Tuesday, June 17, 2003
Sitting in the beauty salon last week, I listened while my stylist and a friend of his sparred about the criminal-justice system and the political mechanism they believe runs it all. As they argued the finer points of rehabilitation and prisons, I got to thinking about all the finger-pointing that's going on these days. Can we really blame any one person or entity for crime in the metro area?
Yes, police officers have a duty to serve and protect, but they can't be everywhere at all times. And city leaders should allocate funding for more officers and develop policies that allow law enforcement officials to do their jobs with a sense of security and authority. But our so-called leaders can't follow simple kindergarten rules, like "Play fair" and "No name calling"; how can we expect them to effectively allocate the budget, agree on policy changes or anything else for that matter?
Most of us have missed the real issue. Our crime problem isn't about the number of arrests last month or whether police briefings are open to the public. The problem is a society that creates and nurtures the kinds of attitudes that lead young people (or older people for that matter) to lead lives of crime. Some of those fingers should be pointing back at us.
I'm not talking about leaving cell phones or shopping bags in view on car seats. That's just plain stupidity. We don't live in Mayberry after all. I'm talking about a culture that glorifies illegal and often immoral behavior. Drug use, promiscuous sex and violence in all forms are celebrated in songs, films and television programming.
I'm talking about violent movies and the parents that allow this form of entertainment to permeate their homes. I'm talking about the prevalence of drug references in songs and movies. Notice the new way profanity is allowed on primetime television. Often parents or guardians don't change the channels or counter these negative influences with their own positive examples and explanations of values and morals.
We live in a get-it-while-it's-hot, why-wait culture that fails to teach young people about perseverance and hard work and encourages the rest of us to descend into debt for a quick "fix" of the latest must-have item: electronics, cars, jewelry or even upgrades on the spousal units.
Maybe I sound like a party-pooper or an old fogey. Don't get me wrong; I'm no saint. I'm guilty of helping make a few unsavory artists and actors rich by purchasing their CDs or seeing their movies on the big screen. But at only 30 years old, I can reminisce about the good old days. As teenagers—and even today—my friends and I understood and respected authority. We had too much self-respect and a healthy fear that were instilled at a young age that we didn't dare risk embarrassing or incensing our parents or teachers.
I know you've seen the billboards that read "Take your children to Sunday School. They need and deserve it." Well, I agree. And even if you don't feel comfortable attending church or worshiping in a traditional way, we all need a spiritual center for our lives. Parents and guardians have a responsibility to provide a sacred place (physical or emotional) where children can learn and grow in the presence of this spiritual center. A higher power created the heavens and the earth and has orchestrated our lives since before recorded time. There is an order to the universe and rules to be followed to maintain harmony and peace.
What's all that got to do with Jackson's crime problem? As I see it, our crime problem isn't necessarily any bigger than that of other cities or regions. We've gotten caught up in politics and scapegoating because no one wants to face the elephant in the room: Our collective lack of morals is eating away at our communities and feeding the machine we call crime.
Jennifer Spann is a regular columnist for the JFP.
Jennifer, I think you're absolutely right. I am much older than you (47) and it's really wonderful to hear people your age share my opinions. It adds validity. ... Jeff
- Jeff Smith