Once a raccoon was determined to wash its hands of everything. It was used to washing its hands of this thing or that on a routine basis, but it had never occurred to the raccoon to wash its hands of absolutely everything. That is, until one day it suddenly saw the inconsistency in its behavior. Washing your hands of things might appear an unconscious practice but actually wasn’t, the raccoon reasoned. It was a deliberate act, a matter of choice. And because others couldn’t do it for you, there was a measure of personal responsibility involved. Now, personal responsibility wasn’t something you could just turn on and off, the raccoon further reasoned. You couldn’t just choose on the spur of the moment when to accept responsibility and when not to. You had to have guidelines to follow, or else you were merely washing your hands out of mindless habit. That said, there seemed to be only two options for responsibility that were absolutely and always consistent. You could accept responsibility for everything or, equally, for nothing. But who could possibly be expected to accept responsibility for everything? That left responsibility for nothing as the only viable choice. The inescapable logic of this realization caused the raccoon to pause a moment in its hand-washing before drawing the obvious conclusion. “Much as I may not like it,” the raccoon was forced to confess, “I am not in control of circumstances. On the contrary, I must be a victim of them.” “How clear it all suddenly is!” the raccoon burst out, astonished that it hadn’t seen the light earlier. “From the day I was born, I’ve been doomed to end up a victim. Others may get a black eye from life, but my lot was to get two. So if life is against me, what chance do I have? It’s not my fault. I have no control over anything! Surely, there can never have been a greater victim than me!” The raccoon took an uneasy consolation from this feeling of utter vulnerability and helplessness, but that didn’t last. It had to admit others might come forward and declare themselves greater victims than it was. Maybe some would even claim you could suffer three black eyes from life. Or more. There certainly were enough complaints raised these days to suggest that everybody had 15 minutes of victimization and disrespect to point to. In that event, wasn’t it possible there wouldn’t be enough of it to go around? Worse, if being free of responsibility for whatever happened to one depended on being a recognized and permanent victim, and if everybody began claiming two or more black eyes, where would it all end? The raccoon would have to be elbowing others out of the way forever or risk losing its own claim to lifelong excuse. Clearly, this washing your hands of everything was going to take some work.
Copyright © 2003-2004, revised 2008 by Geoffrey Grosshans