Defining personal responsibility

Jedediah Bila Contributor
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My best friend recently joked with me that if I don’t start making more time for rest and relaxation, the government might jump in and put me on a new schedule. It would be funny if it wasn’t in the realm of possibility, given the direction our country is moving in these days.

Federal and local governments are well on their way to usurping the roles of mommy and daddy. In parts of Santa Clara, California, the government voted to ban Happy Meal toys unless restaurants adhere to nutritional guidelines outlined by a Board of Supervisors. Supervisor Ken Yeager discloses in the Los Angeles Times that “This ordinance prevents restaurants from preying on children’s’ love of toys to sell high-calorie, unhealthful food.” Government is also taking on the role of personal nutritionist, whether you want one or not. The Washington Post reveals that “The Food and Drug Administration is planning an unprecedented effort to gradually reduce the salt consumed each day by Americans…The initiative, to be launched this year, would eventually lead to the first legal limits on the amount of salt allowed in food products.”

So, what’s the problem? Less fatty foods and salt can’t be a bad thing, right? Right. However, isn’t that up to you to decide for your body? And up to parents to decide for their children?

I wonder what other jobs the government will soon be claiming under the guise of protecting our health and well-being (a.k.a. making decisions that we can and should be making for ourselves). After all, it’s rare that hard-working Americans get the recommended eight hours of sleep per night, right? Perhaps we should all have a mid-day, government-mandated siesta. Lights out, everyone! Or maybe we should be fined for that dreadful act of burping. I mean, someone has to do something to discourage all of those toxic carbon dioxide emissions. The health of the planet is at stake!

What’s the price we pay for all of this government interference?

I’ve had the honor of working with children in diverse capacities over the past six years. Personal responsibility, a core tenet that has driven our nation to its unparalleled success, is alarmingly absent among our youth. I’ve heard teenagers justify sexual promiscuity with an off-the-cuff comment like “Well, I can just go get an abortion. What’s the big deal?” The notions of caution, thinking before you act, and acknowledging potential consequences, are no longer. To so many young adults, abortion has become an afternoon lunch break equivalent.

I recently heard the story of a student who admittedly didn’t study for a test, received an F, and asked his teacher if she was going to give him an extra five points so he’d pass anyway. When she said no, he was indignant, insisting that it wasn’t his fault because he simply didn’t have time to study. He upheld that she was the guilty party for not taking the time to consider his busy social schedule. As an interesting note, the student also said that the test was “too big to fail.” I’ll leave the rest of that equation to you.

Kids will now grow up learning that it’s not about making good versus poor decisions for themselves. It’s about waiting for the government to tell them what to do. Welcome, ladies and gentlemen, to a new era of bigger and bolder dependency. And don’t think for a second that the government doesn’t know what it’s doing.

Personally, I’m a bit of a health nut when it comes to food and fitness. But those choices are mine to make. Whether adults eat salad or chocolate all day long is up to them, as is whether they run six miles a day or sleep all afternoon. When it comes to kids, let parents be parents.

The survival of personal responsibility in our country is inherently linked to the preservation of America as we know it. It’s easy to be lazy, to play the blame game, and to wait for the government to tell you what to do. It’s much harder to choose between right and wrong, good and bad, healthy and unhealthy, and to be responsible for those choices.

America has never taken the easy way out, and it shouldn’t start now.

Jedediah Bila is a conservative columnist and commentator living in New York City.  For more information on Jedediah, please visit http://jedediahbila.com/.