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A Responsibility to Honor Despite Our Faults

Now in its second year, the Concurrent has seen some holidays repeat. Some of these I chose to recognize the first year, but not the second year such as Mother’s Day. Did mothers everywhere suddenly get less special in a year’s time?


Of course not. In an increasingly crowded media environment, however, with an even faster dwindling attention span of the audience, publishing a piece on Mother’s Day along with everyone else who is writing using the same theme is an ineffective way to communicate a message.


Some holidays are worth mentioning every year. Memorial Day is one of them. Last year, my wife and I were in St. Augustine during this weekend and we walked past several American Flags planted in a garden, each with a name attached to it. Later I lamented not taking a picture, yet unbeknownst to me, Rachel had which is the picture that one again accompanies this Memorial Day piece.


She had done so because the flags had the same impact on her as they had on me. This striking symbol of sacrifice deserved to be honored, to be remembered and to be mentioned each year as we recognize the solemn day.


One thing that is different about this year from last is that now we are coming into the full swing of campaign season. Competing ideas for what those flags stand for, and as an extension, what those brave men and women lying in the ground died to protect will be discussed contentiously soon.


Recent events have started these talks and not just among politicians. San Francisco Giants baseball team manager Gabe Kapler announced this week that he is skipping the playing of the national anthem because he is “not okay with the state of this country” in the wake of the Texas school shooting.


This idea of turning away from our country because of a disagreement with it has always felt foreign to me. Sometimes this is expressed in anger, such as labeling someone who doesn’t feel the need to be proudly American as entitled or ungrateful or disrespectful.


In election season, we often just call them Democrats. This is only half in jest - partly because I know I am joking when I say it and the other half because I know many other people aren’t. Public figures attempt to make patriotism partisan.


For example, I don’t think Kapler would have done this stunt if he were the manager of the Texas Rangers rather than the manager in the most liberal city in America. So too, former President Donald Trump’s embrace and kissing of the American flag on stage at CPAC in 2020 (uncoincidentally also an election year) is the flip side of attempting to insert partisanship into patriotism.


I could never fully explain why either of these exaggerated displays of what each person perceived as expressing patriotism bothered me until I read Mark Manson’s 2017 book with a title punctuated by an expletive called, The Subtle Art of Not Giving a…and I’ll let you fill in the rest.


Manson describes something of his own creation called the Responsibility/Fault Fallacy. The theory states that people are terrible at making the distinction between responsibility and fault, often equating the two, so they fail to take responsibility when appropriate.


For example, a short man who is romantically challenged blames his height for the reason no girls like him. His height is at fault, and when equated, must be responsible for his relational misfortune. But the two are separate.


He may be universally disliked because of his insecurity or his preconceived notions about how women prioritize height. It is not his fault that he is short but it is his responsibility to not let his height affect his life, yet he is unable to make the distinction.


To honor the fallen on Memorial Day, it is our responsibility to remember our duty to honor the pride in our country. Kaplan no longer feels he has the responsibility to respect the anthem because it is the fault of the tragic events in the county. This is Responsibility/Fault Fallacy, being unable to make the distinction.


Another way of thinking about it is that responsibility is what you can change either in thought or action whereas fault is external, unchangeable forces. It’s the Concurrent’s responsibility to recognize Memorial Day each year, one we’re honored to do, and it will be our candidates’ responsibility to not dismiss what they feel is simply the fault of others.

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