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Sounds good but means nothing

July 21, 2007

Re "The little black dress of 'responsibility,' " Opinion, July 14

Thanks to Meghan Daum for exposing the phoniness of those who seem to assume that "taking full responsibility" actually makes up for behaving irresponsibly. People do have options when confronted with temptations (sins?) that might hurt others. They can say no and walk away. That would have been L.A. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa's "full responsibility" to his wife and family, and it is a choice that countless others make every day. It is called common decency, and in other, less self-indulgent eras, it was the expected norm for adult human beings.

The contempt the mayor is experiencing is the modern equivalent of shunning, and it is well deserved.

CAROLYN ZIEGLER-DAVENPORT

Pine Mountain, Calif.

*

Daum is right to call out the overuse of the phrase "I take full responsibility" (chiefly by politicians), but the reason it continues to be uttered is because none of us knows what it means. The words have just enough meaningful sounds -- three declarative single-syllable words of clarity, followed by six syllables of iambic trimeter -- that we receive them in a state of rapt awe (or awe-filled rapture).

By the time the funky aftertaste sets in and we think, "Huh? Is he resigning?" the news conference is over and it's too late: Time to prepare for the next revelation and abdication in the guise of contrition.

DAVID SALPER

Santa Monica

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