We all know the African proverb, “It takes a village to raise a child.” We’ve heard it a thousand times. We revel in our childhood memories of our neighbors’ ability — and the responsibility they felt — to help raise the children surrounding them. We couldn’t get away with anything. Their watchful eyes were there even when our parents’ weren’t, ready to report any transgression, and if necessary, whip us into compliance. They were the village — and the village had certain norms — and we were expected to adhere to them.
But that village is only legend now.
If you’ve been reading this space for any amount of time you already know I’m worried about the ‘village.’ And this past week in Macon, eight were shot in shoot ‘em ups in various parts of the Macon village, leaving a 24-year-old dead and in Houston County’s village, a 23-year-old met the same fate.
Last week’s violence caused Bibb County Sheriff David Davis to remark, “It’s almost like there’s this pervasive blanket of hopelessness or despair that’s cast amongst a lot of these individuals and then when they get in contact with each another it doesn’t take much to ignite violence.”
For clarity, I’m going to say what Sheriff Davis can’t say. In the 1992 movie, “A Few Good Men,” Lt. Daniel Caffee, played by Tom Cruise, when asked by Col. Nathan Jessup, played by Jack Nicholson in the pivotal scene of the movie, “Are we clear?” Caffee replied, “Crystal.” So let me be crystal clear. I am worried about the future of the black village.
This doesn’t let the white village off the hook; that village has its own problems, such as the opioid epidemic, but that’s stuff for another column.
The fact that our black village is broken is not meant as a blanket statement covering all black men and women. If you or your child doesn’t exhibit the characteristics I’m about to describe, be thankful and chill out. However, if you or your child have challenges, you are not doing yourself any favors by ignoring them.
Question: Are you setting the bar high enough for your child? Are you setting the bar high enough for yourself? Too many parents don’t have any idea of the potential greatness inside their children. Instead, they settle, happy to have a mediocre child that keeps his nose clean and finishes high school.
Setting the bar high is only a sidebar. One of the most debilitating traits I see in young people (people younger than 40) is laziness. They don’t know how to work hard. They don’t know what hard work is. Their definition is different from mine.
They’ve never picked cotton, or tomatoes or onions. They don’t know about feeding the chickens, hogs or whatever animals before heading off to school. They don’t know about really dark nights spent with only their imaginations.
In full disclosure, my early years were in Los Angeles. I didn’t pick cotton or feed pigs or chickens either, but after moving to Northern California, I picked my share of onions, tomatoes and everything else, and if you ever want to learn the finer points of making DuraFlame logs in 115 degree heat, just ask. Uber wasn’t around to take me to work and my mother didn’t have the time or inclination to ride me around.
I also see too much silliness in teens and even college students. That comes from being spoiled and never having to work hard to get what they want. When I do see maturity in young people it usually springs from some sort of hardship that let real life invade their perfect world.
Too many people are satisfied with show over substance. It’s a malady that’s infected everyone. Reality doesn’t matter as long as it looks good. Too many times the handles of our fake Gucci knock-off lives are broken and we don’t know or care. People are walking around in oblivious clouds staring blankly at their smartphones’ screen. By the time many figure it out, they’re 40, have two or three children, and the magic of youth has vanished.
Along with what Sheriff Davis sees, I see an emptiness. There’s no there, there. No guiding principles. No line not to be crossed. And when someone or some thing pushes the wrong button, another resident of the village, dies, long before consequences are considered.