We have in our nation today a vacuum of responsibility. All too often people and organizations want the benefits associated with their actions without bearing the responsibility for the negative impacts. Our elected officials increasingly avoid tough compromises fearing that taking responsibility will cost them votes. Businesses avoid taking responsibility fearing loss of sales. And we avoid taking responsibility for a number of reasons — it is hard; we will look uncool; people will judge us; we cannot bear the repercussions.
As a result, blame rolls down the hill. Those with resources and agility dodge the blame, which continues rolling. Those with friends in high places get advance warning of the coming blame. And, in the end, the blame settles at the bottom of the slope, in the hands of the weakest members of our society — society’s victims. This inevitable slide of blame teaches us that weak people deserve to be taken advantage of, minorities deserve to be oppressed because they are the wrong skin color, sexual orientation, age, or ability. Women deserve to be assaulted and paid less in the workplace because, after all, it is a man’s world.
All of this blame, all of the burden of responsibility weighs heavily on these unfortunates. The pain of responsibility, of shame and guilt, hurts no less than a fist, a fractured bone, a broken heart. And when aspirin is not enough to kill the pain, people seek stronger remedies. In time, the victims become addicted to the pain killer, whatever form it takes — alcohol, tobacco, drugs, gambling, food, self abuse. And when the addict seeks help, they become victim once again, as society tells them that they are responsible for becoming the junkie, the drunk, the drain on society.
Well, this is wrong. We are society and we can change this. Because addiction is a disease — a disease we can understand and treat.
We can start by helping our brothers and sisters with their burdens. We can help by making therapy and rehabilitation far more available. We can help by stopping the blame from passing us by and taking up our share of the responsibility for society’s problems. And we can tell the powerful, the wealthy, the elected officials to start leading again and exhibit the courage we need them to model.