Fine the Culture, Not the Parents


Grant Swank

There are lawmakers in our state (Maine) capital who want to fine parents of unruly children, particularly those students who indulge in bomb threats. Parents would be fined $10,000.

No. Or maybe yes, for those parents who don't care, are out all hours of the night carousing, don't talk to their kids, don't eat with their families or spend salaries on booze and gambling.

But there are other kinds of parents-like my wife and myself-who care about our children.

But one of our children decided to hold us hostage. We did not know if we were going to wake up alive in the morning. We did not know where he was when he ran away from home for weeks on end. We did not know if our home was going to be pitted with still another hole in the wall. We did not know when we were going to have another police cruiser in our front yard.

Like our other two children, he was given candlelit dinners, prayers before meals, church every Sunday, discipline when misbehaving as a youngster, birthday parties and presents, Christmas celebrations with the clan, scoldings when he strayed out of line, family vacations, hugs and kisses, books to read, etc. But with all that, this middle child decided that he knew better than parents, teachers, principals, policemen and all the other societal fences that are supposed to keep youth from falling off the edge.

Where did he learn all that strange, deranged stuff? He learned it from a sub-culture that taught him to disregard laws, snub his nose at authority, flip over school desks and kick in lockers, caress a knife, love the feel of a gun, kiss up to the drug dealers, bait the cops, and hang out with the toughs in the city.

He learned this in slice-'em-dice-'em movies and videos, on television and from demented printed material, from twisted lyrics on CDs, underground gangs and smart aleck heroes who lurk on the dark side.

All the while, our family was held captive by such fear that we kept a suitcase packed just in case we had to make that hasty escape to save our skins! You see, when our middle child became a teen, he was taller than the rest of us, could outrun the rest of us, could smack the rest of us to the ground.

There were no 911 numbers we could call, no agencies to step in, and no authority figures trained to rescue us. We, the all-American-apple-pie-flag-waving middle class decent family, were victimized by our own.

So I say to the lawmakers, don't wipe out those already exhausted in the fray. Go after the sub-culture of death and destruction that exists daily to do in our children. That's where you can start in hopes of bringing about a needed change to our communities.

Brother Swank told the story of his wayward son-and his son's return to Jesus behind prison bars-in

"I Couldn't Change My Son," in the July, 1999, issue of Pulpit Helps.

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