Contact Us    
Fault and Responsibility

They're not synonyms.

by Everett Wilson
November 3, 2007

Bookmark and Share
Fault and Responsibility

I have been thinking about fault and responsibility, and how they are not exact synonyms. I don't know that  it is statistically  possible to know how often they converge, but I know from experience, and you probably do too, that their convergence is more often an ideal than an experience in real time. Several scenarios come to mind.

You can be at fault, and admit it, but your taking responsibility beyond this admission is out of your reach.   Such is the situation of a toddler who ignores the command to "be careful," followed by a trip to the doctor for stitches. He can assume fault for the incident  but can no more take responsibility for getting to the emergency room than he can go to the moon. He may "learn a lesson" from it, but his memory may not yet be conditioned to do even that. 

On the news as I write this  is  the unsurprising report that a child in California has confessed to starting a 30,000-acre fire in the recent spate of disasters.  It's unsurprising because many more children play with matches than start tragic fires; but when a fire results the guilty child cannot begin to take responsibility for the consequences. His fault is no greater than that of the child who often plays with matches but has escaped starting a fire. His  responsibility may be greater, but he hasn't the resources to assume it.

Just yesterday I saw a poster advertising a benefit for the victim of a stabbing who has no insurance. Theoretically, his attacker should bear the responsibility, but realistically the victim and his neighbors must do that if it is going to be done. ..

Another scenario is in Dave Barry's wonderful comic novel Big Trouble, in which some mischievous teenagers on a lark stumble into a criminal situation not of their making. What do they do? Deeply frightened, they take off in their car, and go looking for adults who will take responsibility—responsibility not for the crime, but for them.

American society is hung up on responsibility as a consequence of justice, but such responsibility is often no more than symbolic—fines that emphasize the fault do not address the actual responsibility in the consequences that  crime,   accident, carelessness, etc. create. 

The actual responsibility is assumed by the parent or neighbor who makes the trip to the emergency room;by the Good Samaritan who takes care of the stranger; and by the state government that takes actual  rather than symbolic responsibility for addressing  human need. 


Post a Comment

Send Us Your Opinion
(Comments are moderated.)
Your Name:*

Your E-Mail Address:*
(Confidential. Will not be published.)


Note: In order to control automated spam submissions, URLs are no longer permitted in this form.

Please type the letters you see above.


Bookmark and Share

Real Things
A novel.
Published January 2, 2008
Temporarily Unavailable

Real Things first appeared in serialized form on the Partial Observer in 2001. It is now available in print for the first time.

Over thirty years after a senseless crash redefined his life, Greg Thompson and his family finally learn why.

More Information
RSS Feed for Everett Wilson: RSS Feed for Everett Wilson
Sign up to receive an e-mail notice when new articles by this author are published. Your address remains confidential, and you may cancel at any time. A confirmation email will be sent.

Your e-mail address:
po Books
Now Available!

Teachings of a Three Year Old... Turned Tyke,
by Hal Evan Caplan.

A father learns from the wisdom of his toddler.

More Information.

More by Everett Wilson
Necessary Things, A Companion and Sequel to Real Things
Available from Amazon Books, Amazon Kindle, and Me!
by Everett Wilson, 2/16/15
Until Barrett is Free, Neither Are We
Freedom of the Press is not a whim of the state
by Everett Wilson, 2/26/14
Why the United States Will not Get Competent Universal Health Care in my Lifetime
Six Obvious Reasons
by Everett Wilson, 11/15/13
An Open Letter to Congressman Jeff Fortenberry
Clean Sweep Time
by Everett Wilson, 10/2/13
An Open Letter to Congressman Jeff Fortenberry
Clean Sweep Time
by Everett Wilson, 10/1/13
Excerpt from my new novel, Scoundrels and Fools
Chapter 5: Ellis Johnson
by Everett Wilson, 7/12/13
The Rev. Marjorie Drickey's Last Message to a Dying World
And all the trumpets sounded for her on the other side.
by Everett Wilson, 2/14/13
» Complete List (151)

RSS Feed for Everett Wilson: RSS Feed for Everett Wilson

Recently Published
View Article A Prodigal Father's Day
The patient, persistent, unconditional love of our Heavenly Father
by Greg Asimakoupoulos, 6/18/21
My Girl Friday
A toast to all administrative assistants
by Greg Asimakoupoulos, 6/11/21
Two Giant Hands in Tulsa
Praying for forgiveness and healing
by Greg Asimakoupoulos, 6/4/21
To a Field of Dreams
Memorial Day ponderings
by Greg Asimakoupoulos, 5/28/21
Don't Mask! Don't Tell!
It's about time for about face
by Greg Asimakoupoulos, 5/21/21
Liz Cheney's Not Lon Chaney
Why recent events on Capitol Hill resemble a horror show
by Greg Asimakoupoulos, 5/14/21
A Mothers' Day Hymn
Remembering our moms with gratitude to our Heavenly Father
by Greg Asimakoupoulos, 5/7/21

Get the Partial Observer's
'recently published' headlines via RSS.

RSS Feed for Recently Published PO Articles    What is RSS?
Reproduction of original material from The Partial Observer without written permission is strictly prohibited.
The opinions expressed by site contributors do not necessarily reflect those of the editors.
Copyright ©2000-2021 partialobserver.com. All rights reserved.
Home · Site Map · Top