Thursday, July 8, 2010
I mentioned this column above by T. R. Fehrenbach a few days ago. Then when I saw this new editorial in one of the local papers, I was reminded of Fehrenbach's column again, so I decided to post both pieces together here for your thoughtful consideration. I believe they are most definitely related to each other.
Our young people have grown up looking to the same leaders adults in the communities have chosen to follow (both elected and secret). When our youth see these chosen leaders saying one thing but doing something completely different--and being glorified and rewarded for doing so--why is anyone surprised when young people want to emulate them? (See my previous discussions of this in my posts entitled "Compare and Contrast", "The Coach", and "Almost Daily", for example.)
Many of the problems mentioned in the local editorial are related to a serious lack of properly functioning law enforcement. These are small communities where everyone knows everyone (and is usually related to everyone) and knows everyone else's business, and this certainly includes law enforcement officers and officials. In fact, officers are not hired here unless they are very well-known within the community, which often means we go without personnel until someone with local roots graduates from the police academy. There are simply no valid excuses for the way law enforcement turns a blind eye to what is going on or even actively participates. Given that our law enforcement leaders are either appointed by elected officials or elected outright means you can read the Fehrenback piece again substituting the words "law enforcement" for "government".
Other small Texas communities in similar situations have lost an entire generation of young people to substance abuse, incarceration, and/or violence (Balmorhea, for example), and we are perilously close to that here. Our youth are too young to have had any direct participation in most of the leadership decisions that have led to the current situation, meaning they are innocent victims. What kind of message do you think it sends them when they see all the honest, decent, hardworking, and truly caring people in our communities repeatedly victimized and systematically and deliberately run out of town rather than being encouraged and supported and appreciated by their communities? By this, I mean the people like me who not only say we love our young people but back this up with our actions on a daily basis. And yes, this sometimes means tough love, where young people are held responsible for their actions on an age-appropriate basis and required to understand and accept the consequences of their behavior.
The author/s of the local editorial ask what citizens are willing to do to help our young people. My response is to start with making better leadership decisions. There needs to be a lot done, and it had better be done quickly and involve a majority of the community. The infection here is so deep-rooted that it needs to be surgically incised in order to heal. Covering it up with a bunch of band-aids will only allow it to keep festering and destroying lives.