May 30, 2010

Rant #1: The blame game is annoying. How about accepting responsibility? BP and Transamerica and Halliburton could all accept some responsibility, I suspect. The Catholic Church could accept some responsibility for its misogyny and the pedophilia of some of its priests. Alan Greenspan could accept some responsibility for the economic meltdown. And how about Wall Street?

Frank Rich’s 04-11-10 New York Times op-ed “No One Is to Blame for Anything” is a sad testament to this country and our leaders. Rich says: “We live in a culture where accountability and responsibility are forgotten values. When ‘mistakes are made’ they are always made by someone else.” As Rich notes, there are no consequences and too little punishment. There’s too much “turn the page” and “look to the future.”

Obama is at the front of the parade when it comes to turning the page, forgetting the past, and looking to the future. But without consequences and punishment, we don’t change. Worse yet, we have this “great memory hole” in the American psyche and society.

Rant #2: Remember when President Obama talked about what he was looking for in a Supreme Court justice to replace Justice Souter? Obama said, “I view [that] quality of empathy, of understanding and identifying with people’s hopes and struggles as an essential ingredient for arriving at just decisions and outcomes.”

In response to Obama’s comment, there was a huge outcry of negativity, devaluing the importance of empathy. Dahlia Lithwick writes about “why the E word matters” in her 04-19-10 column in Newsweek. She sums up the issue: “Empathy isn’t emotional incontinence and it isn’t fudging the law to help the little guy. Empathy is the power to imagine a world outside your experience, and to map that understanding onto the law.”

There is no justice without empathy. There is no humanity without empathy. There is no “do unto others as you would have done unto you” without empathy. Without empathy, how can I, a white woman, understand what it is like to face racism every day? Without empathy, how can a man understand what it is like for women to face gender bias? Without empathy…

Rant #3: Enough already! Pay your taxes. And many of us Americans should pay higher taxes. Great commentary by David Holahan in the 04-11-10 Providence Journal. Holahan is musing on paying almost 15% of his adjusted gross income on taxes. And he says, “…our income is relatively gross no matter how you slice it, especially when compared with 99% of the Earth’s population. We eat regularly, own 3 cars…have an upstanding grown son…a house, a dog and a satellite dish. What’s to whine about?”

I agree wholeheartedly with Holahan, and I’ve said it before. Tom and I give to charity and we pay our taxes. And we make enough money that we should probably pay higher taxes. Our taxes pay for education (and I want better education so I’ll pay higher taxes for that, thank you.) And I want Social Security for everyone. And I want real, true universal healthcare and real true universal childcare. And I don’t have kids but I still want education and healthcare and childcare for kids and families. And, by the way, I think we should spend a whole lot less on the military… a very big whole lot less.

Neither Holahan nor I is naive. We know that government isn’t perfect. But what is going on with our fellow citizens of the US of A? Whining about tasks. Not voting. As Holahan says, “Our politics, I fear, is trending toward the rigid extremism that is so common around the world. Like pouty children, we prefer kicking down the sand castle to building it up.”

So quit whining, fellow citizens. Vote. Pay your taxes. Give gifts to charity. Work for change. Participate in this democracy. Avoid extremism. Too many Americans are beginning to sound like extremists – you know, the extremists you complain about in other countries.

Filed under: Social Commentary

About Simone Joyaux

A consultant specializing in fund development, strategic planning, and board development, Simone P. Joyaux works with all types and sizes of nonprofits, speaks at conferences worldwide, and teaches in the graduate program for philanthropy at Saint Mary’s University, MN. Her books, Keep Your Donors and Strategic Fund Development, are standards in the field.

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