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Personal responsibility: Another thing of the past


It was late on a Tuesday night in early December, so late it turned into Wednesday morning.

A person or persons decided, for whatever reason, the way to get in the holiday spirit in southern Doña Ana County would be to derail a train.

Now, maybe they didn’t know their actions would actually derail a train. But even if they had been drinking or doing drugs, they still must have realized the possibility.

Regardless, they dragged railroad ties and laid them across the tracks outside Vado. Later, the train came along, struck the ties, and went off the rails. Literally.

Two locomotives and a dozen empty cars rolled off, and the conductor and engineer were injured. The cost? Multiple millions of dollars in damage. It could have been much worse.

Luis Angel Rodriguez, 27, of La Mesa, was arrested in connection with the crime.

While there is no justifiable reason or explanation for this crime. It is a symptom of a larger issue in our society: the lack of personal responsibility.

I’d seen around several tracks in the region, railroad ties laying next to the rails in preparation for replacing the ties. I remember thinking, “That’s a good idea. Get them all set up, so when they are ready to replace them, they can work efficiently.” If I’d been more cynical, I might have realized the drawbacks.

 It should have been no surprise.

Derailing a train is an extreme example, but here are other examples I’ve seen in our community:

  • Leaving grocery carts strewn all over the parking lot. Why?
  • Trash in the desert. Not just beer bottles and hamburger wrappers, but tires, wires, boxes, bags, broken refrigerators, swamp coolers and abandoned vehicles. Why?
  • A candidate for magistrate judge stopped his vehicle on a residential street, stuck his arm out the window and – plop! – dropped a bag of trash in the middle of the road, then drove off. Why?
  • Aaah, the office breakroom. A great sanctuary to have lunch or a snack to break up the workday. Except for office thieves who help themselves. Or office slackers who leave food untouched for weeks until it turns into a rotting, putrid, F-grade science experiment. Why?
  • Have you been to a public restroom where the toilets flush automatically? Of course you have. Almost all of them do that now. Why? Because everyone knows Americans won’t even take responsibility for flushing our own waste.

Periodically, I hear people saying authorities should leave decisions up to us. We’re adults. We can be trusted to make responsible choices.

I’d like to believe that. But then I take a look around, and my confidence fades.

Richard Coltharp