Thursday, December 15, 2011

America Is No Place For Kids

Oh, God, I hate the NASCAR off-season! I look forward to the weekend now for the races just like I used to look forward to going out to the bars to hear the bands and carouse with friends. That's, of course, when most taverns still featured live music. I feel sorry for the deejay generations. You may have a lot - Ipods and laptops and cellphones and Facebook and Twitter but do you notice all that stuff is one step removed? The bands and the bars and the friends were all right where you could reach out and touch the energy.When you're young, fun should be touchable.

I never knew anyone who'd been arrested for Drunk Driving or Minor Consuming until I was in my 30's. Your behavior had to be egregious to be charged with Public Intoxication, peeing in public or something. The police didn't seem as hellbent on the drinking crimes as they are now. I also never knew anyone my age who went to jail for Possession of Marijuana. The authorities were more tolerant of kids sowing their wild oats in my era. And actually, the majority of us grew up to be solid citizens. Maybe that's why all the entertainments are impersonal now....it's safer to make connections via a screen.

On the other hand, getting pregnant was punished with immediate expulsion from school (for the Mom, of course - Daddy went right on going to class and playing football). And you'd better hope you could find a job or that your folks would help because there was little in the way of public assistance. If you kept your baby and couldn't care for it, The Welfare would come and take it without so much as a by your leave.

Society has flipped in the opposite direction on unwed pregnancy. Now the cops will gleefully swoop an underage drinking party, hauling everyone into jail,  while the schools pat little Mama on the head and the Division of Family and Children's rule about removing children from abusive and/or neglectful parents is that the child's life must be in immediate danger.

So have we gone too far in both directions? Do we really want a large percentage of our youth to have criminal records before they reach adulthood due to drinking or smoking (you can even be charged here for possessing regular cigarettes if you're underage). How about suspending their driver's license instead? Most kids value their freedom to drive more than they fear going to jail. In fact, going to jail is almost a rite of passage these days.

And God knows, I wouldn't want to go back to expelling or shunning pregnant moms but on the other hand, can't we at least make it clear that there are real consequences to having babies before you're ready? That means something besides beaming with satisfaction at the sight of a 9-months-along 15-year-old to register our disapproval. We do still disapprove of babies having babies....don't we?

Kids didn't stay kids as long when I was young. That's because they could go get a job and become adults. Now, of course, everyone has to have at least a high school education to get any job, even in a factory. I've worked on many an assembly line and trust me, you don't have to be able to diagram a sentence to hit the button on a punch press. And it isn't necessarily dumb kids who don't fit in at school. Joey could be the most reliable and talented set-up man you ever had even if he washed out of Social Studies.

Well, I guess it's a lot to expect the country to provide jobs to 17-year-olds when we can't even create enough positions to keep their parents employed.  When there are way more jobs than people, employers bend the rules to let people in. When there are way fewer jobs than people, employers use any excuse to screen people out.

I feel sorry for today's 17 to 20 year-olds who don't have the aptitude or dollars to go to college (and even many of those who do will start their work life, if they can find work, with a choking burden of debt). We don't have patience with them.

And we don't have jobs for them for them to go to so they can't afford to start families and take their place in society as grown ups. No wonder so many children are being raised by the taxpayers. I knew many a young single Mom who went to work at General Tire in my town and raised her kids with dignity. The General Tire plant is abandoned now. A thousand plus decent paying positions went along with it.

So, really, America has no place for these kids. They're a glut on the market and a thorn in our side. Don't take that drink. Don't smoke that joint. Don't cruise the strip; don't hang out at the malls. Here - take this video game and go to your room.