Where do children learn to hate? It is not a value or behavior they are born with. They observe this attitude and see this behavior in us! So often parents will say to me "generation X is so immoral." I don't believe that generation X is immoral. I believe they are amoral. Immoral means that you know right from wrong and you do wrong anyway.
Honestly, in this present day and age, where do children growing up learn right from wrong? Twenty years ago there was a shared partnership between parents, neighborhood, school and religious institutions. Unfortunately, that partnership does not exist today. Few children actively participate in their churches and/or their synagogues. Everybody is working two and three jobs to survive. Mrs. So & So is no longer sitting on the porch minding everyone else's business. Our schools are conflicted. The right hand does not know what the left hand is doing.
Thus, the reinforcement and support that was once present during a child's growing and developing years is non-existent. The present generation is literally raising themselves. Many families attempt to instill some basic core values that are grounded in respect, responsibility and accountability. However, these simple values are assaulted constantly on a daily basis.
Television, movies and music give on-going mixed messages. The heroes of old have fallen from grace. Even men and women of respected professions are acting inappropriately and without discretion.
Many so-called role models are not modeling positive behavior. Some of this behavior blatantly contradicts what many of our children were taught in early elementary school.
It is increasingly difficult to call teenagers to certain standards when the people who lead us don't play by the social and moral rules we have established.
We are a nation of immigrants founded on the premise that all people are equal, no matter what their color, religion, gender, sexual orientation, political party, ethnic roots or economics. In principle, I think most of us believe all of this in our hearts.
However, when people violate the rules of respect, they should be held accountable, especially if they are elected officials. One would hope that those who are elected to lead us would at least speak a language of respect.
Some of the hate and discrimination we see among our young people is escalating because they are mirroring what they are seeing and hearing from us as adults. Talking about using baseball bats to combat the "illegal alien" problem is unconscionable coming from the lips of any human being, never mind from the lips of a veteran elected legislator.
The implication of violence is one level of reprehensible behavior that only encourages physical acting out as a means of conflict resolution. The other concern is much more fundamental - that is the language we use to describe other people. No human being is an "illegal alien," undocumented immigrant possibly, but never an alien.
Our words say a lot and should not be used carelessly, especially from people in positions of leadership and authority. Too often teenagers don't realize that their ethnic comments said in jest are more hurtful than funny. Language carelessly selected that implies violence or hate only fuels volatile circumstances. It does not diffuse them.
Television and movies are exploiting violence everywhere. Much of the violence on television or in the movies justifies "might makes right" or "the end justifies the means."
In most small towns across the Island this weekend, in a growing number of pubs and clubs, there will be at least one if not a number of inappropriate physical altercations that an outside party will have to break up. The frightening aspect of all of this is that it is becoming accepted and/or tolerated as normal behavior.
The art of talking through a conflict has truly gotten lost in the narcissism of the present age. The manner in which a growing number of teenagers speak to their parents amazes me. The vulgar and abusive language that comes out of their mouths is outrageous.
Imagine twenty or thirty years ago, even muttering under your breath to your mother or father. Living in Guam or a distant foreign country would sound better than dealing with your father's wrath or consequences.
The verbal abuse is only one part of the on-going saga of abuse that is infecting the present generation. A growing number of teenagers who are verbally abusing their parents are moving their abuse and violence to a new level. They are starting to get physical. I have seen a tremendous increase in the number of cases where parents have gotten orders of protection against their children. This increased violence has bordered on real physical hurt and fear.
No parent gives life to a son or daughter ever expecting to be assaulted by this child when they reach the age of sixteen. I am not talking about a little pushing and shoving (which is still unacceptable). I am talking about punching your father in the face and grabbing your mother with so much force that you break her arm.
These circumstances sound bizarre and they are, but they are on the increase in most communities everywhere.
JK is a sixteen-year-old junior in high school. He is an average student from a reasonable family. He is the oldest. Both parents work. From JK's perspective, his parents are too strict. From his parent's perspective, JK is too reckless and irresponsible. He comes and goes as he pleases. He drinks on the weekends. Based on his mood swings, JK's parents suspect that he also smokes pot regularly. He rarely complies with his curfew or helps around the house. Needless to say, his parents are on him all the time.
One friday night this summer, JK came home at 4am. He was intensely intoxicated. He said some cruel and mean things to them. He then started to get physical. His Dad tried to restrain him. JK turned around and clocked his father. He then grabbed his mother who was sobbing and twisted her so hard that he dislocated her shoulder.
Once JK realized what he had done, he ran. The next morning he came home, not to apologize, but to further add fuel to the fire. He said if they would just back off and let him be, none of that would have happened.
In simple terms, JK is blaming the victims for the violence. His parents are not backing down. They went to court to get an order of protection.
JK's story is not over. The anger and violence between him and his family continues. His parents would like family counseling and for JK to live by some very basic rules. JK feels he does not need rules or counseling.
The saga continues. Hopefully, it will be a happy ending. However, with all the mixed messages we give from the top down, it is possible that it won't be.
Violence of every kind only begets more violence. Until this violence is terminated, more and more families will be held hostage by their children.