As the moral and spiritual fabric of American culture continues to unravel, one time-honored norm after another is being jettisoned from daily living. One of those traditional values has been the importance of taking responsibility for one’s own decisions and actions. This cultural trait was once embodied in the widely circulated quip pertaining to an incident in the life of the father of our country. George Washington was alleged as a boy to have taken it upon himself to cut down a cherry tree. When questioned about the incident, he is reported to have remarked: “I cannot tell a lie, I chopped down the cherry tree.” Regardless of whether this little ditty is fictional or historical, it illustrates the point that honesty, integrity, and owning up to one’s own actions were once cherished societal norms.
For several decades now, however, this approach to life has suffered serious erosion. A prominent feature of current culture is to look for someone else to blame for those unpleasant things that happen in one’s life. Coupled with this evasion of personal responsibility is the desire to get rich quick by suing anyone and everyone who might be even remotely connected to the circumstance. Consequently, a driver can spill coffee on herself after passing through a fast food drive-up window, sue the restaurant—and win! One can choose to smoke cigarettes for years, sue the cigarette manufacturers, and extract large sums of money. One even can eat hamburgers and French fries from fast food chains—and then turn around and blame the restaurant for gained weight and high cholesterol levels.
Don’t misunderstand. Genuine negligence takes place in our society in which those who promote services to the public fail to give adequate attention to genuinely dangerous aspects of their products. However, much litigation in America today is unjust, outrageous, and deplorable. Frivolous law suits have led to millions of dollars spent on superfluous warning labels that cheapen the significance of truly necessary ones. Since “accidents happen” through the ordinary circumstances of human existence without anyone really to blame, innocent people are being victimized, singled out to bear the brunt of reckless vengeance, undeserved retaliation, and greed….
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