02/23/2009 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Corporate and Personal Responsibility

If anyone knows me or have read anything that I have ever written, I am all for personal responsibility. I remember getting into big trouble as a consultant with a large city government for insisting that communities be personally responsible for their own neighborhoods. Change begins with each of us on the smallest of levels. Trash in our neighborhoods is not a small thing. As does love, respect too begins at home. But when I heard Joe Scarborough and Peggy Noonan the day of the inauguration on Morning Joe talking about personal responsibility it had a particular divisive and partisan ring.

"Barack Obama is going to be talking about Republican themes of personal responsibility and cleaning up the vacant lot next door," said Joe in so many words. Are Democrats not personally responsible? Who lives among vacant lots? Peggy Noonan chimed in some time later with the same pejorative buzz word, as if either of them actually knows what President-elect Obama will say. "Yes, she said, not quoting verbatim without transcript, "he's going to talk about personal responsibility, like cleaning up those vacant lots in your own neighborhood."

By then I was livid. There is no doubt that this disparaging "vacant lot" had not only a derogative anti-Democratic tone, but was used pejoratively to indicate African Americans. Such words are incredibly disheartening especially considering the past eight years where vacant lots in and of themselves did not add to the financial crisis currently rocking America. What about President Reagan's notion of laissez-faire economics that many believe has brought us to our current financial crisis? What about those who bankrupted banks and mortgage companies escaping in golden parachutes that landed in pristine gated communities? The financial crisis had more to do with these and less to do with vacant lots. Who will be held personally responsible for these things?

Financial institutions received welfare the likes that vacant lots will never see in thousands of lifetimes. (Not to mention redecorating offices to the tune of $1.22 million after receiving $45 billion from the government, giving employee bonuses of $2 billion to $3 billion dollars after reporting losses of $27 million the same year, and paying your driver $230,000.) Vacant lots had nothing to do with water boarding. Many Americans are asking that the current Republican president take personal responsibility for torture. Many are insisting that the incoming president charge him with war crimes. (I am not.) Yes, we all need to take personal responsibility but divisive partisan buzz words and tones will not unify us and will not get to the heart of what's needed to turn this country around. We need bi-partisanship and personal responsibility from everyone with respect for differences. Derogative buzz words strike the absolute wrong chord in this difficult time America now faces.

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