The Demise of Individual Responsibility

Terry Paulson
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Posted: Aug 02, 2010 12:01 AM

After a day with my four grandchildren at Disneyland, we ended the day by taking in Abraham Lincoln’s simulated speech on Main Street. Both the movements and the message have been enhanced.

The simulated Lincoln spoke the words from one of his earliest speeches to the Young Men’s Lyceum in Springfield, IL. Stirred to outrage after a mob burned a young black man, the 28-year-old Lincoln talked about the only enemy America must fear: “At what point then is the approach of danger to be expected? I answer, if it ever reach us, it must spring up amongst us. It cannot come from abroad. If destruction be our lot, we must ourselves be its author and finisher. As a nation of freemen, we must live through all time, or die by suicide.” Oh, how right he was.

Lincoln took pride in saying, “I don't know who my grandfather was; I am much more concerned to know what his grandson will be.” That’s the America Dream in a sentence. “We the people” have the same God-given rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. We’re not defined by our ancestors, our race, our age, gender or religion. We are free to make of ourselves what we can become. Freedom ensures unequal outcomes—some will succeed and others will fail and be forced to rebound poorer but hopefully wiser to try again.

On the census, proud citizens should mark only one defining box—“American.” When politicians are asked, “What ‘special’ are you going to do for me and my group?” Patriotic leaders should say, “Nothing! But I give you something more important. I will work to ensure that every individual receives the same freedoms and rights.”

For years, American rights have been turned on their heads. It hasn’t been sudden, but that doesn’t make it any less dangerous. Teddy Roosevelt’s Square Deal, Woodrow Wilson’s New Freedom, and FDR’s New Deal—all chiseled away at America’s founding principles. All promised a seductive social contract based on “economic rights”—the right to a job, a decent home, medical care, decent wages and benefits. These entitlements were supposed to make us secure, or at least to “feel” more secure. Now the costs of these “Great Society” programs like Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, Obama’s new healthcare plan, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac’s home loans people can’t afford, business bailouts, and other kindred welfare services are finally being recognized for what they are—uncontrollable and unaffordable.

Glenn Beck

Individual initiative and hard work were the ways that Americans used to handle their basic necessities and provide for a secure future. America valued and rewarded industry, frugality, and personal responsibility. It wasn’t the government’s responsibility to take care of your family; it was yours. When you needed help, your friends, neighbors, family and local charities were there to help you when you needed it most. No one was perfect, but you tried to live the Golden Rule—“Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” You didn’t expect government to transfer the wealth of others to pay for your “American Dream;” you took pride in earning your own.

Incentives in America have been reversed. Today, working hard to achieve success and earn a high salary means you are a target for higher taxes and derision. In short, success means you pay more. Failure means government pays you more.

It used to be that Americans were ashamed to be dependent upon others. Today, people seem to embrace government dependency as if it were a new freedom. It’s better described as an addiction that is destructive to both liberty and personal virtue.

A psychiatrist recently confided that it used to be that patients spent a lot of time dealing with guilt. Now, his therapy is focused on rampant narcissism. The greed in America doesn’t come from people who have worked hard to achieve success. The greed comes from citizens fueled by envy who demand economic rewards they haven’t earned. Some citizens seem to have no trouble electing politicians committed to keeping them in a lifestyle they “feel” they deserve. How far we have come from what made America great!

What do you do when you see long-standing American values devalued, even punished? Are we looking at the cultural suicide Lincoln warned us to avoid? Should we hold a wake to celebrate our demise or should we wake up and take back America?

President Obama says we have a choice—move forward with his vision or take a step back to the past policies that have “failed” and “created the problems” we are in? What arrogance! The least experienced president in decades, if not our history, has the audacity to claim that he knows best and our founding principles that forged the most successful country in history are outdated! Give me freedom, free-enterprise, caring communities and personal responsibility any day.

Have you had enough of President Obama’s version of “hope and change?” Let your voice be heard. Make your vote count in November. It’s time to take back America.