Preoccupation with Crime
Many outraged Americans are saying that crime is their No. 1
concern and politicians gladly respond by talking
tough. But are they talking sense? Congress responds by pouring more money into
old, failed answers - more police, more prisons, tougher sentences - quick
fixes to persuade constituencies that we're "getting tough" on crime.
Though the politicians continue to tell us that we need change,
one thing is sure: America has already changed. The change is dramatic, and by
most measures it is not for the better. Even a casual purusal of the daily
newspaper reveals that the American dream is fading into a shadowy nightmare.
More and more people are haunted by a loss of safety and hope in a world where
stability and certainty are vanishing.
Carjackings, drive-by shootings
and random violence have shattered the security families once had of being safe
in their own cars and neighborhoods. People are accosted at traffic lights,
when they're pumping gas, and when they're bumped and pull over. Schoolchildren
are no longer sure which of their classmates may be carrying a gun. American
youths are being swept up by a wave of violence. Gang violence, rapes, murders,
and violent crimes make our even our nation's capital one of the most dangerous
cities in the world. The headline in the Philadelphia Inquirer said, "A new
generation of killers, feeling no blame and no shame."
Why are so many people suddenly
preoccupied with crime?
For one thing, anxiety hates a vacuum. With
worries about the cold war and the economy evaporating, the fear of crime has
reared up in their place. For another, it's become so common. Every few weeks
the headlines resupply our worst imaginings. Randomly, irrationally, crime
pounds at the door of a slumber party. It pulls up beside a tourist at a
highway rest stop. It catches the 5:33.
||In Washington, D.C., a
16-year-old boy guns down seven youngsters at the National Zoo.
||A 30-year-old gunman shoots two
men dead and wounds two others at his former workplace, a Seattle shipyard
||Seven co-workers are gunned
down in a Xerox office building in Honolulu.
||Five people are wounded at the
North Valley Jewish Community Center in Los Angeles, followed by the fatal
shooting of a Filipino-American postal worker.
||A frustrated investor kills
nine people and wounds 13 at two brokerage firms in Atlanta, then kills
himself. Prior to the attacks, the shooter killed his wife and two
||Four employees of a Las Vegas
grocery store are shot to death by an ex-Marine and part-time nightclub
||Six students at Heritage High
School in Conyers, Ga., are wounded by a 15-year-old sophomore.
||Two high-school students kill
13 people and then themselves at Columbine High in Littleton, Colo.
||Two people are killed and four
wounded as a man opens fire in Mormon Family History Library in Salt Lake
||In San Ysidro, California, 21
people are killed and 19 others injured when a man opens fire with an Uzi
assault rifle at a McDonald's restaurant; half of his victims were children.
||In Killeen, Texas, 23 were
killed and 19 others were wounded at Luby's Cafeteria in the deadliest gun
slaying in U.S. history.
||In San Francisco, California, 8
people were murdered and six others wounded when a gunman armed with two
assault pistols, a handgun and more than two dozen high-capacity ammunition
clips walks into a downtown law firm and opens fire -- he also kills
||In Long Island, New York, 6
people were killed and another 19 wounded when a madman wielding a 9mm assault
pistol opens fire inside a commuter train.
According to the Index of Leading Cultural Indicators, while the
population has increased 41 percent since 1960, the violent crime rate has
increased more than 500 percent, and total crimes more than 300 percent. The
rate of violent crime in the U.S. is worse than in any other industrialized
country. In addition, eight out of every ten Americans will be a victim of
violent crime at least once in their lives.
Violence in American homes
and in the streets is increasing steadily, has reached epidemic proportions,
and now disrupts millions of lives. For many children, no place is safe. Kids
are victimized at school, on the streets, and in their own homes. Children are
beaten, maimed, molested, and murdered by parents relatives and baby sitters.
At one time in America professional athletes were
considered role models, and even those who lived immorally did it quietly and
secretly so as not to bring reproach upon their respective sports. Nowadays we
see an appalling crudeness and incivility on the courts and in the
||Charles Barkley wrote in his
book that there are ways of tripping an opponent that do the most physical
damage. Barkley spat at a fan, and off the court through a fan through a
||Mike Tyson bit off a chunk of
Evander Holyfield's ear.
||Dennis Rodman head-butted a
referee, hit a player in the groin, and kicked a photographer in the groin.
||Baseball's Roberto Alomar spat
in the face of an umpire and later taunted him about his dead child.
||Football's Lawrence Phillips is
still playing despite 50 fines for team offenses and six brushes with the law,
including a conviction for beating up a woman and dragging her down a flight of
stairs by her hair.
||All star guard for the Golden
State Warriors, Latrell Sprewell, strangled and punched his coach when he told
him to put some zip into his passes during a practice.
Given the climate of permissiveness and tolerance in today's
culture, it should come as no surprise that young people lack judgment and
direction. When we see the results of their excesses and failures, we must also
see that the revolutionary doctrines foisted upon them have failed. We should
also observe the degree to which young people have been cast adrift on a sea of
"cultural relativity" and expected to taste and touch and discern for
themselves from a complex array of ideas that have meaning. Separated from the
tried and tested moral structures of society, today's young people are more
like orphans raised in a box. They are behavioral experiments based on flawed
premises, with no contact with the principles and institutions that undergird
civilization. Stripped of a vision of something greater than ourselves, which
even humanist Norman Lear concedes is vital to society, they become wards of
the state and its surrogates, the schools and the media. And we are surprised
when they behave like animals?
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