The Real Reason Behind America's Lack of Civility: Parents
When President Obama told CBS's 60 Minutes recently that our country is suffering from a lack of civility, most Americans understood that he was talking about Rep. Joe Wilson (the congressman who famously shouted "You Lie!" during his speech), politically heated cable news shows, and of course those "angry mobs" that have been showing up for health care town hall meetings and Tea Party rallies across the country.
The press concurred with the President and threw in the timely headlines about Serena William's foul-mouthed outburst on the tennis court and Kanye West's hijacking of Taylor Swift's MTV award acceptance speech.
"There's a coarsening of the culture," the media has collectively and belatedly declared - as if Republican political discontent started a national trend that spread to hip-hop and tennis stars.
News flash! The culture has been coarsening for at least the last decade or two. Sure, popular culture hasn't helped, but rock stars, sports stars, politicians and angry cable pundits are not the source of the deterioration of civility in the culture.
For evidence of the shortage of good old fashioned parenting in this country, look no further than this video of two unprovoked attacks on a teenager just looking for a place to sit on his school bus. Talk about lack of civility. As the boy takes two separate beatings, lifting his hands only to protect his own head from continuous blows, fellow passengers passively watch, cheer on his attackers and only two kids begrudgingly step in to break it up.
The utter lack of compassion displayed by the students as they witness the humiliation and violence that was perpetrated on a fellow classmate is shocking and depressing.
Unfortunately, in this incident, race is being used to deflect from the real conversation our nation should be having about raising kids with character and a conscience. Since the victim was white and the assailants and passengers were African-American, all kinds of allegations are being tossed around. It's being labeled as a hate crime.
For the record, I don't believe in labeling certain crimes as hate crimes. In my view, all crimes are hate crimes, regardless of the motivation or the color or sexual orientation of the victim. When I saw the video, I can honestly tell you that I did not see race.
What I saw was the very sad results of poor parenting.
In both the attackers and the onlookers, I saw parents who failed miserably to instill compassion, a sense of justice and moral courage in their children. Too many parents are failing their kids, shirking their responsibility and making themselves present in their kids' lives only when it comes time to defend their offspring against the school officials, teachers, police officers and judges left to deal with the aftermath – rude, mean, angry kids.
Parents, step up! Stop waiting for celebrity role models, teachers, coaches or after-school programs to do your job. Civility starts at home.
This is the conversation President Obama, the media and the nation should be having.
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Start by teaching him that it is safe to do so.