Within the context of shock at hearing of the group of young people run over by an apparently drunken driver last weekend was the question, “What were 12- and 14-year-olds doing out that time of night?”
It certainly crossed my mind, and I’ve heard several people ask the same question.
What necessarily follows is another question: “What does that have to do with anything?”
The kids aren’t to blame for the actions of the driver. Neither are the parents. As for John Darren Thompson, he will be dealt with by the courts and convicted or acquitted of the array of charges against him based on the presentation of evidence. I make no judgment on that score.
Speaking in broad terms, however, I will not sympathize with anyone who acts in a dangerous, careless manner that results in harm to man or beast. Frankly, I do not care about the personal demons of those who torture animals, beat up priests, or kill or injure innocent people while driving intoxicated.
The victims are victims whether or not your marriage has broken up, you’ve had a traumatic death in the family, your teachers were mean to you, or you’ve lost your job. Those things are a legitimate excuse to grieve, to be depressed or even to be bitter.
I will sympathize with your pain, but not your negligent stupidity.
Easy, perhaps, for me to say, having led a rather privileged life with only a “normal” share of heartaches and traumas along the way. But I do get tired of listening to the speeches of lawyers who reel off a list of excuses on a seemingly daily basis for those accused of wrong-doing.
Parents are so easy to blame for just about everything. If their kids get into trouble with the law, it must be the parents’ fault. If they get lousy marks, it must be the parents, or, the teachers — take your pick.
There’s no doubt parenting has become more challenging in the last couple of decades. The nuclear family unit is no longer sacred — marriages are to some extent transient. Financial pressures are intense. Kids live at home much longer than they used to. Parents have to stay working longer to put them through school.
Kids have rights they were never accorded in the days of our parents and grandparents. That’s either a good or a bad thing, depending on your point of view.
Not surprisingly, the question has been studied up, down and sideways. A British study found parents are better at what they do than we might think.
“. . . Today’s parents are more likely to know where their teenage children are and what they are doing than their 1980s equivalents,” said a Science Daily article. “The proportion asking what their children were doing has increased from 47 per cent in 1986 to 66 per cent in 2006.”
Which brings us back to the kids who were on Parkcrest Avenue after 10:30 Sunday night. Let’s assume, for the sake of argument, that they were out there drunk as skunks, yelling and generally raising hell, which they weren’t.
But suppose they were, and a drunk driver came along and mowed them down. Would we then have a right to ask the question, “What were they doing out there that time of night? Why didn’t their parents keep them at home?
I suggest the answer is no. Their own actions, unconnected to those of the driver, transfer no responsibility to them. (Indeed, by all accounts, they were simply hanging out on a pleasant evening at the start of spring break, and at least some were actually on their way home.)
So let us resist the urge to be judgmental about time and place, and to forget where the real responsibility rests.