Thursday, September 15, 2005

Taking Responsibility

President Bush has said that insofar as the federal government is at fault for the catastrophe in New Orleans and the Gulf Coast he is willing to take responsibility for the loss of life and property and the suffering caused by Hurricane Katrina. But what does this mean, exactly?

To take responsibility for something is, it seems to me, to be willing to accept the consequences, including praise or punishment, for the event in question. So, if Bush accepts responsibility for the deaths caused by negligence in the wake of Katrina, shouldn’t he be willing to be held legally—or at least, morally—accountable for them?

When, in the course of washing dishes, I accidentally break yet another wineglass and accept responsibility for doing so, I implicitly grant Jen the authority to call me a careless klutz and consider it well within her rights to make me pay for a new one to replace it. Analogously, if Bush is responsible for the Katrina disaster, we should have the right to call him incompetent and to expect him to pony up for the necessary repairs.

If I’m drunk and while attempting to juggle it, I break a wineglass, then I’ve been negligent in taking care of our family’s glassware. In that case, I think Jen is well within her rights to punish me for being an idiot. (What form this punishment takes may be debatable, but as long as it doesn’t involve excessive physical or psychological abuse, I think most people would agree it’s justified.)

If Bush is indeed responsible for the failures of the federal government in responding to Katrina and if indeed the feds were negligent in their response, then he should accept some sort of punishment for his action or inaction. (What form this punishment takes may be debatable, but as long as the physical or psychological abuse is no less than the victims of Bush’s negligence themselves have suffered, then it’s okay by me.)


Blogger Regina said...

i don't understand

3:27 PM  

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