Friday, January 4, 2013

Is R-E-S-P-E-C-T an outmoded family value?

I met a man once who told a story that he and his wife chuckled at and nodded their heads with acceptance and understand, but that I found a little disturbing. I think I felt disturbed because I have been wrestling for a while now about young people showing (or not) respect towards their elders, in particular. Has our "Baby-Boomer" generation decided that demonstrating respect and consideration of family members is an old-fashioned and unnecessary value to continue teaching our children? Or is the meaning of "family" that members of a family unit can abuse each other and have that be an acceptable form of behavior?

This man said he needed to mow his lawn. He has a rider and a power-mower, but they were both missing from his garage. So, he decided to edge his lawn instead, but that was also missing. Then he thought he could weed-whack, but found that tool gone as well. Finally, out of desperation, he said he could at least blow leaves off the driveway, but the blower was also missing. So the man called his two sons and said, "My grass needs cutting, edging and weed-whacking, and the leaves need blowing. Whoever has those tools, come over and do it." His lawn got mowed, but none of the tools reappeared in his garage.

The point that struck me in this story is that neither of his sons asked to use their father's tools. They just came over and took them from the garage without saying a word. Again, this man and his wife both knowingly shook their heads as if they were saying, "Kids are just like that. Isn't it annoying?" But, I ask, "Why is this behavior acceptable?"

I remember as a child, siblings stealing from one another as an accepted behavior. I still see that behavior in some of them and their children as adults, except now it's called "borrowing". The problem is the items that are borrowed are still never returned. The owners don't ask for the items back unless they are really valuable at some level, or they want to wear that sweater again or use that necklace. And, the borrowers don't even consider returning the items. The attitude seems to be, "Finders keepers...". I don't get how this behavior is okay. What am I missing?

And, what ever happened to asking for permission? Is the attitude really, "What's mine is mine and what's yours is mine" when it comes to immediate family? Does this behavior transfer to borrowing things from close friends or even strangers? What ever happened to respecting others and their belongings?

Rabid Dogs

America: the "Land of the Free and the Home of the Brave". Disagreement is tolerated, as long as one doesn't disagree with the people in charge, and discussion is encouraged, as long as it agrees with those in power. Share a differing view of anything from the majority, and expect ostracization, a beating, or death in the extreme. This behavior is exhibited among people of "sane mind". Add insanity or troubled minds or mental health issues to the mix, and chaos runs rampant. Try to legislate that behavior. Impossible.

But, that's what our legislators across this great nation do: legislate the impossibly chaotic behavior of millions of people, whether they live in densely populated areas or in wide open spaces. Human behavior cannot be legislated. That is the problem. Legislation in this country, as the only country I live in and experience every day, is reactive. One human being having a bad day can ruin that day for the rest of us. Then, in order to ensure the bad behavior "does not ever happen again", lawmakers create a restriction on human behavior. They create the restrictive law thinking human beings will obey it and change the behavior. Is this thinking another form of insanity? Insanity is defined as beating one's head over and over against a brick wall expecting a different result each time. Humans experience these laws as just taking one more thing away from them and revolt in some inappropriate way.

What, then, does change or modify human behavior: the carrot or the stick? Are these really the only two options available to creatures capable of sending a person into outer space? They are the two options that may generate an immediate result, and that is really the point isn't it? Human beings, especially in this day and age, require an immediate result. Some people cannot stop txting and driving, for example. I witnessed an airline hostess threaten to throw a coach passenger off the plane last year because he refused to shut his cell phone off prior to take-off. Are we so adverse to being disconnected from the internet that we are willing to risk our lives and that of others around us? I think, yes. We have become unconscious beings, who walk around or drive with our eyes focused on our Smart Phones or iPads instead of the stairs or the road. If a friend doesn't immediately text us back, we are wondering what's wrong. If we don't see an immediate result from funding a program designed to help those less fortunate, we are ready to stop wasting our precious tax dollars and dump the program.We blame those with less opportunities or "wear with all" instead of the lawmakers still trying to regulate unconscious behavior.

I saw two postings this week about the gun debate. One was a video testimony in Texas of Dr. Susan Gratia who described the horror story of watching both her parents be gunned down by a man who drove his car into a restaurant and began shooting everyone in sight. She managed to escape, but her parents were both killed. She said, "I can't be mad at that man because that would be like getting mad at a rabid dog. I can't get mad at the guns because they didn't pull their own triggers..." She declared that the Second Amendment was created to protect the people from the lawmakers, and she raised her arm in a sweeping motion to gesture that she meant the entire committee before her. It was a powerful statement that left me a little speechless.

Then, there was a statement posted by Darrell Scott, the father of a daughter gunned down at Columbine High School in Littleton, CO. Mr. Scott declared that the fault lies with legislators who outlaw God in our society. He says that, "We have refused to honor God, and in so doing, we open the doors to hatred and violence." I tend to agree with his reasoning. We are three-part beings: body, mind and spirit. When we ignore any part of our makeup, that part "will go on strike, and you will age faster. You're in the driver's seat", according to Dr. Mehmet Oz in an AARP newsletter I received today in email. I believe we as a species also suffer when we ignore our spiritual selves in the same way our body and mind suffers when we ignore them.

How then can we as a society deal with "the crazies" who flip out and gun down innocents for seemingly no reason? The answer is as complicated as the question, I'm afraid. There is no immediate "quick fix" for cumulative mental illness, whether its source be from genetics, disease or environment. There are no quick fixes. Period. How then do we accept long-term solutions in a society that thrives on immediate gratification? We address the child in every person, young and old alike as if we were their parent: the parents of yesteryear, who weren't afraid to discipline their child.

I have discovered over my life that there are more ways to discipline a child than with hitting because spankings, and regretfully rage-induced punching in my guilty mind for one, do not teach a child much. All the child remembers is the pain from that open hand, fist or belt. My father hit us as his father probably did to him and I did to my son. That's the only kind of punishment for unacceptable behavior we knew then. Child psychology today honors the intelligence and rights of a child now. But that honor also goes a little too far in my opinion. Children have rights, of course, but parents must still provide guidance and behavior modification when a child acts out inappropriately.

Parents today are very busy trying to keep a job and make enough money to feed, clothe and shelter their child. Parenting is hard enough work without adding the struggle to survive in the modern age. Children report their parents to DSS (Department of Social Services) rather than endure any kind of punishment for bad behavior they don't like. Parents then become leary of disciplining their child, and not much assistance is given them to find other ways to help them be good guides for their children. Lots of parents don't have time to look for help, or think help is unavailable to them. Do we discount these people and continue to allow them to fall through the cracks? What then happens to those children who also get lost in the system? They grow up to shoot their parents or other children in a troubled-mind rage, in some cases. Or, they become so angry, they just want to lash out with any weapon available; rape or assault the closest person that looks cross-eyed at them, or jump off the nearest bridge in frustration. Can we settle for this as a society? I really don't think so. I cannot believe so.

Just think of the rabid dog who is out of control and wreaking havoc on everyone. Fear of that dog keeps humans at a distance. Guns close the distance and makes the humans feel safer. Fear is the driver. Media attention is the propagator of fear in our society. Reactive and restrictive legislation is the bandaid result of it all. Can a little bandaid stem the gusher bleeding from all this pain? Absolutely not. What, then, is the answer? It may take a "Super Friend" to figure it out. It's as complicated and multi-faceted as the problem. It's time to address the source of the behavior that causes the problem, and not be driven by the need for immediate fixes. Healing the source takes a lifetime, and no law maker driven to keep his or her job wants to risk losing it. So those legislators buy stock in the bandage companies and make more money. That's what we Americans lovingly call Capitalism. What's in it for me, you say? Exactly.

We think it takes a big stick to change human behavior, when maybe it just takes nuturing and support over time: a little love and understanding built into programs that help everyone be better than they think they are. Help every day, taking baby steps along the way. Television ads and more programming that provides insight instead of paranoia. "Yeah, that's the ticket." As Hillary Clinton once wrote, "It Takes A Village" She was laughed at then, but she was right too. We as a society must realize it will require us to work together to make positive, lasting change happen. We can no longer afford to work against one another.