What Message Are We Conveying To Our Children?


Since September 11, 2001, President George W. Bush has made it very clear that our nation will not be bullied by terrorists. He has declared an all out war on terrorism and has urged the ...

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Since September 11, 2001, President George W. Bush has made it very clear that our nation will not be bullied by terrorists. He has declared an all out war on terrorism and has urged the nations of the world to join him in this fight.

In our own country, he has pushed for the creation of a new department called the Department of Homeland Security, with the hope of better protecting the United States from acts of war and terrorism on our own soil.

Unfortunately, early on in his presidency, Mr. Bush was hurled into the midst of one of the worst acts of terrorism violence in our history. As our President, he rose to the occasion and even disarmed his critics by the way in which he handled this American tragedy. He emerged as a strong, courageous voice and leader.

As the months passed, the President continued to speak aggressively about his war against terrorism. His administration has developed a plan and clear steps to implement his plan. However, with his zero tolerance position toward terrorism, Mr. Bush leans a little too heavily towards using violence as his first response to most acts of terrorism.

As a nation, I think we need to move forward with strength grounded in caution. There is too much talk of war on American streets as our automatic response to acts of terrorism. Unfortunately, violence only begets violence. Even though I am a pacifist, I know there may come a moment when we have no choice but to use military force to protect Americans and arrest terrorism and violent aggression.

However, that path is a delicate one. As a nation, we need to examine our rhetoric. We need to continue to look at peaceful alternatives to war and violence. We do not want to be bullied, but we should not bully others.

Terrorism is probably among the world's greatest moral evils. Painfully, we have seen firsthand what others have seen for decades. If we are so adamant about ending terrorism, then we should close the School of Americas in Georgia and not use American tax dollars to train terrorists and murderers to kill innocent people in other countries around the world.

It was very troubling to listen to our nation's attorney general talk about the upcoming trials of the two snipers being held regarding the multiple killings in the Washington, D.C. area, including Virginia and Maryland. He said that the jurisdiction selected for the first trials would be those areas that permitted capital punishment as a sanction if convicted.

The death penalty has been an explosive issue since it was re-instituted. It has become an even more sensitive issue since September 11, 2001.

The death penalty is not a deterrent to any serious crime. There are no research studies that suggest so. It is a barbaric practice that causes me to question our own respect for the dignity of life. I am not suggesting for a moment that we become soft on crime, especially serious violent crimes. There are other more humane ways to hold people accountable for their horrific choices.

As a teacher and social worker, I am deeply concerned about the continuing escalation of street violence, especially among our young. The recent school shootings are alarming. The growth of gang violence is also deeply disturbing.

Too often I think we who live in Suffolk County think that most of the violence we read about only happens in LA, New York and other big cities around the country. If the truth be told, street violence and gang movements are happening everywhere.

As a community, we need to be more proactive. Every inappropriate act of violence needs to be addressed and appropriate sanctions imposed.

We wonder why violence is escalating all around us. From the White House to the local neighborhood park, the language we hear is about violence and physical force.

The acts of violence on television in a given day are alarming. Subtly, they are shaping our children's moral compasses.

Sports, a wonderful American pastime, was once considered an excellent venue for building character and integrity in the life of a growing young person. This powerful institution has been blemished with countless stories of athletes and now even coaches being arrested for assaulting other human beings. What message are we conveying?

A young college athlete was home during last year's winter break. He and his buddies were gathering at a local pub. It was in the early morning hours. It was crowded and loud. Needless to say, most of them were feeling very happy. AJ (our college athlete) was going to the men's room, another patron brushed into him. The fellow apologized, but AJ did not like his attitude or tone of voice. So, he clocked him in the face. The kid hit the floor and received a concussion. The bouncers quickly intervened to prevent that isolated incident from becoming a brawl.

AJ was asked to leave. The bouncers encouraged the other young man to go to the hospital to be checked just to play it safe. The young man was reluctant, but his friends encouraged him to go and he did. They also suggested to the young man that he call the police and file a complaint.

After the report was completed, the police officer indicated that there were grounds for an arrest due to assault. The officer asked the young man if he wanted to press charges. He hesitated because he was frightened of the consequences he would suffer for doing the right thing. He reminded the officer that AJ was huge, very strong and intimidating. He did not want to live in fear.

Thus, he reluctantly decided not to file charges. What a sad commentary. AJ was not held accountable for being a bully and for committing a serious act of violence against an innocent human being. However, what is even more disturbing is that when I asked a variety of other young people AJ's age and other adults their opinion, they basically said it was "no big deal" and "boys will be boys." The excuses made about this behavior border on the pathetic.

What will it take to protect the AJ's of the world from themselves and from possibly harming one of us? And we wonder why violence and hate are escalating!