Andrew Jackson was a notoriously bad speller. His response to the critics of his errors was not an effort to learn to be a better speller but to blame his critics. Jackson proclaimed, “It’s a damned weak mind that can only think of one way to spell a word.”
Things have regressed from Jackson. According to communications expert, Carol Blymire, as reported via Twitter and broadcast by WIBC radio host Tony Katz on July 16, 2019 an attempt by an editor to correct a reporter’s spelling was just plain meanness according to the misspeller. Ms. Blymire related a reporter in her late 20’s had spelled the word hamster as ham(p)ster and her editor amended it. The reporter said she could spell it that way because that was the spelling she had learned. It did not need changing. When the editor insisted on the correct spelling the reporter broke into tears and texted her mother to seek punishment for the editor.
Now, as a writer of hundreds of articles and thousands of court rulings I can sympathize with the reporter. My wife, my sister, my court reporters and the reading public can attest to my unlikely winning of a spelling bee. However, I have managed to accept, sometimes begrudgingly, corrections of my versions of words. So far I have avoided tears and I have not asked my mother for spelling support since I escaped grade school.
However, this is not an article about spelling but about individual responsibility in our current culture of blaming everyone but the actors for the results of their bad behaviors. Take bankruptcy for example. There are sound reasons of public policy for allowing citizens to claw their way out of crippling debt so they can get on with their lives, pay taxes on new income and begin anew. Horrendous medical expenses incurred by patients with illnesses or birth conditions or from accidents can often never be paid even by hardworking families or even those with substantial means. In such cases society does itself a favor by allowing a fresh start. There are, of course, other situations where bankruptcy is not only justified but good public policy. But a simple avoidance of responsibility is not in anyone’s interest. The writing off of student loans after one voluntarily goes to college and accepts the benefits of an eduction is not fair to others and not in America’s best interest. After all, about two thirds of the costs of college degrees are not paid by the graduates anyway but are provided by public funds. Once again it is simply the avoidance of responsibility. As one who benefitted from student loans, which were repaid, and as one who received the G.I. Bill, after serving in the military, I am supportive of student aid but not student failure to earn or pay for the assistance.
When America hears about the latest mass killings and listens to politicians and news media blame everything and everybody for the heinous acts, it may be an indication of how far we have traveled from facing the extremely difficult, long-term incremental solutions to our complicated cultural problems. To cast aspersions and ad hominems against third persons when someone commits an evil act seems to have become our go to response. It is somewhat akin to eliminating winners and losers from everything from little league sports to academic achievement. Affirmative Action is a necessity when it is used to ensure that people with superior qualifications are not discriminated against simply because of their gender, race, religious beliefs, sexual orientation or ethnicity. However, it is wrong to elevate one simply on that basis. It is like getting a participation trophy. Competition should be on a fair basis, but discouraging competition is an insult to those who might do better if their shortcomings are corrected. And America might do better with unacceptable behavior if we place responsibility on the actors actually involved.
If Republicans and the conservatives publicly allege that the policies and statements of the Democrats and the liberals are to blame for the mass shootings, and vice versa for the Democrats and the liberals, it is as if everyone is falsely shouting fire in a crowded theater. Solutions to mass shootings will not come from such shifting of responsibility. The hard work of addressing these complicated issues cannot be done by simply complaining to our mommies.