You can talk and talk till your face is blue!
But they still just do what they want to do!
Why can't they be like we were,
Perfect in every way?
What's the matter with kids today?”
— From the musical,
“Bye Bye Birdie” (1962)
For the past few weeks, I have thought about the subject of this column.
My biggest problem is I have become so irritated by the subject I do not even want to mention the name of the person central to the topic.
It’s not anyone local, and in some respects I’m awfully glad about that fact.
He is 18 years old and he sure is a handful, from all that I have read lately.
They say he is a musician and singer.
Well, that’s what they say.
I can honestly say I am not a prude about music. I listen to just about anything.
But, forgive me if I think repeating the word “baby” over and over and over again to a random beat applies as a song.
And, as far as musical talent, his demonstration of any has sure eluded me.
Just because one carries a tune and strums a guitar does not necessarily mean one is talented.
The main thing I know about this kid is he is making a bad name for other teenagers.
Drag racing, drinking, assault and drugs have made for a busy few days for this fellow.
It seems the kid has made more appearances in a courtroom than a concert hall lately.
He even got in trouble for hauling a monkey across international borders, for crying out loud.
He desecrated the World War II hiding place of the courageous Anne Frank, whose diary of the Holocaust is a graphic reminder of the horrors of that time for the Jewish people living in Germany.
And, what did this punk do while visiting this solemn place?
He wrote a self-serving publicity phrase in the guestbook.
Did I say punk? Yep. I sure did.
Now to be totally fair, we were all teenagers at sometime in our lives.
It is the time we try to find out exactly where the line is between pubescence and adulthood.
Those of us more fortunate than others found the penalty of crossing that line at the wrong time was punishable by only a really good switch pulled off a backyard tree.
Pushing that line is totally normal and, with great parents, a good learning experience where no one gets hurt.
Watching this jerk in action makes me wonder what I would have been like if I had tried to push those limits with no parental guidance, an army of “yes” men and a $100 million bank account.
I would really, really like to think I wouldn’t drag race down crowded streets in expensive cars while intoxicated, causing a situation where I could kill somebody.
Talk about being self-absorbed.
I guess there are two points I want to make.
It really gets under my skin that this kid’s foibles are considered important enough to break into serious news reports.
All you have to do is see the face of distinguished NBC News correspondent Andrea Mitchell’s face as she was halted during an interview with an important scholar about the situation in the Middle East.
Then, the blood totally ran out of her face when the story turned out to be about this kid being arrested, and he was now being taken to court — live on the air!
Once again, reality TV trumps serious news reporting.
It reminds me of what TV host Larry King said about the O.J. Simpson case: “It’s the most important story that doesn’t affect you.”
Unless it’s a truly iconic figure of entertainment, there are plenty of tabloids — printed and broadcast — to feed the hungry for such stories. They are not in any sense serious news stories.
My second point has to do with the image of the youth of today.
If you really want to get me going, just start downing the kids of today.
Yes, they have a whole new world of both vocabulary and education.
And, they have many more avenues in which to prowl and get into trouble.
But I have found the vast majority of them are good members of the human race.
I can’t begin to count the number of stories I have done over the years of that age group’s efforts to help society in many ways.
The sorry thing is it’s usually the normal case for the bad ones to get most of the press.
I’m happy to say I think the Banner is an exception to that rule.
The pages of this publication are often filled with the younger set as they pick up trash, raise money for charity or just do kind things for others.
Growing up is a hard and complicated process and we have all hit our bumps in the road and taken the wrong exit at times.
I can easily forgive mistakes made as youth travel that road to adulthood.
The difference between most of us and the kid to which I have referred is I am of the opinion all of us who were raised in this region have been blessed with the guidance of generations full of wisdom, patience and a firm discipline.
The times do indeed change and there are things that were considered bad back then which are acceptable now.
One of my favorite stories is of a famous evangelist who was preaching against a new form of music that had begun sweeping the country.
This music was going to send the young generation into purgatory.
The preacher was Billy Sunday and the music he was referring to was that of Benny Goodman.
The vast majority of today’s kids are really great. It’s just they do things a little different than the generations who came before them.
But they should not be denied the firm hand when they act like 17 is 21.
The issue of this kid in the news ...
Well, I might have been a little unfair judging him — both his music and his actions.
What I do know for sure is, despite the fact it would be considered child abuse today, if a good hickory switch was taken to his backside with the love and responsibility my father did to me years ago, it’d do him a world of good.