The universal affliction of irresponsibility

Posted: Nov 23, 2004 12:00 AM

Many of the problems in America's inner cities seem to me similar to Israeli-Palestinian problems as described by a scholar of an Israeli think tank.

It's becoming increasingly evident to me that the theme of personal responsibility is crucial everywhere and transcends the particularities of different cultures and religions.

A recent column by this scholar concerned impact of the death of Yasser Arafat on prospects for near-term peace between Israel and the Palestinians. He talked about the summer of 2000 when President Clinton sequestered then Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak and Yasser Arafat at Camp David with the goal of achieving an historic peace accord. Barak agreed to the two-state solution that was the alleged goal of Arafat _ an autonomous Palestinian state next to the Jewish state _ and a good portion of the territorial concessions that Arafat demanded, and Arafat walked away from it all.

President Clinton thought he was on the verge of making history and wound up in shock that the Palestinian leader walked out. After years of suffering and bloodshed, how could Arafat reject a plan just a fraction less than 100 percent of his demands?

Following the rejection, the terror attacks resumed, with Palestinian children wrapping themselves in explosives, sneaking into Israel and blowing themselves up in crowded public facilities.

Most discussions I read today imply that in order to understand Arab terror we need to understand Islam and its nuances. The claims go on that we need to understand the cultural, historical and economic circumstances that produce this insane behavior.

I know very little about Islam and next to nothing about the Middle East. I do know irresponsibility when I see it. And frankly, this is what I see operating here, pure and simple. I'm sure this conclusion will not sit well with all the Ph.D.s. But guns, bloodshed and poverty are not unique to the Middle East. They unfortunately are very much part of life in our nation's own inner cities and I do know something about this reality. I see similar themes in these two very different parts of the world.

The irresponsible person, the perennial victim, will always find a reason why it is impossible to get up in the morning, accept life's burdens and quietly and peacefully build a responsible life. There will always be a piece missing from the perfect circumstances that supposedly needed.

If Yasser Arafat would have shaken hands at Camp David, he would have had to go home and go to work. He would have had to start doing the real business of constructing the legal, economic and political apparatus to build the country that supposedly all the violence and death was aimed toward achieving. To the extent that there might have been failures and setbacks, the option of blaming the Israelis would no longer have been available.

If Arafat would have done the deal in 2000, the last four years could have been spent building and moving forward. Instead, the Palestinian people have endure the same sordid circumstances that have defined their last 50 years.

Martin Luther King is someone who also had a dream for his people. Through hard work, done in strict accordance with nonviolence and Christian principles, he changed the world. Because of these efforts, legislation was passed in 1964 and 1965 that made equality for all, under the law and in the voting booth, the reality of this country. Black leaders could have delivered the message then that the task was to go home, go to work, build families, educate children and create a new prosperity.

But rather than seeing 1965 as the culmination of a political struggle, black political leaders defined it as the beginning of one. They built a consciousness among African Americans that regardless of the law, racism and a dominant white culture would leave them forever the helpless victims and that the only hope was continued political activism and political solutions.

Arab leaders taught their children that they are helpless because of the Israeli oppressors. African American leaders taught their children that they are helpless because of the white racists.

Arab children today volunteer for suicide missions. Better the next world than contending with the imperfections of this one. Forty-five percent of homicides in the United States today are black men killing other black men. Why go to work and raise a family when it's all hopeless and pointless? Liberals call it the hopelessness of victims. I call it irresponsibility.