Wednesday, August 6, 2008

It's that responsibility thing again

I'm responsible for me and you are responsible for you. 

Simple enough, unless you are some teens.

The New Haven Independent is back from its long weekend and welcome back to them. How else am I supposed to know what's going on in my city? Sorry if the Register's editor, Jack Kramer, is unhappy with that. It's not his fault. He's got some good reporters, too few of them because his paper hasn't got any money. 

Neither, it seems, have the big boys. My old boss Jim Wiltsie, subsequently the editor at the Star-Ledger, the best paper in New Jersey by leaps and bounds, will have to do with 200 fewer people. Same with all the great papers. What the world needs now is more folks like Paul Bass and his crew at the New Haven Independent. I just wish he was a little more objective, but that's a small enough price to pay for the kind of work that small group does. I'm not counting myself. I just do a story now and again, but Paul and his regulars cover this city like a blanket. 

But I digress.

The headline has to do with responsibility.

First, come back a few dozen years to my first job in newspapers. Man had just walked on the moon. Richard Nixon was president and Watergate was a new building on the banks of the Potomac River in Washington, D.C.

What was one of the top stories? Ready? Teens complaining they have no place to go. The local shopping center was shooing them away and they were bored.

Where was this? Some inner city. Heck, no. Wethersfield, Conn., one of the richest suburbs in the nation. Home of the Westhersfield Country Club and the Insurance City Open. Rich kid city. Same problem.

We're complaining about do-rags. Let's go back another few years. John F. Kennedy was a senator from Massachusetts. Black parents were complaining about their kids wearing do-rags. The kids used do-rags to cover their straight-hair dos.  The Afro that was to come in the next few years was the reaction to the compressed hairstyle where hair relaxer was used to straighten African-Americans' hair. I think those kids were copying their fathers, who wore do-rags during the 30s in New York.

So, nothing new under the sun. But the advent of the Afro showed somebody was paying attention and taking responsibility. African-Americans were proud of their heritage and didn't want their generation looking like the gangsters with the slicked-back hair. 

There was a story the last week or so about a couple of owners being forced out of their units. It told the story of this single mother trying to make it. It went something like she was getting herself together and another baby came.

Like the baby just arrived Parcel Post. 

This writer didn't think about the impact of her words. Another baby arrived. Thump! We have to get rid of that kind of thinking. Things just don't happen. Actions we take have consequences. It takes two cells, an egg and a sperm, to make a baby. There is only one way that happens, absent a Petri dish. 

I'm not knocking this young woman reporter or the woman in the condo. But they represent the kind of thinking that goes on.

As parents, we have the responsibility to teach responsibility. When I was a kid, I didn't have any place to hang out, either. My parents make sure I had things to keep me busy. Homework. Going fishing and bowling with my father. Going shopping with my mother. That last one taught me about eating healthy and that we had to make choices on foods. Potatoes or candy, vegetables or ice cream. Sometimes we could afford both; sometimes not.

No, I'm not setting myself up as the all-knowing. Each parent is the all-knowing to his or her kid. If the parent absents himself or herself from the kid's life, then someone else has to teach the kid what's what.

Sometimes, that lesson is not what we would want it to be.

Enough preaching.

Until next time...

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