Our VoiceCulture

Personal Responsibility


Sarah Viets • Jul 14, 2008

Whether you’re fighting for immigrants’ rights, against the Iraq war, the death penalty, or someone holding a sign of a fetus outside a woman’s health clinic or against same-sex marriage, each political group works relentlessly for their ‘cause.’ Each group spends hours calling elected politicians, writing letters to newspapers (so people read their opinions), restless nights on the internet reading the latest blog or the new non-fiction political book.

There’s no doubt conservative (the red team) and progressive (the blue team) activists are focused and dedicated. Each group works hard and strives for success. To put it another way, members of each political flavor are a bunch of serious folks who support the idea of personal responsibility. Now, if you’re a member of the blue team, you’re probably frowning your eyebrows and saying, “I don’t support personal responsibility! This idea ignores why some school districts have more money than others, and how personal success is determined by the school you attend.”

But if you’re a die-hard activist, you sacrifice yourself for the ‘cause.’ You replace your personal needs with political ambitions. If you don’t, someone may point you out like a sore thumb and say you’re not serious enough and you don’t understand what’s at stake. And if this sounds familiar, tell me again how you don’t support the idea of personal responsibility?

A friend of mine is visiting from Kansas City (I live in Chicago). No wait; her entire family is visiting – all five kids, her husband and her dad. The oldest will be 10 at the end of the month and the youngest is four, and they all have a mind of their own (thankfully), which means they LOVE to run away from the pack to find some hidden treasure they’ve spotted far away. She, her husband, and two of the young ones also stayed with me for one night in my studio apartment. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not complaining. It’s hard living so far away, and being there for each other over the phone gets old.

I’m also a blog editor, which means I never stop working! I have to read a bunch of articles, books, different blog entries, I have to record who’s referring IMAGINE 2050, and the list goes on and on. I also have an interview tomorrow (Tuesday) and I leave on Wednesday for a conference in Austin, TX.

So I have a choice: I can either spend the entire day with her family and go swimming with her kids and walk through the zoo and hear five kids fighting over who gets to hold my hand, or I can spend the first half of the day working and the afternoon with the pack. (I still can’t decide).

OR, I can talk about a different type of personal responsibility (not the one that likes to point the finger at the individual without taking any social responsibility) and remember how I wouldn’t be who I am today without her. I can think of all the times she’s helped me through those times we hate to share. I can think of how many times she says how much I mean to her and how much I’ve influenced her life. I can think of how I’ve helped her through those trying months when she didn’t know where to turn. I can think of how many times we probably wanted to yell at each other (but never did) and say, “Will you get over it already, I can’t listen to the same situation over and over again.”

I can remember how my responsibility as a friend, my social – my personal responsibility – is what makes her and I strong. It’s what makes me happy to be alive.

(I think I’ll go to the zoo….)

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