When I was about 13 years old, my mother sat me down to read me the proverbial riot act. I hadn’t done anything to necessitate it; it was a pre-emptive strike on her part to make sure that her newly teenaged daughter stayed on the straight and narrow.
She punctuated her litany of “don’ts” — drugs, alcohol, boys — with a specific consequence that made a deep impression. She had always taught my sister and me to respect authority — the military, law enforcement, teachers, other parents, all adults. So on the day of the riot act reading, she said that if I ever did anything to warrant an arrest, she would wait a day before bailing me out of the pokey.
Of course, I was more afraid of her than I was of the police.
At the time, my mother’s approach was the rule. Sure, there were parents who were more lax, who just didn’t care or who weren’t around much. But they were the exceptions. Most parents taught discipline and enforced boundaries.
Today, the wholesale breakdown of the respect for authority is shaking the foundations of the nation. Respect for our unifying institutions is sliding.
Many public schools are plagued by violence and chaos. Teachers are afraid of their own students, who often intimidate, threaten and assault them. Administrators are often loathe to intervene on behalf of their teachers, knowing that back-up from the unions and parents is unlikely.
The left has re-activated its war on cops, using tragedies like the deaths of Michael Brown and Freddie Gray to paint them as trigger-happy racists, thereby undercutting their moral and legal authority. The effect has been to hamstring the ability of many in law enforcement from doing their jobs. Apprehending a bad guy or spending countless hours defending your actions to Internal Affairs and in the court of public opinion? That’s becoming an ever-easier call for many cops.
Leftist judges routinely legislate their agenda from the bench. An activist New York judge unilaterally halted the policy of stop and frisk, which allowed police to confiscate weapons from suspicious characters, saving countless lives, primarily in minority communities. The leftist mayor refused to reinstate it.
A state judge told me recently that after he had sentenced a gangbanger to more than 50 years in prison, many colleagues berated him for “ruining the young man’s life.” There was little sympathy for the young victims who happened to be on the playground he shot up.
Many of our political leaders appear less interested in serving and protecting the American people than in empowering and enriching themselves. And that same corruption has diseased much of the media, which is supposed to expose such malfeasance.
At all levels, in most major national institutions — with the notable exception of the military — the inmates are running the asylum.
The sad and dangerous result of this kind of corrosiveness is the dissolution of national cohesion.
And it all begins with the breakdown of the family and the natural discipline it imposes.
Restoration of those things must begin one family at a time, as it did last week, when two Brooklyn mothers inflicted some tough love on their teenaged daughters, who had allegedly attacked a 78-year-old woman after she had asked one of them to remove her feet from a subway seat so she could sit down. The girls followed her off the train and then allegedly attacked her, “punching and kicking her multiple times, including in the head and face,” according to police. They escaped by boarding another train, but not before being captured on surveillance video.
When their appalled mothers saw their daughters on tape, they promptly marched them down to their local police precincts to face the music. The victim has recovered, and her alleged attackers have been charged with assault.
These mothers’ actions recall those of Toya Graham, who was home watching live news coverage of the riots and looting in her Baltimore neighborhood last year. When she spotted her 16-year-old son, she charged into the streets, found him, scolded him in front of the cameras and marched him home.
“I’m a no-tolerant mother. Everybody that knows me, know I don’t play that,” Ms. Graham told CBS News. “He said, ‘When I seen you,’ he said, ‘Ma, my instinct was to run.’ “
She said when they made eye contact, he knew he was in trouble.
“At that point, I just lost it,” she said. “I was shocked, I was angry, because you never want to see your child out there doing that.”
She was immediately celebrated for imposing much-needed parental discipline — and caring enough to do it.
If we had more of that going on in American homes, we’d have a stronger, more stable and cohesive society.
Following the two Brooklyn girls’ arrests, a New York Police Department source told the New York Post, “More parents, if their children do wrong, need to step up like these mothers did.”
No word if they waited a day to bail their daughters out of the pokey.
• Monica Crowley is editor of online opinion at The Washington Times.
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