David George Johnson, Sartell
I very much appreciate receiving the Sartell Newsleader each week. Thank you for the publication. I also enjoy the editorial section and appreciate the liberal/conservative balance exhibited. I have a very hard time, however, with the column written by Ron Scarbro in the Jan. 9 edition entitled: “It must be that person behind the tree.”
Scarbro seems to begin with the proposition that we are all responsible for our own actions. I wholeheartedly and enthusiastically agree with that proposition. From that righteous assertion Scarbro veers into never-never land. I’ll take the last of it first.
Some might consider the remarks about slavery and plantations in his last paragraph as racist. All aspects of racism aside, his statement: “We are all born into this great country with the same opportunities and the same choices . . .” rings sadly hollow. Does Scarbro really think the child who has to stay home from school to care for siblings while mother works has the same opportunity as the child whose parents send him/her to private schools? Nonsense.
Just before that, Scarbro dismisses people who are forced to make legal claims as bringing “silly lawsuits” brought by “silly lawyers.” More nonsense.
Full disclosure here. Before retirement I spent more than 30 years of my legal career representing injured people and their claims against corporations and insurance companies. Those of us in that specialty are compensated, almost universally, by the contingent fee system. That means if the legal claim is not successful the lawyer doesn’t get paid. There is no financial incentive to bring a “silly” lawsuit. Put another way: If insurance companies and large corporations treated injured people fairly and honestly, folks like me would be out of work. And there are a lot of folks like me out there.
This brings me to the third issue with Scarbro, his initial references to personal responsibility. He talks about the clamor over police actions involving black perpetrators saying: “The responsibility lays at the feet of the perpetrator, not the law-enforcement officers.” Fair enough. But what about the police officer who put a chokehold on Eric Garner, killing him. Chokeholds are prohibited by the New York Police Department. What about that police officer’s personal responsibility?
He implies smokers who get lung cancer have it coming because they should know it causes cancer. That may be true now but, for decades, the tobacco industry not only denied any relationship between smoking and cancer, they actively assured the public smoking was beneficial to their health. Where is the personal responsibility for that?
Scarbro also reaches to one of the biggest whoppers in modern mythology to make his point about personal responsibility: The McDonald’s hot-coffee case. He implies it was the injured party who was really responsible for her own burns, saying she was driving away with hot coffee in her lap. Stella Liebeck, age 79 at the time, was the injured party. She was a passenger in the car, not the driver. The car was parked in the McDonald’s lot when she attempted to open the coffee container to mix in some sugar and cream. The coffee spilled on her lap causing third- and fourth-degree burns. Burns were that severe because McDonald’s instructed its franchisees to maintain the temperature of its coffee between 180- and 190-degrees F. At these temperatures second-degree to full-thickness burns can be expected within seconds. Prior to this incident McDonald’s had admittedly received more than 700 complaints of burns from coffee. All of these facts were disclosed in an HBO documentary entitled “Hot Coffee.”
Where is McDonald’s personal responsibility?
Personal responsibility is not a one-way street. That fine principle should not be used to blame victims. Get real Scarbro, the conservative movement deserves better.