“We must reject the idea that every time a law’s broken, society is guilty rather than the lawbreaker. It is time to restore the American precept that each individual is accountable for his actions.” Ronald Reagan said that. I agree with his point, but would add that this “American precept” was predicated upon and adopted from biblical truths such as “So then each one of us will give an account of himself to God (Romans 14:12).” Personal responsibility was embraced by the Christian consensus that guided our founding fathers and a tacit tenet of American jurisprudence. The lex non scripta of lex scripta so to speak.
This principle of personal responsibility is being ignored by five inmates serving time at Idaho’s Kuna Correctional facility. They are incarcerated for crimes ranging from grand theft to manslaughter committed while they were under the influence of alcohol. According to news reports, they are suing several big name liquor and wine companies for a cool billion bucks.
Cory Baugh, Jeremy Brown, Keith Brown, Woodrow Grant and Steve Thompson base their suit on the contention these companies never warned them about the addictive nature of alcoholic beverages. Jeremy Brown claims, “If I was not an alcoholic, the shooting would never have happened. At no time in my life, prior to me becoming an alcoholic, was I ever informed that alcohol was habit forming and addictive.” Woodrow Grant says he fears “the day I am released from prison. I do not know if I can be a productive member of society and still control the desires and craving to use alcohol.”
The suit may ultimately prove successful. Time will tell. But Jeremy Brown needs to know there are no civil remedies for willful, undisciplined behavior. If Woodrow Grant does not know if he can remain sober, I do not know if he should be released, but he will be released once his supposed debt to society has been paid. I already know how Grant spells recidivate, d-r-u-n-k-e-n-n-e-s-s.
There was a time when such a lawsuit would have been summarily dismissed as being frivolous and without merit. That may still happen here, but I am not sure we can count on it. Our judicial system acts less judicious with each passing day. Why is that?
As our culture turns from the Word of God for answers, it turns to the thoughts of man. Sigmund Freud taught man’s problems stem from an over-socialized Superego (the loose equivalent of the conscience). The Id seeks to pursue its primitive, natural pleasures, but is repressed by the Superego’s moral socialization. All of this transpires at the subconscious level. This subconscious tug of war manifests itself in the Ego, the conscious level, in the form of mental problems leading to antisocial behavior. The conclusion of this view is man’s mental and behavioral problems result from a morality imposed by others making man a victim of his conscience.
In contradistinction, the Bible teaches man is responsible for his actions, and is a violator of his conscience, not a victim of it. But this is no longer the prevailing consensus in our society otherwise such a lawsuit would never see the light of day in court.
There is another aspect of this issue that needs to be addressed. Alcoholism is not a disease. I am not denying the physiological problems associated with prolonged abuse; that is another issue entirely. If alcoholism is a disease, then it is the only one that is bottled and sold for a profit. There is no Other Disease Store where you can get a six-pack of influenza, a fifth of pneumonia, or a bottle of well-aged coronary heart disease. Alcoholism is not a disease; it is a decision. It is commonly a symptom of a deeper problem.
The decision to drink and keep on drinking until one becomes morally uninhibited and physically impaired is the responsibility of the person doing the drinking. It is not the responsibility of the liquor company, the bar owner, the bartender, or your drinking buddy to correct the consequences of your self-imposed impairment.
The comedian Flip Wilson popularized the phrase “the Devil made me do it” whenever he was caught doing something wrong. The Kuna five will not be able to play the blame game of “the Devil made me do it” when they stand before that heavenly assize. It should not play well in an earthly court either.