Thursday, April 12, 2012

Bring back "The Golden Rule"

4/11/12 Chatterbox
Betty Kaiser

Like many of you, I grew up and raised my family in the now maligned TV era of “Leave it to Beaver,” “Ozzie and Harriet,” “Father knows best,” and “The Donna Reed Show.” Today’s critics say the shows were too simplistic and they modeled a lifestyle that wasn’t realistic.

I disagree. At that time, Dad went to work and Mom stayed home. Children were sheltered from the ugliness of life. We were taught to live by the Golden Rule. We respected our elders; practiced our manners; and arguments were settled by saying, “I’m sorry.”

I also grew up in Los Angeles and attended multi-racial schools where everyone got along without lectures, guards or bars on the windows. The police carried guns not students. It never occurred to me that my fellow students or neighbors would carry a weapon until the Watt’s riots in 1965. And then times changed.

Today, 45 years later, a quick look at the news will tell you that an overwhelming number of our citizens don’t respect either themselves or their elders. They have forgotten their manners and the Golden Rule. They settle their disputes with guns not words.

Quite frankly, I don’t get the guns. Yes, sometimes they are necessary. Military and police use them for our protection. Hunters use rifles to kill their prey. Property owners use them in self-defense when someone is stealing from them. They have their place in civilized society. A very small place.

I don’t understand the escalating stories of spouses killing spouses with guns. I don’t understand parents killing children with guns or worse. I don’t understand students killing fellow students with guns. I don’t understand arguments on a street corner being settled at gunpoint instead of a handshake. Where is the Golden Rule?

I am appalled at the proliferation of child abuse by parents at all levels of society. Other eras seemed to have weathered the stress' of unemployment, poverty and depression without resorting to torturing and killing their loved ones. How is this time different?

The horror of teenager Jeanette Maples’ tortured death at the hands of her mother is a case in point. One can only wonder what demons drove her mother, Angela McAnulty, to kill the child she birthed. There was no “Father knows best” in that family. The husband turned his head in denial as this girl was abused, starved and tortured.

Schools used to be the safest places in the world for our children. Statistically, they probably still are, but that’s hollow comfort for those who lost a child in Columbine, Thurston, Virginia Tech or most recently at Oikos University, in Oakland, Calif.

Certainly parents of my era never thought of elementary school children bringing weapons to school or accidently  shooting each other. Pushing and shoving—yes. Killing—no. But today it happens.

Amina Kocer-Bowman, the third grader who was critically wounded at a Bremerton, Washington school, will take a long time to recover physically and psychologically from her gunshot wounds.

The day after her classmate dropped his backpack and the gun fired, he wrote a letter to Bowman saying, “I’m sorry I hurt you because I brought a gun to school. I did not mean for anyone to get hurt. I wish everyone was okay. I made a bad choice...I did not solve my problem well. I will stay away from guns.”

The boy’s mother and her boyfriend (who left a gun lying around for her son to access) pleaded not guilty to felony assault. Not guilty? In my book it’s very guilty to severely wound a child and traumatize a soul!

I remember when divorce was an ugly word. In fact, in my neighborhood, when a couple got divorced, no one told the children. It was all hush-hush. Secrets aren’t good but they were a whole lot better than the lengths people go to today to punish their partner.

I don’t think any of us will get over this year’s killing of the Powell boys—Charlie, 7, and Braden, 5. In 2009, their parents, Josh and Susan Powell weren’t getting along. Susan mysteriously disappeared after Josh took the boys on a midnight camping trip. Josh moved to Washington, the grandparents had custody of the boys and the senior Powell went to prison on a variety of charges. Josh had supervised visitation rights with the boys.

This year, Josh killed his boys in a double murder-suicide that involved a hatchet, a gas explosion and a hot, fast burning fire. Pierce County Sheriff Paul Pastor said, “What happened here was an act of evil. Do not call it a tragedy because that sanitizes it. This was a terrible act of murder involving two young children.”

Most recently, Trayvon Martin, a young black teen, was killed by George Zimmerman, a self-appointed (unofficial) Neighborhood Watch person in Florida. All the facts have yet to be revealed as to why Trayvon was shot and killed. But one thing is sure—if Zimmerman had not been carrying a weapon there wouldn’t have been a shooting.

So where am I going with this dismal, dark subject? We can’t turn back the hands of time and change any of these scenarios. Gun violence is not new in the United States and greater minds than mine have wrestled with it. But with a growing population of 313 million there are now more people and more weapons to be had.

Perhaps our best hope is simplistic—prevention and educational programs that will encourage children to stay away from guns and parents to store guns safely. To teach children how to live at peace with themselves and resolve disputes without resorting to violence is a challenge for every generation. Right now, we’re losing the battle.

“Do unto others as you would have them do unto you,” is a common thread in all religions. It leads to compassion, kindness and a peaceful life. Let’s put away our guns and bring back the Golden Rule.

Betty Kaiser’s Chatterbox is about people, places, family, and other matters of the heart.

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