1992: The Year That Accountability Died
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by Jon Burras
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A remarkable turn of events occurred in the state of New Mexico in 1992 that became the foundation for our
current climate. One day in 1992 a seventy-nine year old woman (Stella Liebeck) drove through a McDonalds drive-thru restaurant and
ordered a cup of coffee. After leaving the restaurant she placed the hot cup of coffee between her legs and within minutes she inadvertently
spilled the warm beverage all over her. She was hospitalized for a few days with severe burns on her legs but eventually recovered.
She then sued McDonalds for her self-induced calamity and was awarded a $3 million dollar judgment.
out that it was not really about the temperature of the coffee at all but about the type of container that the warm beverage came
in. The temperature of the coffee the woman received was estimated to be between 180-190 degrees, well within industry standards.
Who wants to drink luke-warm coffee after all? The problem was that McDonalds was ruled liable for not providing a proper top that
would contain the hot liquid. Never-the-less, this senior citizen was cleared of any wrong-doing and awarded a large settlement for
spilling hot coffee on herself. The world had suddenly changed.
You might have heard the Don McLean America
Pie song where he sings about the day the music died. This is in reference to the death of rock and roll stars Buddy Holly, Ritchie
Valens, and JP "The Big Bopper" Richardson, all who died prematurely in a plane crash on February 3rd, 1953. Well, in 1992 common
sense, self-responsibility and accountability all perished as well as if they had fallen out of the sky in a tumultuous descent.
Not long after this event our society began to change. It seems that nobody was responsible any more for any of their own actions.
People would slip and fall on a small patch of water in a supermarket and end up with million dollar judgments. A banana peel on the
floor or a smudge of melted ice cream became the breeding ground for law suit after law suit. A tiny crack in a sidewalk while avoided
by most was the cash cow for others who seemed to suddenly and inadvertently slip and fall over it.
lawyer advertisements began to appear on television in record numbers, much like weeds popping up from the decay of an abandoned amusement
park. These incessant ads seemed to outnumber even the drug and car commercials. Now you created a big business that developed by
rewarding victims who had created their own calamity.
Over the years our society has been transformed from
one where you held accountability for all of your actions into one where victims win and very few people are held accountable. In
fact, in today's climate, victimhood is celebrated like a robust case of psoriasis or gonorrhea. We have not called out victims but
have protected them and even encouraged them.
For instance, most people are not aware that there is a special
fund for Congressman who do bad things. In 1995 Congress enacted the Congressional Accountability Act. This provision is a safety
net for Congressmen and Congresswomen that has paid out over 17 million dollars in payments from 1995-2017. Politicians are protected
from claims of sexual harassment, racial discrimination and most other crimes. The information is kept secret as to who receives the
money and who is the perpetrator of the act. Congress is excused from accountability or any wrong doing.
We have all seen courtrooms either in person or on television where everyone in the courtroom has to swear to tell the truth. Everyone
that is except lawyers. Lawyers have no accountability as they are allowed to lie, bend the truth, twist the truth and make up the
truth in any manner they wish as to win their case. There is no accountability.
We have seen how police officers are often protected
from their own accountability. First, they are protected by the "thin blue line" which is a code of silence among other officers.
If they are seen doing something inappropriate they are seldom called out by their fellow officers. There are also police commissions
and unions that make it difficult to convict a police officer of wrong doing. These oversight committees become enablers in freeing
many police officers of accountability when they do bad things.
We also have seen how law enforcement tactics
and training have come under scrutiny without accountability. Actions like choke holds, knees to someone's neck while in custody and
shooting a suspect in the heart eighteen times seems excessive. Yet very few people hold police departments accountable for these
tactics that seem prehistoric.
Citizens are not off the hook for accountability recruitment either. In our society we reward failure.
Kids with failing grades are often passed to move on to the next grade level as part of a "social retention" program. We would not
want to traumatize them by having them miss out on their friends that they had developed bonds with.
people throwing rocks, bottles, fireworks and fire bombs at police officers suffer very little punishment. In the recent 2020 nationwide
call to action riots many mayors have said that they will not condemn these rioters because they understand their frustration. We
have witnessed widespread violence where innocent people were pummeled and beaten to a pulp. We have witnessed large crowds taking
over freeways, terrorizing families in mini vans and torching police cars. Yet many mayors and governors refuse to condemn such actions,
saying that they understand how these rioters must feel. Is there any empathy for the terrorized family in the mini van?
Among the recent activities there are also interesting developments in how protesters are the recipient of special funds set up, often
by political operatives, to bail them out of jail after a night of violent activity. We would not want a violent protester to have
to come up with his own bail money would we?
Furthermore, these same politicians have claimed that they might
not prosecute the looters and rioters but let them go free. Many politicians are enablers and will not hold people accountable for
their actions. They have learned the lessons from the McDonald's lawsuit and seemed to live by those standards.
This is like when your 2-year-old child throws paint on the wall, pees on the carpet and then sets the house on fire, all because
he did not get his favorite toy. We reward the child with a lollipop and tell him that it is okay, we understand his frustration and
not to worry because we have insurance to help rebuild the house.
A mentality of lack of accountability is
the same one that created the participation trophy some years back. Now a child in a sport is awarded a trophy for losing because
we did not want to hurt his feelings. We seem to take away the lessons of defeat. A common sense approach is to allow a child to lose
so that he will try harder next time and even develop his skill level. That approach is nowhere to be found today.
Society is filled with lack of accountability and we continue to promote and support it. For instance, it has become very common for
cities to forgive past library book due fees and even stop charging for over due books. In essence these municipalities think that
people should not be punished for walking away with a book and never returning it. Why even have a library card then?
An alcoholic or drug user will often claim that it is not his fault for "using". It is embedded in his genes. This is the entire premise
behind the AA (Alcoholics Anonymous) movement. Under this credo it is never your fault. If you are homeless then not to worry. It
must not be your fault either. We will look for a dozen excuses to let you off the hook for any kind of responsibility.
Professional baseball has a luxury tax that is required if you spend too much money on players. Nobody pays this tax because nobody
holds teams accountable for it. Despite a ban on whaling by most nations Japan still kills thousands of whales and dolphins each year
for their sushi bars. They claim it is for "research". Nobody holds Japan accountable for this breach in the whaling ban. We would
not want to disrupt international trade would we?
Businesses across America often hire illegal immigrants
to work for them. This is illegal but seldom is a business owner held accountable for these crimes. He is supporting the economy after
all. Giant chemical companies bring toxic materials into our lives like glysophate (in Roundup herbicide). In most cases these companies
are not held accountable for their toxic pollution.
During the recession of 2008 and beyond many people lost
their homes, jobs and livelihoods. Very few companies or institutions were actually fined and held accountable. Instead, many were
rewarded and some were declared "too big to fail". Is it any wonder why the average person does not trust government when they witness
practices like this where people creating havoc are not only excused but rewarded.
The government has set
up a special court called the Vaccine Injury Compensation Court where a person who has been injured or a family member killed by a
vaccine can gain a settlement. The drug companies producing the dangerous and toxic vaccines are off the hook for any damages. Instead
the United States government acts as the enabler to protect the drug companies from any financial loss and bad press when vaccines
cause harm. Billions of dollars in payments have already been distributed, none of which came from the drug manufacturers themselves.
There are cultures that fail and we reward them. There are people who fail and we reward them. There are
companies that fail and we reward them. There are countries that fail and we reward them. It seems like a pattern that is pretty well
set in place. Is it any wonder that those people who have a stitch of common sense seem to scratch their heads in disbelief and wonder
how we got here. People who are victims do not get it. People with a strong sense of self-responsibility do.
America is besieged right now by many challenges from a world-wide pandemic, economic casualties, racial enlightenment and homeless
eradication. We also have a giant mental health issue where victims are supported and rewarded for their failures and errant behavior.
Nearly thirty years ago our country suddenly and drastically changed. In 1992 not just Stella Liebeck but
all of us were burned by a single cup of hot coffee. Who would have thought that one cup of coffee could create such an uproar in
American culture? I wonder if it were regular or decaf?