Make America Safe Street By Street – Here's How

Here is something I wrote over at Facebook’s “Dads Protecting Daughters”- Joe and I traded some comments there, and I thought I would open it up to the American Catholic society! Here goes:

A Safer World For All Children

We have touched upon some of the cultural issues relating to the protection and nurturing of our daughters (and sons- really this Facebook cause “Dads Protecting Daughters” directly relates to boys and girls). Now I want to bring up something on the literal street level- this is a political and economic area of concern. I am a huge “root causes” guy- the Catholic social teachings and Hierarchical commentaries are constantly saying in effect- “be courageous, look at the root causes of violence, of terrorism, of war”. I take this very, very seriously.

I don’t want to just go after bad guys and lock em up- I do want to do that, but I want to spend as much time on being merciful and looking at how children are in many instances going to respond to their environment growing up- for good or ill. So here is a practical solution to the crime that threatens all of us- and I don’t want my daughters to become victims of some dude who grew up on the mean streets and became something more like an animal than a man as a result. Here is a letter I wrote when I was running for Florida State House- it was published in Florida Today. As we see more problems, more violence all around, with the economy now playing a bigger role in adding to the negatives which send some guys over the edge- I want to push for the resources necessary to make sure we don’t continue leaving more and more neighborhoods behind out of budgetary neglect. There are common good items which cannot be sacrificed at the altar of budget consciousness- call it budget “conscience-ness”.

So here is my proposal to target the neighborhoods where children are now being raised in danger of being inculcated with criminal mindsets- who may one day grow up into the kind of monsters who could threaten our daughters and our sons- on every level of our Christian thinking, this type of investment makes sense- I welcome any feedback.

“Leave no neighborhood behind”

Published 11/07 Florida Today
I am very pleased that we are starting to get focused
on more of the root causes of Brevard’s poverty and
crime. Adapting a theme from the education world, I
would urge us to “Leave no neighborhood behind”.

According to data compiled by the Justice Mapping
Center, the majority of people convicted of crimes
come from very few and very concentrated
neighborhoods. With all the focus on schools, it is
easy to forget that children are even more influenced
by what is going on in and around their homes.
Rehabilitating neighborhoods is an effective and less
costly approach to empowering youth to break the cycle
of despair, anger, and violence.

Specifically, we could take abandoned homes and turn
them into police substations, recruiting new police
from the tough neighborhoods, partner them with
veterans, pay them family wages, and provide solid
role models.

Weed and Seed programs, faith-based justice and
charity non-profits, vibrant community centers, sports
leagues, and beautification projects should all be
funded generously by the state and feds- pinpointing
areas where the most criminals are produced. Low
property values in the hoods either entrap people who
can’t afford to move, or they get pushed away through
gentrification. Let’s go with the research and win the
hearts and minds of the at-risk youth.

4 Responses to Make America Safe Street By Street – Here's How

  • Joe Hargrave says:

    Tim,

    I have a lot to say about the subject of child-rearing, and I don’t even have a child of my own. Unfortunately I gotta run for now, but a little later I’ll share my thoughts.

  • jonathanjones02 says:

    Our biggest domestic problem, by far, (one that entitlements and the baby boomers alone can only rival) are the rates of illegitimacy – about 1/3 for whites, half for Hispanics, and 3/4 for blacks. This is tragic and untenable. We are well on the way to large underclasses. These children are born with a significant handicap to start their life.

  • Joe Hargrave says:

    A lot of the focus so far is on what kids in poverty are doing.

    To be quite honest, I think they have an advantage over today’s suburbanite. I think they get a more realistic view of the world.

    Tim, you know I agree with you on a lot of things, and I appreciate your social justice perspective that is tempered with an orthodox Catholicism – it’s a lot like my own.

    On this issue of “making the world safe for kids”, though, we may have some different ideas. I say may, because I’m not sure the extent to which you may disagree with me here.

    I see a society today that has an unhealthy obsession with “protecting the children”, with sanitizing life until the age of 18 and even beyond in some cases.

    Human beings were meant to enter adulthood roughly around the time we call “adolescence” today – that is, child-bearing age. In earlier times boys went to work and girls were married off, and life properly began. But now we live a lot longer and in much greater material comfort here in the West. So we run into the problem, the scourge as I see it, of delayed adulthood.

    Yesterday was the 10th anniversary of the Columbine shootings, and we’re seeing more school violence all the time, not just from low income students who belong to gangs but from white suburban kids who just “snap” one day.

    High schools have become four-year holding tanks, semi-prisons if you will, where most kids have no idea what they want to do in life because they’re told every day that they can do or be anything and everything. Unlike countries such as Germany and Japan, which have rational and socially-oriented educational systems, we have an individualist and romanticist view of childhood and education. In many cases this can be crippling.

    By high school age kids should be assessed and placed on career or educational paths best suited to their aptitudes. It doesn’t have to be rigid and inflexible, but they can at least begin heading in a certain direction through a rational plan.

    By the time a young man or woman enters the teenage years, they need to begin being treated like adults. They need to be guided more effectively by parents and teachers, they need to begin attending institutions that are suited to their future careers, they need to be given greater responsibilities. They need to be among peers who share their interests and goals, and not thrown in to a teenage version of “Oz” where petty cliques dominate the social scene.

    I can’t stress enough how much I think the American high school system is a failure, how much damage I think it does to particular kids, and how much better things could be.

    And yes, we need to let them experience danger. Kids should be exposed to little bits of negative things over time so they aren’t overwhelmed by them the second they leave the protected nest. Have a little alcohol, smoke a cigarette, even observe a bit of raunchiness on the television – it is the world we live in. I call it cultural immunization. It works the way vaccines do – its a little bit of the disease so the body gets used to it and is able to fight it off.

    Otherwise we create a totally unrealistic fantasy world of “innocence” and “fun” that leaves kids entirely unprepared for the real world. Sometimes they just go nuts – binge drinking on college campuses is out of control. Kids get to college and they start doing everything that was kept hidden and taboo in a burst of uncontrolled hedonism. College age girls, I think, get the most abortions too.

    I’m not trying to insult or undermine here, and I’m not saying anyone here has ever advocated the things I pointed out here. But I think it is a problem and no discussion of children can take place without it.

  • Tim Shipe says:

    Joe- I find that we are pretty much kindred spirits, so it should be easy to disagree on some things and not become disagreeable or discordant. Strange thing how that works, there are some people with whom I share an orthodox Catholic belief system, but I feel a cold distance from them- sometimes it is probably related to the fact that I don’t really think they are committed to the orthodoxy since they are really just way too comfortable with being out and proud liberals or conservatives when it comes to political matters- and I just cannot see a way clear to either comfort zones by my study of the Church social doctrine and applications by the Hierarchical authorities.

    Now on to your view on the above. I think that we can’t and shouldn’t go back to the time when our young were pretty much forced by circumstances to end their brief foray into youth, and enter the grind of adult life. I think the fact that we live longer today allows for some extra time of youthful endeavors- all to the good if we put the time to good use- wherein lies the rub.

    I think it was in Plato’s Republic, that he recommended among other things that the youth be thoroughly protected from the corruptions of the adult world- wait until they are developed more fully in the virtues and reason before tossing them to the wolves where they will be eaten alive if they have not the developed capacity to deal with temptation.

    So, maybe I am proffering a third way- if we can introduce our children to the real world grind of social injustice and immorality just enough to serve as that vaccination, but not enough that it steals away their beautiful innocence- then that’s the ticket right there. More art than science. But my purpose in the original piece was to try to secure the streets in a response to the data that suggests a link between bad neighborhoods and cycles of criminals. It is just one more piece of the puzzle we could be taking more collective responsibility for. We can’t change every parent, but we can take back the streets from thugs and drug dealers, giving kids more of a chance to choose something different- different from what they are experiencing at home even. There is no silver bullet- I like the social interventions, but I also like the shouting the Gospel from atop the roof to inspire individuals- it’s a total both-and deal for me. Now you have in the past brought up complaints about my reliance on the police over citizen crime watch groups- that would be more interesting to pursue with more commentators. I am a fan of the police, we just have to make sure we have political oversight representing the people, and internal monitoring to ensure that corruption and/or racism is creeping into local law enforcement officier circles. We need to get the police working with the local faith based groups and missions, so that we don’t have cops with bad attitudes and unholy approaches to dealing with crime and those prone to criminal activities as youth.

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