For the first time in many a moon, I recorded on video a Socrates Cafe give and take between me and my oldest daughter Cali.

The question du jour: Who’s responsible?

Ours is a time when many are shirking even the most basic and fundamental responsibilities. Our two leading presidential candidates have mirrored this.  One of them, as just one for-instance, waited a seeming eternity to reluctantly and begrudgingly accept even a smidgeon of personal responsibility for using a private email server while conducting official federal business while Secretary of State. Another refuses to own up and acknowledge even the most outrageous and false and hurtful string of statements, no matter how perniciously stereotypical.

 

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It never ceases to amaze me (though it surely should) how many can become less and less responsible as the years pass. Becoming an official ‘adult,’ then, is no guarantor of being more mature, much less more responsible.

I have learned this lesson all too personally and painfully via two particular events, one in my personal life and one in my professional life, that continue to wound, and to whom it would never remotely occur to the instigators to accept the slightest responsibility, despite (and because of) all the deliberate damage left in their wake. I would like to characterize their actions as extreme examples, if not for the rising tide of ultra narcissism coupled with the shirking of responsibility among many adults; and this habit sadly then is often practiced subsequently by younger folks in their orbit.

Why is it that our youngest, until we adults ‘teach’ and model for them otherwise, seem to know better than the rest of us that we have the whole world in our hands, and that we can move mountains and do great goodness if we only accept our personal role in doing so — and that, conversely, so many of us older folks seem to look for opportunities to be ‘poster adults’ of irresponsibility?

Children tend to have a keen social conscience that can dissipate as they become adults; and many adults who have the biggest soapboxes for exhorting our youngest to be engaged and involved and responsible citizens themselves do not practice with any consistency what they preached.  While kids too often are viewed solely as citizens in the making rather than also as citizens made, adults of a certain stripe and caliber live as if they are ‘outside’ the purview of citizenship altogether, and this is reflected also by ever so many of their more ‘private’ actions (though in fact the boundaries between the two have the thinnest of membranes).

I believe one of the last and best hopes for we putative grown-ups to change our irresponsible ways is to allow kids — who may be smaller in stature but often far more grown-up in their actions — to take the lead in showing us how and when to accept personal responsibility.  My daughter Cali, for one, and among other young people in my orbit, do this for me, thankfully. I am greatly in their debt.