I enjoy writing of my times growing up in East Texas in the 1950s and 1960s. While not everything was perfect in those times, there were many good practices we seem to have lost. I miss those days when no one felt a need to lock their doors at home or in their car.
As I reflect on the things I did as a teenager, I can see many things that would result in a criminal record and much grief for today's teenager. My old buddies and I often talk of those days, and lament how much harsher today's America is for our grandkids and grand nieces and nephews coming up.
I recently saw the legal case of a juvenile who was arrested for shooting a BB gun. He didn't shoot it at anyone. There was no assault, no battery, and no damage to any property. He merely shot a BB gun which a friend owned. This boy was 16 years old, a good student, and had never been in trouble.
He was arrested, held in a jail facility with other teens, and required to appear before a juvenile judge. The judge was a woman, and she was truly appalled that this boy had access to a BB gun. A BB GUN!! She ruled that he was a juvenile offender, and strongly questioned him about access to a BB gun, as if it were a real gun. Her attitude about BB guns was truly disturbing.
I had a BB gun when I was seven years old. I used it for bird hunting, which is where I learned to stalk and kill game.
I also used it for a BB gun fight with my old Buddy, Mike Capps. His dad caught us and whipped our behinds. But no one called the police, and the police wouldn't have done anything about it, anyway.
Our police don't have that luxury any more. They have to respond to every little spat that some citizen has with his or her mother, father, aunt, uncle, sister, brother, cousin, friend, acquaintance or neighbor. Many seem to expect every personal offense to be a cause for arresting someone.
If today's standard for imposing criminal sanctions had been in place when I was a teenager, I would never have gotten into the military, never gotten a top secret clearance, never gotten into law school, and never become a lawyer. I could have been a juvenile delinquent with a history of assault, battery, theft, vandalism, racing, driving while intoxicated, and public indecency, among others. But I wasn't, and I lived to clean up my life and do right.
We do not need to criminalize our young people before they're even out of the gate. Unless their conduct is truly offensive and outrageous, there are better ways than calling the police every time a teenager engages in misconduct. Of course, I also realize parents and authority figures cannot punish teens physically any more, and that is a problem, too. It thwarts nature's design. Watch what other mammals do when their young disobey or displease. They apply discipline designed to gain compliance immediately.
I wish this column could have a happy ending, but it doesn't. We've lost part of the carefree America we had, and we've replaced it with a society where too many people want to jail their fellow citizens. Justice must always be tempered with mercy. When all else fails, remember the Golden Rule.
Copyright 2017, Jim "Pappy" Moore, all rights reserved.