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Friday, June 1, 2012

Whatever Happened To Good Old-Fashioned SHAME?

Take a moment (before I begin my manifesto) and watch the following video:

Now take a few more minutes, and do some yoga or deep breathing exercises until your blood pressure returns to normal. If you're like me, that'll take awhile.
And as angry as I was after watching that, I'm even angrier to say that I've seen kids like this before, and I'm very afraid we'll see more of them. In today's reality TV, I-saw-it-on-the-internet-so-it-must-be-true, won't-get-a-good-job-anyway-so-why-bother world, this kind of selfishness (that borders on the sociopathic) is all too easy to find.
The first, and biggest question I have in all of this is "Have they no sense of shame?"
And the second question is, of course, where are the parents? And why haven't they instilled that in their child?

When I was thirteen, a friend who was a bit of a daredevil used to shoplift candy from the local mini-mart on a regular basis. I never went along with it - being too scared of getting caught - until one fateful day after school. I was actually alone, the clerk was busy, and I knew just how easy it would be, thanks to my friend who got  away with it all the time.
I stuffed a couple of Jolly Rancher Watermelon Sticks in the waistband of my pants, and just to throw off any suspicion, I grabbed a Tootsie Roll that I planned to pay for and headed to the counter. That's when the Jolly Rancher Sticks shifted, slid down my pants leg and landed on the floor just as I stepped up to the counter. The clerk immediately knew what was up, and asked me for my parent's names and my home phone number. My hand shook as I wrote it down for her. I rode my bike home, sick to my stomach with dread.
She called the house half an hour later and spoke to my Mom, who then hung up and spoke to me in a tone that can only be described as "horrified, anguished screaming". That was nothing, though. The worst part was waiting in agony - and it really was agony - for Daddy to get home. The dressing down I got from him was only a sliver of the fallout. The disappointment in his eyes, and my mother's eyes is still something that makes my stomach clench to remember, over thirty years later.
After I'd been made to apologize to the clerk - in person, of course (and I hiccupped and sobbed all the way through it), I was grounded for a month and given extra chores to "keep me busy". My older brother (who is far more clever than I am) asked me why I didn't just run. The clerk was alone, she wouldn't have chased me. Why didn't I give her a fake name and phone number? She wouldn't have been able to do anything about it after-the-fact.
None of that even occurred to me. I was so completely ashamed, so upset and humiliated, I couldn't do anything but be honest from that point. I had stolen. I had never been a thief. I had never been someone who would steal. And now I was. And my parents were looking at me like someone who was, despite the way they raised me not to be.
And that's where my story intersects with this video. I knew that by my actions, I was a reflection, not just of myself, but of the values of my family. I knew that someone - maybe that clerk or someone who was in the store - was looking at me and wondering what kind of parents let their kid run around stealing things. And what kind of adult would this dishonest kid grow up to be? It weighed heavily on me, drowning me not just in remorse, but in shame for my thoughtless actions and foolish choices.
I was ashamed, because my parents were ashamed. Because they taught me that any self-respecting person should be ashamed of doing what I did. It worked. I was.
Maybe these are problem kids. Maybe the parents are at their wit's end with them. I'd like to hope that. But this kind of sociopathic behavior had to have been rooted deeply and around for some time before it manifested itself into stealing from a child and then blaming the child when you are brought up on charges for your actions. I highly doubt these girls just had an off day.
I get that kids will be kids, and teens will be teens and sometimes kids and teens act impulsively - especially when with a peer who's on board with their bad decisions. It happens, even in the best of families.

It just seems like when it does, someone should be good and ashamed that it did.

1 comment:

  1. When I see things like this, I think "If this is the future of our country, we're screwed."