- - Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Anyone wondering about why our economy is languishing and our international respect has never been lower, need only look at recent events. While unrelated to each other, they all make clear that our formerly self-reliant nation has morphed into one where far too many refuse to accept responsibility for their own problems and satisfaction, but demand that government or some other institution satisfy them. Those looking in from the outside could easily conclude that we have lost our will to create, and even to defend ourselves. The tyranny of tiny minorities imposing their desires and preferences on everyone else has become a major social problem.

Start in the Chicago area, where we are regaled with a story about a lawsuit against the school, parents and third-grade “principals” brought over alleged bullying of one third-grader by another. Third-graders have had conflicts with each other for as long as there have been third-graders. Why were we able to have these problems resolved without litigation before, but not now? How will the students involved ever learn to handle these situations without the involvement of courts? Isn’t that a key part of the educational process?

Stay in Chicago for a moment and hear about how the Chicago Cubs “voluntarily” shifted the time of their game against the Washington Nationals from Sun., June 29, to part of a doubleheader on Sat., June 28, in order to avoid conflict with a homosexual-pride parade on Sunday. Sunday baseball has been an American tradition for far longer than there has been a homosexual-pride movement, with each team always having a game scheduled for each Sunday. Why do the interests of participants in the parade, certainly a small fraction of the residents of the area, trump this long-standing tradition enjoyed by so many?

We can all agree that homosexuals should not be subject to discrimination in employment or housing, and not harassed or intimidated. When did such respect turn into the rest of us having to change our plans to accommodate such a parade or other observance? Why could not the parade be scheduled on a date when there is no ballgame in town?

Move to Washington, D.C., and witness the spectacle of the protests over the Washington Redskins’ name and logo, which are said by some American Indians to be offensive. We have government involved in multiple ways, such as senators “requesting” that the team change its name and the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office seeking to cancel its trademark registrations.

Why can’t old-fashioned market forces take care of this problem, if there is one? That is, since we are not talking about essential government services, if people — American Indians or otherwise — don’t like the team name or logo, they need not attend or watch the games or purchase team merchandise. If the belief is shared by enough people, the team will change its name — and if they don’t, who is harmed? This is not a case of the team barring American Indians from attending games, charging them more than other fans or placing them in segregated sections. Isn’t that what the civil rights movement was about? Many of us have bones to pick with one or more businesses, but do not demand a name change. We simply take our business elsewhere. What is wrong with this approach to the Redskins’ “problem”?

Stay in Washington and reflect on the Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl debate. While his conduct is not altogether clear, what is clear is was that we released five hardened terrorists to secure the return of an individual who — whether or not he deserted — hardly served with glory. What does this say to ISIS and al Qaeda about our resolve in the fight against terrorism?

Look at Detroit, where the manager of the Tigers baseball team is under a withering attack in the media, with some even calling for his firing, for stating in jest after a difficult loss that he would go home and beat his wife. He certainly did not do so and, in fact, has a reputation as one of the game’s outstanding gentlemen with zero involvement in legal difficulties of any kind. Why have we become so sensitive that an obnoxious joke is seen as encouraging domestic violence despite the speaker never having been involved in any such thing? In “days of yore,” this sort of thing was handled by a wife getting annoyed with her husband and presumably exiling him to the couch, not by making it a social cause.

Come back to the Chicago area and note Northwestern University proudly announcing that it will have “peanut-free” football games this fall in order to accommodate those with peanut allergies. The latter are worthy of significant consideration, but why should their interest override that of the far greater number of people who enjoy their sporting events with a bag of peanuts? No one is forcing them to partake, and it is not possible to make the rest of society a peanut-free zone.

No one of these things is disastrous by itself. However, when aggregated, they bespeak a society that is seeming becoming weaker and less self-reliant by the day. When businesses and schools have to worry so much about making sure that they don’t offend anyone, it makes it harder to develop new products, build new facilities and create new jobs.

Foreign nations and organizations wishing us harm could certainly reach the conclusion that we are a weak people, unable to defend ourselves — and attack our embassies, overrun Iraq and Ukraine — and what else?

If we want a secure, prosperous nation, we all need to reflect on why we need to look within for satisfaction and deal with our dissatisfaction ourselves, without asking government to do it.

Martin B. Robins, a corporate lawyer, is an adjunct law professor at Northwestern and DePaul universities.