Trashing America
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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 office.
* 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 children.
* Four employees of a Las Vegas grocery store are shot to death by an ex-Marine and part-time nightclub bouncer.
* 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 City.
* 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 himself.
* 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 stadiums.

* 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 plate-glass window.
* 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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