Taking responsibility for ones actions, something that matters at both micro and macros societal levels

Pointing the finger of blameIn case you’re interested in the current state of my moving violations implosion, here’s where I’ve ended up: On the red light camera, it’s possible to say, looking at the video, that my front tires were in the intersection when the light changed from yellow to red.  Or maybe they weren’t.

As for the cross walk sting, the video didn’t have the information I wanted — namely, whether the pedestrian acted in a reasonable manner in stepping into the intersection in the first place. All it showed was what I already knew: I drove by as the pedestrian headed for the sidewalk. My brain was thinking “brake hard or speed up so as not to hit him.” My interpretation of the law is that I can do either, with my obligation being not to hit him. The police interpretation is that, even if the law doesn’t say so, you have to stop the car when a pedestrian is in the cross walk, no matter what (even if braking suddenly would cause a rear-ender or something).

I have two choices now: I can go to court and say “I got into the intersection a second before the light changed” and “my driving comported perfectly with the statute about pedestrians.” I’m not going to, though, because I don’t like to waste time, even my own.

If I were the lawyer for a third-party with those tickets and those defenses, I would tell the person this: “As to both, you have a colorable defense. It’s not a strong defense, though, and its so self-serving as to be off-putting. The greatest likelihood, therefore, is that you will lose in court. The traffic commissioner has spent years accepting the police viewpoint and is not about to change now. In these circumstances, don’t waste your time going to court. Just pay the fee and get on with your life.”

That’s good legal advice and good life advice. In both situations, even if I wasn’t doing anything that was clearly illegal, I was definitely pushing the boundaries. I shouldn’t have shot through a turn on a yellow and I shouldn’t have put myself in a situation in which I had to decide whether to slam on the brakes or to drive past a pedestrian who had already stepped off the curb.

Rather than feeling ill-used, persecuted, and embarrassed (which was how I felt last week), I’m going to be grateful that the universe sent me an important message without my having to injure anyone or hurt myself to learn that lesson. I’m a safe driver, but I can be a much safer driver. I was sliding into automotive hubris and that’s a dangerous place to be. I’ll pay my money, go to traffic school, and thank God that I’m blessed to have learned hard lessons in a non-tragic way.

Having confessed my sins and promised to repent and reform, I’d now like to boast a little: I think it is a sign of a mature mind that I am able to say that I was wrong (perhaps not as wrong as the police think, but wrong), and that I need to learn and grow from recognizing my failings. (And gosh!  By my age, I should be mature enough to do that.)  The corollary of this is that an immature mind lives to displace responsibility.

Which gets me to my inevitable political point:  We live in an adolescent society, one in which only white male people are ever at fault for their wrongdoing. (You know that the phrase “white privilege” has the qualifier “male,” since all women are victims too.) Everyone other than a white male is a victim.

Elliot Rodgers wasn’t evil because he was evil. He was the byproduct of Seth Rogen movies and male-oriented websites and video games and, of course, the NRA. It may be that he was evil because of psychotropic drugs, but they’re not yet part of this discussion, because we don’t know if Rodgers took them.

Rodgers’ manifesto notwithstanding, it still seems premature to say that watching too many rough comedies turned him into a psycho killer. In all times and in all places, psychopaths have reflected the world around them, not been created by it. In the Middle Ages, mad men blamed witches; in the 1950s, they blamed space aliens; and today, they don’t have to blame anyone, because the media will find scapegoats for them. They may have pulled the trigger, but everyone and everything else — especially the NRA and powerful white men — was at fault.

Blacks, too, are allowed to be entirely without responsibility for their difficulties in the modern world.  I do not deny that they were on the receiving end of truly evil discrimination, from the tribesmen who sold them in Africa, to the British who shipped them to the colonies, to the white folks who enslaved them, to the KKK who killed them, to the Jim Crow laws that disenfranchised them, to the welfare that now infantilizes them (especially the men).

All these things were done to blacks, and they’re all bad — but, except for the welfare, they’re in the past.  They’re self-destructive behaviors are in the here and now, and blaming white privilege won’t stop yet another generation of boys and girls from engaging in those behaviors.  At some point, blacks have to say “We are responsible for our own decisions, both good and bad.  We have to own both and, as to the bad decisions, we have to repent and reform.”  Nothing else but this act of emotional maturity will save currently dysfunctional American blacks and put them on the trajectory of all once-disfavored groups in America.

The same holds true for our president. When it comes to Obama, the buck stops everywhere except wherever he is. With each crisis he’s mad as heck . . . against somebody else. The primary scapegoats are, of course, Republicans, and Charles and David Koch. But fault also lies with Fox News, climate change, George Bush, etc.

Here’s the deal: Even if Obama is correct and nothing is ever directly his fault — he’s just an innocent bystander halfway through his fifth year as the most powerful man in the world — it’s unmanly to behave as he does. It’s the behavior of a little boy that Obama can never say that, regardless of fault at the micro level, he is ultimately responsible at the macro level

I don’t advocate that we start practice Seppuku, disemboweling ourselves at the first sign of failure. I do think, though, that we cannot return to societal health until we mature beyond this adolescent finger-pointing and start accepting responsibility, not just for our day-to-day tasks, but for our failures too.