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Personal Accountability

[Photo: Fire Chief Teddy Bear by WiredAfterMidnight]

One of the top stories in Chicago's local news this weekend was the death of six children in an apartment fire. The family was impoverished and had been living without electricity since the spring. Apparently they had been using candles as a light source -- it is suspected that one of these candles sparked the fire. No evidence of smoke detectors was found in the apartment. The apartment had three rooms, and served as the living space for nine children and a married couple. Eight of the children were the couple's offspring -- I believe the couple had ten children in all, two of which did not reside in the apartment. The six children that perished ranged in age from 3 to 14.

My first reaction to these types of stories is grief and sadness -- all the obviously related social and economic themes also run through my mind. However, these emotions of sympathy quickly turn to anger and confusion once the facts of the situation register. Why were 11 people living in a 3 room apartment? Did the owner of the building know about the crowded conditions? Aren't there governmental agencies whose purpose is to enforce the related laws and regulations? If the family didn't have electricity, did they have water? Food?

One might argue that the family was poor, and therefore had no other option. I heard on the radio that the family may not have wanted many to know that they did not have electrcity out of fear that DCFS would take their children away. I have a hard time fully empathising with the parents. They obviously were not capable of providing quality, safe living conditions for their children. Why did they have 10 children? Did they not know after the 4th, 5th or 6th that they could not provide an adequate quality of life? Were they not educated in the means of birth control? Did they not use birth control because of religious beliefs (this is my theory, and not necessarily fact)? Does the use of birth control displease God more than bringing children into the world under impoverished and cramped conditions? Does it displease God more than children succumbing to a fiery death not of their own making? Did they believe that faith alone was enough to raise 10 children?

I do realize that these situations are multi-faceted and complex. I consider myself a humanitarian and do not wish to sound insensitive, but I simply do not understand the lack of responsibilty, and thought processes, of people who chose to bring so many children into the world when their life circusmtances do not make it a winning situation for any party involved.

As a society, we must bear the burden of people who do not want to be, or for whatever reason cannot be, sexually responsible (yes, even when you are married). Are religious teachings banning birth control harmful to those that follow religious doctrine unconditionally? What role should government play in these situations? If the family cannot provide for the children, should they be taken away? How many children are too many? If we are of a faith that bans birth control, what responsility do we have to ensure that we can care for the children we do bring into this world?

I don't understand how any parent can have their family living in such awful conditions. It is total lack of responsibility on the parents part to be living in such conditions. If you can't afford to provide electricity for your family, you should not be raising a family. It disgust me to no end that people live such irresponsible lives and blame others for their misery. I'm not saying this is not a tragedy, but come on people, do something to better your situation.

Granted there should have been smoke detectors in the building (that is the landlord's fault), but it disgusts me that the parnets put their own family at risk. The news reported that both parents are hard working. Well if they are hard working, where is the electricity. Did they provide food, water, and basic human needs?

Angela asks some great questions and raises some good points. Who is responsible? The gov't or YOU? Remember what Kennedy said!

Is religion being so bureaucratic that you must abide by the rules at all cost. No contraception, all natural?

How many children is too many? Enough not to be able to provide for them in a decent manner!

People need to start to make themselves more responsible and accountable for their lives and their actions! I can go on and on and on about this.

To be fair, we have to remember that we do not know the story of the family. They may not have always lived in poverty and some series of unfortunate incidences may have put them in such a bad situation.

However, I would imagine that having 10 children would be a drain on alomst any family that is not extremely well off. I feel the issue demonstrates the necessity to think about the consequences of your actions before you take action.

You are right Angela. It doesn't make sense at times when you hear stories like this. Why, how, what could have been done that people let themselves get this far into despair without asking for help, but let it get deeper and deeper and deeper to the point that this tragedy happens. We do not know the story of the family. However, their actions resulted in this fatal incident. The story behind the family should of not gone this far to put their family in this situation. They had options to live elsewhere. Their church, YMCA, shelters.

Is it too much pride that resulted in this tragedy?

I think that the questions that are raised here are very judgemental - one puts their own feelings and beliefs on to these people. We should all feel responsible in some way - the society in which we live is surely to blame - and we are a part of this society. In fact we have contributed to its existence by what we say or do not say, whether we vote, for whom we voted, and even if we did not vote. Instead of asking why or trying to figure out who is to blame I think that we should see that we are all to blame.

You were very quick to point the finger at the family. It was almost shocking to see a humanitarian like yourself scapegoat the family. It's like your letting your feelings do the talking. Your argument although seemingly logical points to an agenda, suggesting that because the family did not use birth control they are irresponsible, therefore should be blamed for all their problems. So if it was a family of one that could not afford electricity and was poor for whatever reason. And their apartment caught on fire, they must have deserved it. So do you walk up to every bum on the street and tell them they deserve it?
So do you think we should go the same way as China, and have a one child policy? The Chinese have a great reputation for being such good humanitarians, the are caring all-accepting and oh yes they are very responsible.

Who else is responsible for the number of people living in the apartment then, if not the parents? Whose responsibility was it to ensure the safety of the kids and the child they were watching that night?

If they aren't responsible, as you're suggesting.. who is?

wheatgerm, thanks for stopping by!

I agree that the tone of my post may have appeared judgemental and that I made some potentially unjust assumptions about the family. That wasn't my intention, and I thank you and Judi for calling me on it. As you noted, I may have allowed my feelings to do the talking.

However, I don't believe that I in any way implied that the family "deserved" what happened to them. The thought never crossed my mind. I do have the utmost sympathy for the family and cannot imagine dealing with such a tragic loss. The parents were on the news last night and the interview was truly heartbreaking to watch.

I guess I unfairly used the story to raise a few topics for discussion. When writing the post I had a number of thoughts in mind including the need to propogate a sense of personal responsibility for one's actions, as well as the need to rationalize the consequences of your actions before taking action. However, I agree that the tone of my post unfailry gave the impression that the parents were negligible and to blame for the deaths of their children.

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