term) that people who espouse “personal responsibility” are the last ones to exercise it. That must be called out loudly. And if they are in a position to hurt people by making policies that do harm, they have to be shown up for the true hypocrites they are. Sen. Coburn now is holding up a bill to provide health care and stipends to injured vets and their families. He says he wants to know how it will be paid for. What a lying sack of poo! He could not care less about that -- he just wants wounded vets to go away so he doesn’t have to look at them or give them any help at all. Rachel Maddow called him out on that, and we need to do the same with all those people.

        • nellie says:

          I totally agree. I think Dems have been afraid to argue with GOP ideas like “personal responsibility” because either they don’t know how to do it, or they’re worried about how they’ll come off — as if they don’t believe people should be responsible for what they do. That’s why I think this topic is important.

          I love the way you come back at this talking point. And Rachel is just a genius at calling people out for tactics like this. I wish we had more like her on our side. She knows how to fight back, and she always does it with class.

          • AdLib says:

            Indeed, I could never be as measured as her.

            But that’s the way we have to deal with the GOP, not assuming people will be too smart to fall for their lies but taking them on head on and exposing them for having principles that only apply to everyone else.

  4. choicelady says:

    As one who lobbies regularly for those whom the private sector has utterly abandoned, this comes up for me with conservative legislators all the time. Your frustration is shared, and I have developed some responses. We have a nationally shared value: families should be able to support themselves and their children. Problem -- in the past 30 years, our national ethos has been “you’re on your own” (sucker) because we have all this opportunity, so if you’re poor, tough. But the reply MUST be: “We believe families should support themselves and their children. How DARE we make private and public policies that make that impossible!” Working with advocates for those in need, we’re always saying we must take care of “the vulnerable among us”. Problem there is the conservatives are more than willing to kick them under the bus. Better to say, “we must provide security and compensation as a legitimate nation to those whom the private sector has abandoned until we restore a nation that allows them to care for themselves wholly and humanely.” Shifting the responsibility to the policy makers, public or private, is essential. We see growing dependency, and it’s NOT an accident, and human beings are not just collateral damage of economic change. Find a library with a copy of the 1975 book, Crisis of Democracy published by the Trilateral Commission, authors Michael Crozier, Samuel Huntington, and Joji Watanabe -- it’s the blueprint for doing away with unions, high pay, middle class existence, a free press, and yes, democracy. Personal responsibility? How? Of course we all have the obligation to do our best, but how can you pull yourself up by your bootstraps when they just cut off your damned FEET? Shift the call-out to those who make these policies. It’s not the poor who are irrestponsible. It’s the people who created the poverty.

  5. nicole473 says:

    Nellie, this is truly one of the best pieces I have read on this topic. Thank you for your clear, succinct reasoning, and the heart behind it.

    I am, forever a fan.

  6. Kalima says:

    Wonderful article nellie and even though it’s still early morning here, I have enough brain cells awake to thoroughly agree with your points.

    The endless accusations about people choosing their own fate when they suddenly find themselves unemployed or blaming the people who for one reason or another found themselves unable to leave NO before Katrina struck is shameful and was a constant mantra for the RW trolls at the faux progressive site we all know. Every time I read one of these rants, I would reply but eventually realized that it was a waste of time, they had been indoctrinated by the RW machine like obedient little cultists, nothing would get through that fog in front of their eyes.

    Thank you nellie for putting it in perspective, I enjoyed my early morning read.

  7. bitohistory says:

    Wonderful and thoughtful post Nellie. Some thoughts I have on “personal responsibility” and health care. I would like permission to copy your post and send it to my Senators and Rep. (?)
    I have seen wealthy people die. I have seen the less fortunate die, the happy and the sad get ill or injured. I have seen people lose jobs, cars, homes due to illness and medical bills.
    It did not matter if they lived in a mansion or they were homeless. It mattered not if they had servants or that they were serving. The new masters and lords, it didn

    • choicelady says:

      Oh thank you bitohistory! When I’m up against troglodyte legislators who say that being healthy is entirely YOUR responsibility so everyone MUST be compelled to carry insurance as you do for your car, there is the sure and certain implication that bad health is your “fault”. You ate Cheetos or something. Well, it’s something of a crap shoot, isn’t it? And yes, sooner or later, everyone is going to need a doctor or dentist or something, no matter how careful you are. When did we lose the idea that the best part of being human was sharing responsibility for one another in humane ways? How did we get the idea that we have to have zero-sum games: I win, you lose -- on everything? We have always done best when we looked out for one another, and the zero-sum mentality brought us to the brink of calamity in the late 19th century and again now. When WILL we grow up?

    • nellie says:

      The “personal responsibility” argument really gets to me when we start talking about illness, health care coverage, and all the tragic fallout of our current system. If you think my post will help make your case to your congress members, by all means include it. That’s very flattering. Thank you.

  8. javaz says:

    Excellent article, Nellie, and so very well written!

    I know this is off topic, and please forgive me, but I just have to share this story.

    We walk our dog on occasion with a true teabagging-right-winger that loves Beck, O’Reilly, Hannity, et all.
    He is against health care reform because it’s socialism, and he’s afraid of socialism, and he also believes that Obama is not an American and is a Muslim, socialist, pinko-commie.
    He works for the county and doesn’t pay a dime for his health insurance, yet somehow he doesn’t understand that us taxpayers who are struggling with our health insurance costs, pay for his health insurance.
    Here’s the irony.
    He believes that the world is going to end on December 21st, 2012, and when I laughed at him, he got so angry with me.
    We are good people that keep to ourselves for the most part, and I really didn’t mean to laugh at him, but he was quoting the Mayan calendar thing and Nostradamus, and I found it hilarious.
    This guy is willing to believe all the crap about Obama and the liberals, yet he believes the 2012 world ending thing?

    • KQuark says:

      Wow a right wing conservative and a 2012 woo woo. I wrote an article a little while back on the 2012 woo woos. I might combine it with my woo woo article, update it and re-post it.

    • nellie says:

      Maybe it’s not so off topic. It’s another example of someone clinging to an illogical way of thinking because of a mix of the (manipulative) way things are said and what makes him feel good about himself. He has a need to believe these things, and there are people willing to exploit that.

      People who believe the world is going to end must be very unhappy, imo. To look forward and see nothing but… well, nothing… means he has nothing to look forward to.

      And I guess that can be taken literally!

  9. KQuark says:

    Great article and great subject that truly separates reactionary conservatives from proactive progressives.

    Personal responsible is a great sounding principle that Republicans are totally hypocritical about and just use it to win campaigns. Bush and Cheney never took responsibility for any of their massive failures included giving up the biggest terror attack in human history and the biggest financial collapse since the Great Depression. Fuck people preaching personal responsibility that fuck up and blame everyone else.

    Preaching personal responsibility is just a crutch for the GnOP from doing nothing and blocking any progress. Worse their incompetence in running government fits into their insane philosophy that all government is bad when only incompetent government is bad. Talk about self fulfilling prophecies.

  10. kesmarn says:

    Good afternoon, All!
    What a thought-provoking article, nellie.
    In a (usually vain) effort to try to understand the conservative head, I’ve often wondered if their brains are literally “hard-wired” differently than ours.
    I swear there are some people who tend to relate to objects (especially money) rather than to other humans. It’s almost as though there’s a conservative form of autism. It seems they are genuinely baffled when their selfishness is pointed out to them. It’s as though they would have to take a very structured class in what it means to be a human being; they can’t figure it out on their own.

    Of course, every time I attempted to post anything of this ilk on HP it never made it to the page. They seem to be very protective of the very wealthy over there.

    As with so many things, this “personal responsibility” argument really got rolling during the Reagan administration, when we were all urged to “take responsibility for our own retirement”(no more company pensions), our own wage negotiations (no more unions), and our “own health care,” etc. It made it sound as if anyone who couldn’t provide for his/her own income and health coverage for life (from savings accumulated on a minimum wage job?) was a deadbeat.

    And it’s stating the obvious to say that the party of personal responsibility is no more that, than they are the party that is pro-life.

    • BigDogMom says:

      Afternoon kesmarn, I think you’ve nailed what the rights problem may be, ‘Conservative Autism’.

      Maybe this should be put in the diagnostic manual of mental disorders!

      • KQuark says:

        Naomi Klein said on Bill Maher once. “The Republican Party is not a political party. It’s a personality disorder”.

        I couldn’t agree more.

      • kesmarn says:

        LOL Love it.
        Would it be a pre-existing condition?

        • BigDogMom says:

          Well if it was up to them and ment for them, no, if it was ment for us, yes.

          Does that make sense? No for the Right and yes for us ‘libbies’.

          It’s all about ‘personal responsibilities’ you know, and apparently if you are a liberal, you have none.

          Well time to get back to my life of sucking off of rich people, oh sorry, work. LOL..take care.

  11. BigDogMom says:

    Nellie, love this post, I have been grappling with the Christain Right’s version of ‘Personal Resposibility’ for some time now, it is offensive to me how they have re-defined the meaning of it.

    Yes, we do have a personal responsiblity to be a good citizen, yes we do have a personal responsiblity to get our bills paid on time, so on and so on. But ‘they’, the right, fail to take into account, as you said, of outside influences that change the course of what the original intent was.

    As far as I’m concerned, this is a cowards way out, ‘I have mine, so screw you’.

    Sometimes I think it would have been better to let this country to economically “crash’ in order to wake these people us, then they wouldn’t ‘have mine’, we would all be in the same boat and on a level playing field.

  12. escribacat says:

    Nellie, You have zeroed in on one of the basic differences between conservatives and progressives. I do not believe that conservatives are less caring than liberals, but I do believe they are better at compartmentalizing the things they see going on around them.

    The dynamics in my family are a good example (at the risk of revealing more personal information!). I have four brothers. The youngest of these is basically unable to hold a job. He’ll last a year or two or maybe three and then simply stop going to work. I have taken him in three times over the years. One of those times, he had been kicked out of his apartment by the sheriff and they had left all his stuff out on the lawn in front of the building. When I arrived looking for him, the neighbor scavengers were digging through his personal things and loading up their cars. I remember finding family pictures fluttering around in the grass. I had no idea where he was at the point and it was a very traumatic event. When he finally called, I picked up him, took him to Wal-Mart, bought him some clothes, gave him a place to stay, and repeatedly dragged his ass to AA.

    One of my other brothers is very conservative and owns a construction company. He then gave our “faltering” brother a job and a place to live (relieving me of this huge burden). After a year or two, the hopeless brother began playing hookie on that job, making his boss (our brother) look like an asshole in front of the other employees. He eventually just stopped going.

    And so it continues like this, year after year. I have given up hope that my brother will ever be truly independent. He supposedly has stayed off the sauce but still can’t hold a job. Both my other brother and I are fed-up with him and only offer minimal help at this point.

    My conservative brother and I both have gone to great lengths to help, and we are both at the exact same place of being fed-up. He has also provided jobs to other family members who were, shall we say, not the “top candidates” for those jobs.

    The difference between us, however, is the amount of compassion we feel for complete strangers. He can watch the mayhem of Katrina on television and see nothing but “fat women.” I watch it and get weepy. He doesn’t let the ugliness of the world get him down; I have to turn away from it often because it gets me down too much. He is far more concerned about the quality and accessibility of health care for himself and his family than he is about every one having a minimum level of care.

    I have begun to think that the central difference here is a failure of imagination on his part. He can’t or won’t imagine what it was like to be in New Orleans during Katrina and the aftermath. He lacks the ability to put himself in someone else’s shoes. He is a kind and generous man (I tease him constantly by calling him a “closet marxist). But if it’s not part of his own family, it’s just not on his radar.

    • KQuark says:

      I don’t like generalizations but I do find through my personal experience that the conservatives I know are less compassionate than progressives.

      I’m sorry to hear about your brother. There are people that are more difficult to help or are beyond help. We are a free country to some extent and have to take care of ourselves when we can. The problem is conservatives want people who cannot take care of themselves or who face tragedy to fend for themselves as well.

    • PepeLepew says:

      That was nice of you to share. We have a “black sheep” brother in our family, too, though he isn’t as troubled as yours.
      I think you hit the nail on the head that a lot of so-called “compassionate conservatives” have difficulty empathizing with people and/or situations they don’t personally know about or relate to. Maybe it’s a different aspect of narrow-mindedness, which I believe is rampant among right-wingers.

    • nellie says:

      It’s a difficult balance, isn’t it? I used to argue constantly with my father — who was a staunch conservative — about this issue. He thought I was naive and making excuses for people, I thought he was unfeeling and punitive.

      This will always be a point of contention between people, I think. Because the fact is, there are folks who do themselves and others harm, who deliberately take advantage, and who should be held responsible for those actions. The difference between me and my father was that he believed anyone having trouble fell into that category, while I believe those folks are in the minority. I believe most people in tough situations are trying to do what’s right, but just don’t have the emotional skills or the intellectual tools or just can’t get a break. He believed most, if not all, brought their troubles on themselves.

      I probably wrote about this topic because I carry those arguments with me all the time, and they’re constantly ignited by this particular right wing talking point.

      As to your brother, when it comes to family, we can be particularly forgiving and loving. When we learn to see each other as one family, perhaps we’ll learn more empathy and achieve a better balance.

    • BigDogMom says:

      Very well said, what your brother and other conservatives seem to lack at times, in my view, is empathy…

      1. the power of understanding and imaginatively entering into another person’s feelings.

      You are empathetic, you place yourself in others shoes, sometimes this is hard for others to do, it’s not that they do not have the capacity to do this, it’s that they are scared that the emotions that are attached empathy, may be overwhelming to them.

      There by the grace of God go I, this could be me, and that is a very scary thing for some to imagine.

      • PepeLepew says:

        That’s true. I live in a town near a major highway, and it’s a liberal town, so there’s a lot of tolerance for transients and there’s always a lot of them downtown. Well, the situation with the transients got somewhat out of control and the city had to pass ordinances about aggressive panhandling, etc. I couldn’t believe the viciousness I saw in the local paper in the letters to the editor and readers’ comments about “scum” and “rats” in the streets, etc. I kept thinking, have people forgotten the idea of “There but for the grace of God…?” Most of the transients (I’m not talking homeless, I’m talking transients) have some sort of mental health issue or severe alcohol issues and that could happen to anyone…

    • deygirl says:

      Beautifully said.

  13. deygirl says:

    “Personal responsibility” is a phrase that has been abused by the right to the point that it has virtually been redefined by them. Rather than meaning that we take it upon ourselves to follow through on our beliefs and values, it has come to mean, “I’m all about me. Fend for yourself.” I can’t help but wonder what their christ thinks of his devoted hate zealots.

    • BigDogMom says:

      I have seen several posters at HP post this profound phrase when someone on the right goes on about ‘personal responsibility’…

      “And Jesus Wept”

      This to me says it all, they have, in my opinion, have perverted the meaning of what it is like to be a “Good Christian”…

      Kalima is right in saying, that they are the new Taliban…

      • deygirl says:

        So very true.

        Morning, BDM.

        • BigDogMom says:

          Afternoon, EST, dey…hope all is well with you. Heady stuff trying to understand how others think, perceive and pervert things..

          • deygirl says:

            My problem is that I can see HOW they do it. I cannot, for the life of me, understand WHY.

            • BigDogMom says:

              Fear, fear of not having it all, it has been instilled in us, as a society, big time since King Ronnie.

              Now this fear is in our individual personal belief systems, and it will take a very long time and very hard work to change it.

              But I have faith, Obama is sending out the right, or should I say, correct message. The tone and energy has already started to be more positive.

  14. FeloniousMonk says:

    Very well said, Nellie.

    I believe that we are personally responsible for our actions, but we have to understand, too, that our actions are based on what we know and feel.

    Example: Voting FOR the War in Iraq. After 9/11 the people and the legislative branch of the government were fed a lot of propaganda about who was involved in 9/11. I believe the Bush administration knew damn well that Iraq wasn’t involved. They lied to everyone because the had an agenda. Congress was fed lies and accepted it from the “authorities” in our intelligence service and White House “experts”. Congress was angry. They took information which they accepted (and had no way to disprove on their own) and that anger and moved forward and voted for this war of “vengence” upon our enemy. They are responsible for that vote. But at the same time they have some credible explanation to ask for “forgiveness” for having done so considering that they were manipulated and lied to.

    We can have many examples of people who made the best decision at the time but it was with limited information or it was the only apparent “good” option they had. I cannot fault these people. I have far too many myself. My education choices, my path through life, etc.

    But there are a lot of external influences on us we cannot control at all. In Katrina, the people of the 9th District had no control over the storm, no control over the quality of the flood protection, being poor that prevented them from affording more “safe” housing, and many not having even a vehicle to evacuate in or a place to go, let alone money to live on once they got “there”. Sure, they made a decision to stay, but external factors defined what that decision probably was going to have to be.

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