When I picked up last Wednesday’s paper the first thing I saw was the photo layout of people building raised beds for a community garden. Maybe some of the fresh goodies will feed homeless people, or those who manage to keep a roof over their head but have trouble buying food.
These days the terms “middle class” and “working poor” are often synonymous, and the more fresh produce we grow and consume locally, the better off we’ll all be. I was still basking in the warm, internal glow of what a community garden represents, not only nutritionally but psychologically and socially, when a headline caught my eye.
I’m apparently incapable of simply thinking about anything. If it catches my attention, I’ll have feelings around it as well. “Vandals hit a classroom at Redwood,” the headline read, and I felt like I’d been kicked in the belly.
School Superintendent Jan Moorehouse, a woman I respect and admire, was quoted as saying, “When the weather gets nice, kids start running around and these things start to happen.”
All of a sudden I wanted to know why “these things start to happen.” When I was a kid the weather got nice this time every year, but these things didn’t happen. By this time of year the bathroom walls in Crescent Elk were pretty busy, but that was the extent of our vandalism.
We weren’t angels. I’ll bet that every single one of us shoplifted some little item. And a few years later I became familiar with the shock of a mouthful of stolen gas when I sucked too hard on the hose.
But our crimes had a point, wrong as they were. They were intended to benefit us. We might steal it if we could use it, but the idea of destroying something for no gain is just stupid. Like, what’s the point? Why risk arrest and public humiliation for nothing?
I know how hurt and confused I’d have been to walk into the classroom where I spent my days to find that someone had destroyed it, smashing equipment, science projects, furniture. Sometimes home was a terrifying place and that classroom was sanctuary. The same is true for even more children today.
As I got a bit older I protested the war in Viet Nam and marched in support of civil rights. Knowing you might be shot dead by the National Guard can bring on a major adrenalin rush if that’s what you’re after. I was still breaking laws, but I was fighting for something I believed in.
I’m not willing to settle for “these things start to happen.” I want to know what has gone so wrong in our society that our youngsters choose wanton destruction as a preferred recreational activity.
Can anyone explain this simply enough that I can understand it, without psycho-babble? Or is it simply the actions of creatures as mindless as mosquitoes and as cowardly as cockroaches?