Sunday, September 19, 2010

Take responsibility, America!

It's just three words—three simple words:

"I screwed up."

This basic, trisyllabic utterance has rendered itself rarer than quiet time at Dr. Phil's house.

Last Thursday, 2005 Heisman Trophy winner, Reggie Bush, returned his award after the NCAA determined that Bush and his family had accepted hundreds of thousands of dollars in gifts from two sports agents and ruled him ineligible for his tenure as a collegiate football player.

Upon returning the trophy, Bush stated that his gesture was "not an admission of guilt. It's me showing respect to the Hesiman Trophy itself and to the people who came before me and the people coming after."

Not an admission of guilt? Give me a break, Reggie. Then why did you return the freakin' thing? Not enough room next to all your T-Ball trophies? Just say those magic words: I screwed up.

Unfortunately, Bush's behavior is merely a symbol of our current culture of blame, deflection and misdirection. We all do it, and we start young. My kids are often so averse to fessing up that situations get far worse for them in the long run. They'll hear me ask them such questions as:

"Which one of you knows how that strawberry jam got on the cat?"

or,

"I realize that, technically, the toilet paper roll isn't completely bare since a third of a square is glued on permanently, but I'm not willing to introduce cardboard to that sensitive region of my person. So tell, me, who witnessed the end of the roll?"

At that point, they either stare blankly like dairy cows, or blame each other.

I'm definitely not immune to avoiding responsibility. There have certainly been times when I've given up on a paper jam at work or feigned righteous indignation when one of my wife's white shirts emerged a nice sunset pink from the dryer. But overall, I've found that owning up to my misdeeds is the first step toward putting the event in the rear view mirror.

So why can't Sarah Palin just admit that "refudiate" isn't a word? Why didn't Bill Clinton merely say, "Yes, I inhaled. Of course I inhaled. Otherwise, it's like chewing up your Quarter Pounder and spitting it onto the plastic tray. What a waste." Why did John Edwards take the Michael Jackson approach by saying, "The kid is not my son (actually, daughter)?"

And why the hell did Alex Rodriguez claim that he had no idea that he was taking steroids during the 2001, 2002 and 2003 seasons? We're talking about a world-class athlete who closely monitors every substance that enters his body. The guy probably eats only the hand-massaged left breast portion of the free-range chicken in his organic cobb salad.

Come on, people—let's own up to our mistakes. Let's clear our guilty consciouses and purge ourselves of those blame shifting demons and say the following loudly and proudly:

"Okay, I did it. I'm the one who ate all the pork rinds."

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