In a Christian civilization, people are responsible for their acts before God and man. There may be attenuating circumstances that diminish a person’s guilt for crimes or destructive actions. However, the final responsibility always lies with the individual. For this reason, life is full of trials and difficulties. Acts have consequences that people of character embrace.
Postmodern thought denies personal responsibility while affirming that individual freedom is absolute. Thus, the person is considered free to choose whatever acts gratify the passions. However, any resulting harm must be blamed on society, social structures and other persons. Everything is “systemic” in this new, woke world. Nothing is personal save the feelings of those who claim to be hurt.
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A Promising Career Cut Short
Two recent cases serve to illustrate the postmodern miscarriage of justice. They involve two very different individuals whose acts led to their deaths. However, society is blamed in both cases for failing to prevent the free choices of the perpetrators.
The first case involves Los Angeles Angels pitcher Tyler Skaggs. The 27-year-old Skaggs overdosed on oxycodone pills laced with fentanyl on July 1, 2019. He was found dead in a Texas hotel room just before a game. His promising Major League career was cut short.
However, it seems that the overdose was not Tyler’s fault but his team’s.
His widow is suing the Los Angeles Angels for negligence. His parents are expected to file a similar suit seeking damages. The plaintiffs allege that Angels’ communications director, Eric Kay, supplied drugs to the pitcher, and the team should have taken measures.
Failure to Provide a Safe Place
According to The Los Angeles Times, the wife’s lawsuit claims, “The Angels owed Tyler Skaggs a duty to provide a safe place to work and play baseball. The Angels breached their duty when they allowed Kay, a drug addict, complete access to Tyler. The Angels also breached their duty when they allowed Kay to provide Tyler with dangerous illegal drugs. The Angels should have known Kay was dealing drugs to players. Tyler died as a result of the Angels’ breach of their duties.”
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A supporting affidavit in a criminal suit against Kay quotes DEA special agent Geoffrey Lindenberg stating that without “the fentanyl in [Skaggs’] system, [Skaggs] would not have died.”
The person who supplied the fentanyl that ended up inside Skaggs body is irrelevant. The obvious conclusion is that the pitcher would not have died if he had not made the personal choice to swallow the fentanyl-laced pills. The work environment did not force him to kill himself.
Moreover, the availability of the drug facilitated the tragedy but did not cause it. Tyler chose to associate with people who sold him drugs.
Addiction as a Personal Choice
The pitcher did not complain of a toxic environment—which his addiction made more toxic. Mr. Skaggs bears the responsibility for his plight.
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The baseball team denied the charges and has called the lawsuit “without merit,” “baseless” and “irresponsible.” Indeed, if the lawsuit claims are true, then all players on the team can ask for damages for breach of contract. However, the team could also claim a similar breach since the pitcher was engaged in a dangerous addiction that jeopardized his ability to play ball.
Drug addiction is a choice that carries the risk of death. However, this tragic death by personal choice has been turned into the demise of a victim of a supposedly toxic work environment.
Air Force Fails to Register Mass Murderer
The second case of responsibility denial is even more absurd. It involves the mass shooter, Devin Patrick Kelley, responsible for killing 25 people and wounding 20 others before killing himself near a church in Sutherland Springs, Texas, on November 4, 2017.
The former Air Force airman was court-martialed in 2012 for domestic assault on his wife and child. In 2014, he was removed from the Air Force with a “bad conduct discharge.” However, by an oversight, the Air Force failed to enter the airman’s criminal record into the federal background check register, which would have barred him from firearm purchases.
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This failure enabled the man to buy the firearms used in the 2017 mass shooting.
Air Force More Responsible for Murders than the Killer
Devin’s crime was a terrible personal decision, but it seems, like Tyler Skaggs, the mass murder was not entirely his fault.
The families of the victims are suing the Air Force for its negligence. U.S. District Judge Xavier Rodriguez for the Western District of Texas just ruled that the Air Force was legally at fault for the Sutherland Springs shooting since Kelley remained eligible to buy the firearms he eventually used for the crime.
Judge Rodriguez found the gunman was only 40 percent responsible for the shooting while the U.S. government was accountable for 60 percent. In other words, the government was more at fault for the crime than the criminal was! He who pulled the trigger is less responsible than the clerk who forgot to enter his name into the database. One act was conscious and voluntary; the other was accidental and careless.
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Indeed, one would think the government had dangled the weapons in the face of the former airman irresistibly. The case assumes that he killed his victims because the government has made these weapons available, not because he was evil. The ruling turned the criminal into a mere accomplice to the Air Force!
A Distorted Vision of Justice
Not even the death of many individuals moved the judge to consider the shooter’s full responsibility. This distorted vision of justice favors the culprit over the victims. It is all too ready to blame the systemic structures inside society for the harm caused by personal choices.
A society that blames the system will end up destroying itself. This perspective is fast becoming the norm in defunded police districts and dangerous cities where criminals are not punished—and law enforcement is blamed for all social ills. This danger is found in laws that bar the prosecution of shoplifting when the stolen goods are no more than $900 in value.
For when criminals face no serious consequences, all disorder becomes possible. The Church established a Christian civilization, in which people assumed responsibility for their crimes and sins. Such norms favored the common good and domestic peace. It established stable social structures like the Christian family that helped people assume responsibility for their actions. Only a return to a Christian order will bring back the sanity needed for individuals to reject evil choices, embrace good ones and accept the consequences of their actions.
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