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Maybe We Should Fear Ourselves?
David 'Kip' Koontz

April 4, 2002

When one wins an event one expects cheers. One expects happiness. You may want to jump up and down. Some get so happy they cry. Some at the University of Maryland expressed their happiness at the Terrapin's sports team's victories by smashing windows of local businesses, while some beat on and/or set cars ablaze. Others are even stupid enough to attack police.

Why do people feel that vandalism and breaking the law is an appropriate display of joy? One has heard of riots like this in Detroit and Los Angeles after their teams won, yet that was far away and seemed like a "big city" problem.

Yet it has happened at UM several times this past year as the Terps football and now basketball teams have excelled. Why would young adults, who are in college, for Pete's sake, presumably to get an education, think that violence is an appropriate response to victory?

It begs one question: "What has happened to the moral fabric of our society where revelers destroy other people's property as an expression of their happiness?"

Pity the shop owner who has to close in response to violence one night while law enforcement is forced to make the decision to close the street in College Park where the violence was taking place.

One can presume that since there are bars lining this drag alcohol is involved in heightening the mood. One can presume that one drunken idiot starts something and, under the influence, kids feel that violence is in someway fun. This does not excuse a thing.

Most kids in college aren't 21. Yet drinking on college campuses is epidemic. From what some say, drugs have seen a resurgence among youth as well.

Kids will tell you that making the drinking age 21 has glamorized liquor since it is supposed to be unattainable you are "way cool" if you can get it. They also say that it is fun to break the law because the law and mom and dad say drinking is bad.

They say that in order to "rebel" against society's oppressive rules and, of course, their evil moms and dads, they must take drugs to alleviate their stress.

That almost makes one choke on one's morning cup of coffee. The only stress most kids have today is deciding which video game system is the one they want, which car mom and dad should buy them and which body part should be pierced next.

When did this happen? Are parents no longer teaching their kids to respect others? Are our youth just so inundated by images on TV and in movies that no matter what they are prone to say "screw you?"

Is life more difficult today really? Some have said that living their whole lives under the specter of destruction by nuclear weapons, germ warfare, AIDS and terrorism has made them "realize" that life is only about "their needs" because we may not be around long enough for "anything else to matter."

While not all youth and young adults today were given everything on a silver platter, part of what has happened in today's society is that you have two parents working in most households, in part because both parents want the fulfillment of working outside the home, and in part it is to be able to pay the bills so that families can "keep up with the Jones."

Everyone needs a bigger SUV, everyone needs a bigger house (even if you can' t afford furniture because you are mortgage poor. Everyone needs the latest cell phone, digital camera, digital video camera, DVD player, game system and so on. Many of these gadgets become baby-sitters as parents are working longer and longer hours to pay for them.

In turn, manners and respect have somehow disappeared. Why? Is it because we no longer communicate with each other, as we are too busy working and using our electronics?

Have young adults and our youth been able to learn manners from absent parents?

One has to wonder who is to blame?

Is government? In part, yes. Watergate, of course, shattered many people's belief in government and caused many to say, "What's it all worth?" Yet, was that enough to cause people to disrespect other people and their property?

Many young adults from the 80's generation took Ronald Reagan's decree along the lines of "it's all about YOU getting rich" to stop caring about others.

Are schools responsible? Or teachers? That is a tough one to answer as parent have relinquished much of their obligations to the schools, causing our teachers to be parent, educator, disciplinarian, morality setters, etc. when that really isn't in their job description.

In attempts to curb the changing tide, teachers have done their best to pick up the slack.

Do we want our schools and our teachers filling the void where parents should be?

Are churches responsible? After all, many folks have obtained their moral foundations in part due to their association with church.

Maybe though, they share part of the blame too. As times have changed, and attitudes on many social justice issues have been revised, many churches have clung to their outdated attitudes.

Many younger folks, who do not harbor the attitudes of dislike or hatred that are oft times taught in church, have fled in droves seeking solace in alternative practices to fill their "spiritual void." Does this lack of the foundation in Judeo-Christian tradition cause people to disrespect others?

When asked, several people of the 30-40 something crowd said the reason they think young adults behave like this is, "Because they are a bunch of spoiled-rotten brats." When it was pointed out that this generation of college kids could in affect be the products of our loins, it didn't faze them.

They went on to say: Our parents spoiled us and we spoil our kids worse." Yet, the ones asked about this realize that we need, somehow, to instill a sense of respect and manners into our children and somehow re-instill it into the "Generation X" or whatever they call themselves who do not have it.

But again, many baby boomers, who almost squash you in their SUV's, don't seem to get it either.

Not all that long ago, while in a store, it was easy to see how off-track we have become when a mother was heard calling her son, who was presumed to be very young and lost. After seeing the child run into an adult and yell at the adult to get out of his was, the youngin' should have said, "excuse me." The mother quipped: "My son is only nine, he is too young to know manners."

What? There was a time when neither the boy nor his mother would have been allowed out of their house.

Many people see the solution being that more people should spend more time at home with their children. Why then is there still the perception to many that child rearing is the primary responsibility of women?

Why can't a husband and wife, who work outside the home, both spend an equal amount of time transporting the kids to their many activities? Why don't both parents divide housekeeping responsibilities?

Why aren't children expected to pitch in and help? Why aren't they taught to earn what they get instead of expecting it to be handed to them on a silver platter?

Why don't we define "family" to include more "non-traditional" families when it comes to adoption? There are many single folk, gay or lesbian folk, non-married man/woman couples, or other folks who are well respected, hard-working and successful who would love to adopt children who would otherwise be raised in foster homes or homes where they are unloved, who are denied the opportunity to raise children to believe in morality and values simply because they are not "regular" households.

Maybe this would help. Maybe not. But wouldn't it beat the alternative of continuing to produce generations of kids who don't care about anyone but themselves simply because they feel they are owed something they didn't get during their childhood? Stability can be a good thing.

In the meantime, the University of Maryland implores us to "Fear the Turtle!" Maybe we should just fear their fans.

Maybe we should just fear the "next generation."

Maybe we should fear ourselves.


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