The Price of Greatness

Some citizens in Wolfford, Texas see the refusal to wear a mask to protect others as a principled stand.

“I’m not doing it because I woke up in a free country.”

“… we’re done with all that.”

“…we don’t care.”

Facing a tidal wave of defections from advertisers angered by the hate speech that appears next to their names in postings on Facebook, a meeting was held with top executives at the social media behemoth to determine what actions should be taken. Founder/CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s message to advertisers: “We won’t back down.

Sadly, we have now entered the unambiguous state of irresponsibility and disrespect which has spread faster than the virus that continues to break single day records for infections and deaths in the U.S.. It’s a place where First Amendment rights become justifications for appalling behavior.

Now, I can talk about the need for responsibility in a society where we all have a duty to act as well as refrain from improper acts. I can remind you of the importance of respecting others no matter their gender, sexual orientation, race, color, religion, or political affiliation without prejudice.

I could go on and on, but I won’t, because most of us know the right thing to do. We know how to treat others the way we expect to be treated. We teach respect and responsibility to our children because that’s how most of us were raised, and that’s what’s expected in a civilized society.

When I attended grade school, we dutifully lined up to receive a polio vaccination. No one argued with doctors. No one challenged the science behind it. On the reverse side of my First-Grade report card, we were graded on comportment: “careful of property; obeys promptly; listens attentively; speaks clearly; respects the rights of others.”

In my Catholic high school, if you used profanity, a racial slur, or talked back to any teacher, you were immediately slapped across the face, and God wouldn’t help you if you continued to do it.

Each generation talks about the lack of respect and responsibility from the rising generation, and they all begin with the same four words, “In my day, we… ”

Nonetheless, every day seems to demonstrate a new low in how we treat each other and selfishly ignore how our actions affect others. Every day, the ethical bar moves a little lower for those qualities of character necessary for a society that asks us to be both respectful and responsible to each other.

In psychiatrist and philosopher Viktor Frankl’s groundbreaking work, “Man’s Search for Meaning,” the Holocaust survivor talks about the critical importance of what he calls, responsibleness.

“Freedom is only part of the story and half of the truth. Freedom is but the negative aspect of the whole phenomenon whose positive aspect is responsibleness. In fact, freedom is in danger of degenerating into mere arbitrariness unless it is lived in terms of responsibleness. That is why I recommend that the Statue of Liberty on the East Coast be supplemented by a Statue of Responsibility on the West Coast.”

Like the caution signs posted throughout cities and villages in Europe during World War II, maybe we need a sign that says: “For the safety and dignity of others, act responsibly; act respectfully.”

“The price of greatness is responsibility,” Churchill wrote.

Let’s show it.

1 comment… add one
  • Gary Lange July 8, 2020, 6:05 pm

    Thanks to those who have been responsible for me, and I will be my best to back them WITH my mask on…

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