Musings & Current Affairs

Musings & Current Affairs

The Current Affairs Group covers news and other items currently focused on in the general media, with articles, commentary and analysis by the Griot Girls. Followers of the Griot Girls may submit items for discussion by the Griot Girls using various sections of this Group.

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Are the Examples We Set for Our Youth Admirable or Abhorrent?

As summer winds down and students and parents prepare for the new school year, in addition to shopping for school supplies, thinking about new classes and reuniting with old school friends, families should be encouraged to spend some time discussing the importance of human decency, good character and responsible behavior, and contemplating the impact of external influences on such.

The widely publicized video of the harassment and assault by seventh grade students of Mrs. Karen Kline, 68 year old Grandmother and School Bus Monitor in the summer of 2012, raises questions about “The Ugly American”. Yes, this and similar conduct is in no way exclusive to America, but it is our responsibility as a nation to address what occurs within our borders. This recent incident of perverse conduct by these young people as they tormented Mrs. Kline for some 10 minutes leaves our nation horrified by the behavior. How could this have happened? Where were the parents in setting good examples for their children?…If my child ever…How should they be disciplined?..all legitimate sentiments.

Society looks first to the parents and their respective roles in shaping the character of their children. Parents do bear some responsibility as they are, for the most part, the primary caregivers and role models for their children. But are they really the primary role models? Parents today may have significantly less control over the formation of character than ever before. This is not to say that parents are absolved of responsibility to teach and model admirable behavior, but there are today far more extrinsic influences on our children, given the access to the media and in particular, the ever increasing free-lance digital media sources-too many to name.

Disturbing is the surge in formerly untoward social behavior being heralded in the media with the barrage of reality shows. Who is responsible? The owners and producers are businessmen whose goal it is to generate profits. Is it not more profitable to follow a group of star seeking individuals around and film their misdeeds than it is to hire writers and credentialed, talented actors whose talent comes at a high price? A bargain it is indeed, as we see legions of prospective starlets eager to sell their souls and tarnished reputations for a moment or two in the spotlight, and as they whet the national appetite, like sharks that smell blood, the people yearn for more, and up the ante, resulting in increasingly outrageous and distasteful behavior. It’s a matter of supply and demand.

Where was the social outcry? Have we become so desensitized to bad behavior that we just laugh it off? Long have Americans individually and collectively looked down our noses at “uncivilized” behavior by other nations, examples being several foreign bodies politic whose members acted with less than decorum in moments of intense passion. We have tended to hold our nation up as a beacon of virtue. Those days are clearly behind us.

Has the church abdicated its traditional role of saving souls and uplifting the downtrodden for its new position promoting the promise of prosperity in exchange for faith, membership and offerings?

There is certainly no shortage of abhorrent behavior on the part of our political leaders, a recent example being the alleged bullying of a fellow student by Republican Presidential Nominee Mitt Romney in his late teens. To his credit, Mr. Romney did not deny committing the offense, however, he appeared to address it dismissively, noting that he did not recall the incident.

I’m not going to be too concerned…I played a lot of pranks in high school and they describe some that, well, you just say to yourself ... in high school I did some dumb things and if anybody was hurt by that, or offended, obviously I apologize.

I was struck by this seemingly callous disregard for the seriousness of such behavior. Poignant was a remark by Jodee Blanco, author of Please Stop Laughing At Me: "The bully never remembers and the victim never forgets." I imagine many people who bully think nothing of their actions and very little of their victims, hence they don’t remember. If these students on the bus who mercilessly attacked Mrs. Kline were not called out on this in such a public way, would they remember this horrible behavior well into their adulthood? Having been outed, what lesson will they take from this? How will it shape their behavior going forward? Will they go on to become examples of virtue and compassion or simply reflect on this shameful incident as just kids being kids? Hopefully with the help of their parents, the outcome will be positive.

While on the topic, I would be remiss to not mention the deplorable behavior displayed toward the office of the Presidency since the election of our Nation’s first African-American President, Barak Obama. What example have these leaders set for future generations? Are we really OK with Members of Congress yelling “You Lie” as our President addresses the Nation as congressman Joe Wilson of South Carolina did, or elected officials pointing their fingers in the face of our President as Arizona Governor Jan Brewer did upon greeting President Obama at Phoenix-Mesa Gateway Airport, or members of the press corps bellowing at our President while he was speaking, as did a reporter for a right-wing blog? There was a time when people were generally embarrassed by misconduct, as it was an indication of ill breeding and a poor reflection on one’s family and social group. Today it appears that offenders wear such behavior as a badge of honor, using these acts to energize supporters and gin up financial political contributions, or amass a media following. Is there no decorum left? Does self respect hold no value?

There is so much talk among educators, law enforcement and others about the lack of respect shown, in particular, by young people today-respect for themselves, each other, and authority figures. We shake our heads and wonder how we came to this, and what can be done to remedy this. Children learn by example. Mrs. Karen Kline is a shining example of dignity and courage under fire. It is long past time for us adults to examine our conduct and be sure that it is something for our children to emulate with pride.