Tough Love is Not Enough


The fundamental question today is how do you teach children, and even some adults, the value of life, theirs and others? Maybe we wouldn’t have to endure pedantic and polarizing debates about who should get a gun, when and why, if we lived in a society in which civility, decency and sanctity of life were the cultural norm. But we don’t; we live in a world where everything is devalued save for greed, grit and glory.

Why else would one child kill another child for a pair of hiking boots when putting forth the effort to face a rocky road, let alone climb one, is far beyond the killer’s undertaking? Some grown folks need to wear those expensive Timberland boots and push their feet right to the spot where the below-the-belt baggy jeans rest to reveal some young folks’ backsides.

I’m not talking child abuse. I’m not talking “tough love.” I’m not talking “programs for our young people.” I’m talking some good old fashion penance for wrongdoing; punishment that fits the crime; “no tolerance” policies with real consequences.

It’s time we stop coddling criminals and excusing criminal behavior, especially from juveniles.

First, adults have got to set a higher standard: Violence will not be allowed in our communities under any circumstances. We need more leaders and community activists, like Prince George’s County State’s Attorney Angela Alsobrooks, who are not afraid to clamp down and take a hardline law and order stance – at least publicly, even with juveniles.

“We will do everything in our power to prosecute those who target the most vulnerable, the old and the young,” she said during a press conference this week announcing recent arrests.

How else to save young lives, like those six students who have been senselessly killed in the county in less than half a school year? One was killed in her bed and one killed walking to school. And yesterday we learned that a young man who was charged in the latter death already was in jail charged in a different violent crime.

No way should the perpetrators of these heinous crimes be walking the streets free. Someone knows who they are, and those people should turn them in to make examples of them for the next person who places their own selfish desires, or even needs, over another’s life.

It is a welcome sign that county police are receiving more Crime Solver tips than they have in years. Maybe the community is finally getting fed up.

Prince George’s County has been known as one of the most affluent black middle class communities in the country. Granted more less fortunate folks have moved to the county since gentrification took hold in the neighboring District of Columbia. But that changing demographic is still no excuse for the increase in violent crimes against young people.

My cousin is a former D.C. homicide detective. He always marveled how many of the young people he arrested had never even heard of the Ten Commandments. But ignorance cannot be an excuse either. It is adults’ responsibility to lay down the law and teach children right from wrong.

What we need in so many of our communities are committed fathers and strong men who model moral behavior and who can bring down the hammer when necessary.

Until you’ve raised sons or lived next door to a houseful of unsupervised young men and boys, you don’t realize how vigilant you must be to keep them in check. I had a coworker who took the doors off her sons’ bedrooms until they were grown to make it clear that her rules were the law in her home.

Some parents, especially single mothers, need help parenting, and that’s what public officials could offer in the way of some program. However, if calling the cops, struggling with their supposed parental guardians, even confronting them face-to-face with neighborhood watches is what’s necessary to establish a moral code and keep the peace, then so be it.

Even as Maryland lawmakers are working on legislation to repeal the death penalty (which never gets implemented, as it shouldn’t) and imposing stricter gun control measures, the pendulum should not swing so far in the other direction that our children get the wrongheaded idea that they live in the Wild West and it’s OK for them to act as they please, talk as they please and kill as they please.

It was extremely disappointing to hear the weak-kneed response of most of Prince George’s County’s elected leaders and community activists in response to the latest string of violent deaths played upon county teenagers.

Calls were made for “programs: to give young people something to do.” summits that demonstrate “conflict resolution” and for “comprehensive” and “collaborative efforts” to tackle the social problems that cause crime, particularly among “our youth.” All of that’s OK.

But what is not OK is so little mention of stronger sanctions for the senseless violence and the taking of human life.

Tough Love is Not Enough

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