Let's grow up now

This column was written in response to a column by Mary Ann Sorentino which appeared on the editorial page of The Standard-Times (New Bedford, MA)July 3, 2002. It was printed on the op ed page of The Standard-Times July 9, 2002.

by Greg Stone

In her column July 3 Mary Ann Sorrentino asks: "Isn't it time for us to grow up?"

You bet it is and thanks for publishing her thoughtful and courageous column.
To me, growing up means introducing what President Bush calls a "responsibility era" and getting away from the childish mantra, which is "if you've got a problem, blame somebody else."

What the president says about individuals applies to nations as well. We have problems and to date our solution (and his) has been to blame someone else.

If people hate us, there must be something wrong with them. (Of course there's something wrong with them - they're "evil" - which is the most childish dodging of responsibility of all. It irritates me when I hear it used by people like Sadam Hussein and Osama bin Laden and I am embarrassed for my country when I hear our own president resort to it. But that's an issue for another day.)

Three simple questions

Adults know that simply blaming someone else for your mistakes doesn't work in the long run. Just about any problem gives way to three simple questions:

1. How can I change the behavior of someone else?
2. How can I change the situation - the environment - which feeds the problem?
3. How can I change my own behavior to improve the situation?

When it comes to terrorism we've been focusing on the first question, and our major solution has been to try to change the behavior of someone else through war.

We are doing little or nothing to change the environment which breeds terrorism. In fact, if anything, we are making it worse.(Question 2.)

And we are totally ignoring the third and most important question. That is, what in our past behavior has contributed to people hating us and how can we change that behavior to improve the situation.

For an adult - an adult with self-confidence and integrity - that should be the first and easiest solution. Granted, it is hard to see what we are doing wrong - especially if we are so weak that we are afraid to look at ourselves - but once you see what you are doing wrong, that is usually the easiest thing to change.

So Ms. Sorentino's column is a breath of fresh air, for it invites us to ask difficult questions and in fact asks some of those questions. I'm sure this will not sit well with some readers. Our fear of another September 11 - or worse - has caused a blossoming of misguided patriotism in which we attack anyone who suggests that America might share some blame for people's hatred of us.

Asking tough questions is patriotic

They act as if someone simply asking tough questions was attacking the American way of life, instead of living and acting as all American are entitled to do. This country is great because the founding fathers not only allowed, but encouraged freedom of speech. They didn't say "my country, right or wrong" - that's the slogan of the totalitarian states we've been fighting against for the past century. They had enough faith in people and trust in the system to want us to look carefully at ourselves.

It's good to see columnists exercising this right. Now if the politicians would only stop pandering to us and start exercising some courage and leadership we might actually find our way out of this mess.

Comments - email to: gstone@giveyoujoy.net

Last updated July 28, 2001


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