Children learn what they live; Children live what they learn.
— Les Crane
Let’s go ahead and get this out of the way early: The young people who will be referred to in this column are not black children, white children, Hispanic children, poor children, children from the west side of town, children of single parents ...
No stereotyping here, so you can detach that special radar used so often hereabouts to detect buzz words or phrases that allow many to disregard meaning in favor of supposed victimhood.
We’re all in this.
During Wednesday’s Fourth of July holiday celebration, I sat with my family among more than 40,000 people in Atlanta and watched an incredible fireworks display that impressed even me, someone who really doesn’t care one way or another about the activity. It was worth the quick trip up and back just seeing the expression of wonder on my child’s face.
Before we even got back to Albany at 2 a.m., though, the Facebook postings about the local fireworks event had already started popping up. It seems our annual fireworks display had been marred — again — by unsupervised and unruly young people out roaming the streets downtown. Despite a heavy police presence, these youngsters were not deterred from their wilding, their random violence that predisposes local citizens to strongly consider even attending any such “family” activity because of the imminent threat.
I’ve learned over the years that it does a disservice to the truly good people in any ethnic, socio-economic or age group to generalize, to tar entire segments of a population with a broad brush. But if I were one of those FBI profilers on “Criminal Minds,” there are some common traits I’d look for in this community when the fists and bullets start flying.
The young people who are invariably involved have, for whatever reason, either escaped or have never been subjected to parental oversight. Whether the supposedly responsible adults in their lives are “too busy” to provide the stability and discipline that are parts of their duty, or whether they just gave up and quit trying, these children are not adequately prepared to withstand the tremendous peer pressure that draws them into such anti-social behavior.
(Forget what sociologists preach: Peer pressure is without a doubt the No. 1 reason “good kids” here, there and everywhere “go bad.” Youngsters from seemingly close-knit families without the self-discipline or confidence to say no when their friends or some other influential peer entices them to join in dangerous, illegal or risky behavior are just as apt to take part in such behavior as the throwaway kids left pretty much to their own devices.)
And, unfortunately, the people who should be applying discipline or serving as role models — parents, relatives, teachers, pastors, social workers, law enforcement agencies and, yes, elected government officials — usually coddle rather than truly discipline the children. It’s so much easier to reward than it is to take a firm stand, to be a child’s “buddy” than to make him adhere to rules that he regularly sees others disregard.
The results? Well, you saw it on Independence Day, when a few thugs, hooligans and street kids — children who not so many years ago would have been sitting on a blanket with other members of their family rather than roaming aimlessly, looking for trouble — shut down an activity that was planned for the enjoyment of some 25,000 people who still believed in the concept of community.
No, I’m no more qualified than anyone else to tell people how to raise their children or law enforcement how to deal with the miscreants who keep wandering in and out of the local criminal justice system. I’m just another person who grows more tired each day of seeing my chosen home being controlled by an undesirable element that seems to expand its growing sphere of terroristic influence with frightening impugnity.
Email Metro Editor Carlton Fletcher at firstname.lastname@example.org.