Tom, Huck, Becky and their little Mississippi gang lived and loved in an America when the days were long, options were plentiful and walking to school didn’t require maps and guards. Oh there were dangers, but usually not from kids their own age. Today that’s all changed!
Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel has courageously said we have to re-distribute student populations, but every vested interest is battling him on this. The one interest which is saying nothing is — you guessed it, the punks with the guns who own the streets between homes and schools on Chicago’s West and South sides. If the Middle East is a battle ground between Sunni and Shiites, Chicago is between the forces of municipal law and the forces of gang mayhem.
What is so incredible about this dystopian scenario is that here the enemy are ignorant, tatooed, foul-mouthed troublemakers who at one time were simply “the bad kids” who parents, teachers and cops collectively kept in line. Either with authority, grades or billy clubs. The punks didn’t have a chance, and adults slept better at night.
Not anymore. The inmates are often in charge of the asylum, at least in Chicago’s menacing neighborhoods where parents fear letting their children walk to the school or the store or even the church. How did it come to this…? For more reasons than there are college research teams studying the problem. However, the reasons probably all simmer down to this: Rights have replaced rules and tolerance has replaced toughness. We have tried to become a more caring culture, yet all too many have exploited the caring and laughed at the caregivers.
In the city’s blue-collar neighborhood you hear angry men grumble “In our day…!” while in white-collar neighborhoods you hear confused men wonder “How did we lose control…?” In Tom’s day there were always just enough Aunt Polly’s around to remind kids that adults had earned the right to tell them “No.”
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