Subscriber Services Weather

Burnett's Urban Etiquette

Monday, August 13, 2007

Killer logic

In the midst of all that's right with the world...and all that's wrong that I've grown accustomed, calloused, or numb to, I've been reeling for the past couple of weeks over the murders of three young people and the attempted murder of one in Newark, NJ. Three were college students, and one had just enrolled. By all accounts they were good kids, not criminals, and not violent or bad people.

On the slight, slight chance that you don't know about these killings, these victims were apparently hanging out, listening to music in a school parking lot when they were accosted by four to five young men, lined up against the rear wall of the school, forced to kneel, and shot execution style. One young woman survived and is recovering in a Newark hospital. Police say robbery was the apparent motive.

And when the requisite blame was assigned by some justifiably outraged, outspoken Newark residents, who do you think was the first person blamed? Newark Mayor Cory Booker, of course. Apparently the murders were indirectly caused by Booker not doing more to stop violent crime.

Wait. Don't tell me you actually guessed the killers were blamed? And, puhleaaaaase tell me you didn't dare question how the killers might have been raised?


I understand that among their many duties as custodians of our tax dollars, elected officials have a responsibility to field the best police forces money can buy.

But how many times do I have to say police work is only half preventative? Seriously, cops can prevent things like burglaries when alarms tip them off. They can prevent a few things like drug deals when surveillance or instinct tips them off to shady behavior. They can prevent a few crimes by pure luck - stumbling on a crime about to happen or in progress. The other half of police work? Reactionary. It has to be, unless cops become psychics or Minority Report actually comes true some day.

So what is the best solution to violent, outrageous criminal behavior, the stuff that stokes the strongest reaction from police? It's simple. You change the way violent people think. You change the way they think, and you will change the way they act. If they think that robbery is an acceptable way to make money they will act on it. If they think that murder is an acceptable way to clean up the robbery they will act on it.

Before you react with "easier said than done," consider that most psych and sociological experts agree that the moral standards we live by most of our lives are established during our childhoods.

So if you think about it, parents really can shape the way their kids think. Sure there are exceptions. The occasional birth of a Jeffrey Dahmer is proof of that. But a strong parent that keeps a kid in check and doesn't take crap from a kid, and makes a kid study and do homework and go to bed at a reasonable hour, and tells a kid no sometimes, and regulates the music and movies the kid listens to and watches, and regulates the kid's friends, and reacts swiftly and consistently when the kid hits another person for any reason but self defense, can usually shape that kid into a reasonably decent person, a person with enough common sense to not ever consider cold-blooded murder as an option.

You know I spent most of last week in Las Vegas. One evening while waiting in the lobby of my hotel to rendezvous for dinner with a few friends from other newspapers, I observed a family - mom, dad, two kids (boy and girl), and someone I'm guessing was grandma. The boy was cracked up, yelling, stomping, hitting his sister, screaming "no!" to his mother, brushing grandma's hand away as she tried to soothe him. The worse he acted, the more his folks and grandma shrank away. He won. I'm not saying that a temper tantrum by a kid who appeared to be somewhere between 9 and 11 translates to him becoming a murderer. But 10 years from now if that kid ever finds himself in a tough, desperate situation, or a hopeless dead-end lifestyle, I guarantee you he'll have fewer reservations about doing something stupid, and maybe violent to "fix" his situation than the kid whose parents would have checked him hard and shut him down the minute that tantrum started. Substitute the tantrum with refusals to do homework, go to bed on time, stop hitting, etc., and parents who let those things slide too, and you have the same result.

When reached by the media, James Harvey, the father of Newark victim Dashon Harvey, said "To have our kids nowadays act the way they act, I don't blame Mayor Booker. It's not on Mayor Booker. It's on you guys. It's on the parents of the city of Newark, or whoever you are in the world. It's on the parents. When you raise your kids up you teach 'em right from wrong...Innocent people are dying needlessly, unnecessarily and for what? I blame you guys, the parents of America. If you raised your kids better this world would be a better place to live."

Labels: , , , ,


  • nice blog

    By Blogger promoteyourblogforfree, at 11:18 PM  

  • amen from this corner.

    By Blogger Pamela, at 12:01 AM  

  • I don't wish to turn anyone off here by saying something "religious" or referencing the "Good Book," but it's germane to what I wish to say.

    Our Father (God), provided the ultimate disciplinary impetus to guide every soul entering this plane of existence we call the world. He wrote it on every soul lest these souls feign ignorance to justify evil acts, and devilish behavior.

    The Great Teacher of all things spiritual exemplified this "disciplinary impetus" and taught it to his followers. He was named Jesus.

    This "impetus" if adhered to, will do away with the formality of laws, regulations, and other human rules, as well as sadistic customs and behaviors, and allow men and women to govern themselves--that is, to be self-regulating.

    This "impetus," written on the souls of every human born without exception (I know that those two words are all-inclusive) is none other than what has come to be known as the "Golden Rule."

    I'll paraphrase: "Do unto others as you would have others do unto you."

    Small minds may attempt to pervert the statement and its profound meaning, but those who approach it honestly, without bias, will agree that the "Rule" carry with it, not only the behest of God, but the salvation of a planet and those who live upon it.

    It assures human rights, civil rights, and animal rights. It makes us better stewards of the planet, our nation, states, municipalities, as well as our homes.

    It solidifies and harmonizes relationships: partnerships, friendships, families, and marriages.

    Finally, it allows us to treat our minds, bodies and spirits with the honor, holiness, respect, and oneness that they deserve--not forsaking any aspect of our God-given (created) existence or being.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 6:36 AM  

  • Well, James, you've arrived, you now have comment spam.

    Listen: Morality is a subjective thing. If you're a retard.

    Decent people learn right from wrong early on, and keep subtle reminders of that differentiation all their life, and become moral humans. Otherwise, you're an animal.

    Welcome back from the city of sin. Yeah, Vegas baby! (Ducks and runs....)

    By Anonymous og, at 8:20 AM  

  • I hate that.

    "I had no choice but to murder!"

    Someone is already way too far lost if that rationality makes even the slightest bit of sense.

    By Blogger Kevin, at 10:19 AM  

  • Excellent post, James. If children don't learn how to deal with their own emotions first and then, understand the "Golden Rule" as well, what direction is that going to take society? People do not automatically KNOW how to control their temper, their impulses, etc. These must be explained - taught -and should be done as soon as the child begins any form of comprehension. Along with that, having the difference between right and wrong explained and nailed in. Empathy may take a little bit longer to take hold since children tend to think of "me first" but it needs to be taught too along the way. Too bad your words aren't available to everyone. (Well, they are as long as everyone has a computer and reads your blog.)

    By Blogger Jeni, at 12:31 PM  

  • Yeah, we all want that big, strong police force to protect us until it comes time to pay the bill. Then, we're not so sure anymore. If every single person who publicly screamed about the need for more and better trained and equipped police actually voted that way we MIGHT actually be able to institute some protective and proactive police measures instead of always having to react to the latest outrage.

    And, like you said God forbid we should ever put the responsibility on the people who actually commit the outrageous crimes. I'm sure Jason Whitlock will be along to blame this on Hip-Hop music and the NBA's gang culture pretty soon.

    By Blogger Jay, at 3:09 PM  

  • Another great post James. I can't think of anything more to say about it other than a good chunk of my family (and, tragically, the citizens of California) are reaping the rewards of the non-existent parenting you write about.

    James Harvey was right. Never underestimate the power of good parenting. Or bad parenting either.

    By Blogger Queen of Dysfunction, at 5:34 PM  

  • Now if only the money that was invested in curing Erectile Dysfunction were instead to be spent on developing Good Parenting classes ...

    By Blogger The Sarcasticynic, at 7:43 PM  

  • Sadly there seems to be a non parent parenting thing going on Worldwide....parents not teaching their kids the right coping mechanisms or giving them the foundation by which to allow themselves to flourish as young adults and make it for themselves in the real world.
    I am glad to say I am not one of them

    By Blogger Cazzie!!!, at 11:02 PM  

  • "And call no man your father upon the earth: for one is your Father, which is in heaven."1

    If God is Father, shouldn't we by extension devolve to Him the role of parent; hence, Father/Parent.

    And what about His parenting skills? Wouldn't you agree, that there can be no better parent than God.

    And if the world seems to be going "to hell in a handbasket," then who's to blame? If kids are misbehaving in a restaurant, don't we mentally chide the parents for not teaching them the decorum appropriate to eating out?

    Admit it, you do! But I don't think that you're willing to go so far as to blame God as Parent for the misbehavings of His children.

    Okay, consider the following:

    1 And as Jesus passed by, he saw a man which was blind from his birth.
    2 And his disciples asked him, saying, Master, who did sin, this man, or his parents, that he was born blind?
    3 Jesus answered, Neither hath this man sinned, nor his parents: but that the works of God should be made manifest in him. 2

    The man was blind, but we're told that it wasn't because his parents were bad, or that the man was bad.

    Some children, even from the same parents, and raised in the same environment, will turn out bad--do bad things: take illegal drugs, steal, rape and murder. Many times before they reach the age of majority. Was it because their parents were bad? The children were bad?

    I propose that, Neither hath these children sinned, nor their parents: but that the works of God should be made manifest in them.

    The manifestation of the "works of God" becomes God's parenting skill, His disciplinary method, without which, all is duality.

    Without it the dual nature of things will continue, no matter what we do--beautiful and ugly, sickness and health, good and evil, good kids and bad kids.

    The singularity of opposite natures is foreshadowed in the following passage from Isaiah:

    The wolf also shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the kid; And the calf and the young lion, and the fatling together; And a little child shall lead them. 3

    1 Book Matthew, Chapter 23, Verse 9
    2 Book John, Chapter 9, Verse 2
    3 Book Isaiah, Chapter 11, Verse 6

    By Anonymous The First Domino, at 1:27 AM  

  • You should comment on the fact that one of the murderers is an illegal alien. Should we give him the Dream Act and make him a citizen?

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 8:07 AM  

  • Promoting spammer, thank you. But quit spamming people. It's not nice.

    Pamela, and all the people said....

    Anonymous and the first domino, thanks for the spiritual lessons. I get your analogies. I just didn't intend this discussion to go deeper than common sense. But thanks for weighing in. I appreciate all comers.

    Og, key words, "decent people." These killers are not decent. I stop just short of saying their parents aren't/weren't. But again, I don't believe killer attitudes start the day someone commits a murder. That seed is planted years in advance, back when the killer first gets indulged and excused for bad behavior.

    Kevin, I agree, anyone who can rationalize like that might be a lost cause.

    Jeni, as always, thank you. And I agree, everyone should read my blog ;>) Spread the word!

    Jay, I'm a fan of Whitlock, but I agree with you. Sometimes I wonder if he falls back on the crumbling of hip-hop culture as a reason for this bad behavior, when often it isn't even that deep. Often it's just about triflin' people with no home training, regardless of what genre/culture of music they've immersed themselves in.

    Queen, I'm in the same situation. I'm no saint. And I didn't grow up in the Cosby house. At least my dad wasn't a front man for pudding pops, and he didn't have any Coogi sweaters. But he was there, everyday - except for those months-long stretches in which he was out to sea. And my mom was there everyday. And they regulated my actions. I have cousins who didn't get that guidance. And now they're screwed up in a major way.

    By Blogger James Burnett, at 8:11 PM  

  • Sarc, here here. Can't that problem be fixed cheaply with honeydew melon? It worked on Seinfeld.

    And Cazzie, kudos to you for being a good parent. I can tell you're attentive by the way you write about your kids. Bravo!

    By Blogger James Burnett, at 8:13 PM  

  • James, I live right down the road from Newark. My mother-in-law lives on the border. So this is close to home.

    Didn't you know that these days everyone except the criminal is responsible for the crime?

    The days of personal responsibility are long gone.

    By Blogger Dan, at 10:25 PM  

  • Dan, I know it. But I'm in denial. I'm hoping its a fluke and things will right themselves soon.

    By Blogger James Burnett, at 10:36 PM  

  • I couldn't agree with this sentiment more. Then again, there is a fine line. Some of the things my mother did to keep me(and 7 others) in line growing up would be called abuse nowadays unfortunately.


    By Blogger briliantdonkey, at 10:11 AM  

Post a Comment

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home