Originally published – September 23, 2005
A recent report on teenage drinking shows that more than 50 percent of American teenagers drink. The national media expressed surprise at that statistic. I’m not surprised at all.
The report revealed 77 percent of high school seniors have used alcohol; in comparison 53 percent have smoked cigarettes; 46 percent have used marijuana; and 8 percent have used cocaine.
Teenage drinking has been high for years. Society looks the other way as their children party at will. Teenagers easily buy alcohol and drugs despite laws that forbid it. If they don’t get it themselves, parents buy it for them. For example, last Friday at lunchtime, I followed a truck down Sycamore Street to the red light at Broad. In the back of the truck was a young boy, no more than 12 or 13 years old, who was smoking a cigarette. Two adults — a man and a woman — were riding in the front of the truck. It was a school day, and this young boy was riding in the back of a truck and smoking a cigarette, which means someone had to buy or give the cigarette to him. When I pulled into the parking lot of a business on Broad Street, the truck was traveling at the back of the business on Cottage Ave. The boy flipped his cigarette into the grass, which was brown and very dry.
This drives home the point that either way, through a store clerk or through a parent or adult friend, adults get alcohol, drugs and cigarettes to teenagers. The only surprising thing about this survey to me is that it is a surprise.
You see, somewhere along the way our principles of what is right and wrong changed. I remember when movies began promoting the use of dirty language in films to make the stories “more realistic.” Not only did America buy that, hook, line and sinker, we increased our visits to the nation’s movie houses and in doing so helped finance the violation, sex and dirty language we see in theaters today.
It’s funny, but I can remember movies that became classics. They had tough story lines but they didn’t need the filth we see in today’s movies to portray the story and become the classics they are today.
On television you can see or hear anything you want to see or hear. What we are choosing to see and hear is “R” rated movies every night of the week and violence such as depicted in “The Terminator.”
The music of today is no better. Videos by Madonna and other pop music stars are constantly on television for our children to watch and not too long ago there was a top pop song in America called “I Wanna Sex You Up.” The videos and the songs are where they are because that is what many Americans want.
What we read has changed, too. Retail stores sell T-shirts with suggestive sayings — shirts that I in no way would want my grandchildren and great-grandchildren to see. Those stores sell those shirts because they know some people want to buy them, just as there are more and more people — both young and middle age — who are choosing to wear tattoos and low pants. They also pierce their nose, eyebrows, navels, and even their tongues and other body parts.
Another fad that says something about us is bumper stickers. When you pull up behind the car in front of you sometimes it is worse than an X-rated movie.
Sadly, as our values have changed, so have our families. As both parents in many families work the children are left without the influence necessary to overcome the wave of negative morality around us. The very lifestyle of some parents, including affluent parents, send messages that are not conducive to sobriety and enhance the lifestyle of vulgarity. As a result we have increases in child abuse, rape, mental and physical cruelty, teenage crime and spousal abuse. I was recently told that some are proud to be registered as a sex offender. My God, what are we coming to?
I’m not sure that America has the fortitude nor desire to change the moral path it is taking. It does seem to me, however, that we can improve ourselves in one very simple way. Our language. We have enough garbage in this world without building on it with our mouths. We need to open a landfill for the filthy words that are now commonplace in our language. If we quit buying tickets to movies that use that language, as well as the records, tapes, and T-shirts, and if we clean up our words, then we will have made a statement that in my mind needs to be made.
Just remember: A juvenile delinquent is a youngster who has been given a free hand, but not in the proper place.
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