Friday, March 09, 2007

Knowing Right from Wrong

Several news stories in our area lately have struck me as very distressing--for reasons other than those mentioned by the press.

The first: A group of 8th grade girls got together and took pictures of themselves nude. Then they emailed the pics to their boyfriend's cell phones at school. The boys emailed the pics to their friends, and so on, until, 24 hours later, the pictures showed up in California--all the way from Castle Rock, Colorado. The police were called in because all of the junior high kids involved (like half the school) had committed felonies: the were trafficking in Child Porn. The kids were unaware that even if you produce child porn of yourself, it is a felony. Officials are promising not to arrest half the student body on felony charges, but they are distressed. Rightly so. One of the mothers of a student who wasn't involved made the comment, "They're kids. They don't know the difference between right and wrong. Someone needs to explain to these kids that it's not just the forwarding that was wrong--they shouldn't have been taking pictures of themselves nude in the first place." That was a heavy paraphrase, and I might have jammed the comments of two people into one mother's mouth.

The second: A teenager killed his girlfriend's mother, at the girlfriend's request and with the knowledge of one of their friends. Then the kids lived with the decomposing body in the house for a month before an anonymous tip led the police to the house. (The kids tried to get rid of the body but botched the job multiple times). This is not the most distressing thing. A few days after the arrests of the kids (age 15, 16, and 17), another kid, the best friend of the murderer, was also arrested (he's 18), just a few days after he received a notable citizenship award of some kind from the county or state. When police questioned him about what he knew, he was completely honest and told them everything, including that he had tried to help them dispose of the body and that he knew about it for weeks but never turned them in. He was even in a forensic science class at the school and could tell, fairly accurately, how long the body had been decomposing before his friend came to him for help getting rid of it. He is upset that he was arrested and the bail set so high that he won't be able to get out of prison to go back to school and graduate (it apparently hasn't occurred to him that the administration probably won't let him go back anyway). He is shocked and appalled that he is being included in the arrests when he cooperated completely with police. He doesn't think he did anything wrong. When people asked him, "Why didn't you call the police the day you found out?" he said he was young and inexperienced and didn't know what to do--so he naturally helped bury and dig up a dead woman more than once. He honestly seems perplexed--and didn't know that what he did was SO wrong. Just a little confusion anyone as inexperienced as he might have in the same situation.

Third story: (This is not local). A mother in Salt Lake appeared in court and asked the judge to let the murderer of her son go because she had forgiven him. This noble request was listened to by the judge, but she decided to sentence him according to the law, since the murderer chased someone into a back yard and fired into a crowd gathered there. It struck me as a gang-related thing, although they didn't mention it. They did mention that the murderer was penitent and in tears at his sentencing. And that he was violating his parole when he committed the murder. Was it noble to forgive? Yes. Does that mean we release murderers back into society with no punishment so they can go kill someone else's kids? NO. In the guise of being Christlike and choosing right, this mother was as confused as the junior high kids in Castle Rock.

Fourth story: Some dad last summer took his family boating. For fun, he put his two-year-old in an adult life jacket, set him on an adult-sized tube, and pulled him around a lake behind a speeding boat. They never even found the poor kid's body. The judge who sentenced the (very sad) father said, "You should have known better." He should have.

Fifth story: A guy showed up at an apartment to buy pot and found the couple there giving drugs to their kid. The drug buyer had the sense to turn them in to the police, despite the fact that he discovered the abuse when he was committing a crime himself. The parents are in jail.

Sixth story: An 18 year old from Parker, CO, gave birth in her car last fall. Her roommates, several months later, smelled something funny in the dorms and found the baby's body in the closet. The girl-mom is in jail for murder and seems perplexed by the whole situation.

Seventh story: Police showed up at an apartment in MI and found a woman living there with the dead body of her roommate lying on the floor in the living room. The roommate had been dead over a week--and the woman had never called the police even though she didn't kill her roommate. She had some excuse the paper didn't cite.

There are more stories--all too distressing to repeat.

Call it what you like--there is clearly a problem in our society right now with people identfying what's right and wrong. Whether they do wrong in the guise of being charitable, or just to give their boyfriend's kicks, or to "nobly" free their girlfriends from abusive situations, they all chose WRONG. And were completely unaware of it somehow. The only person in any story who had any sense at all was a drug addict!

What's distressing to me is that people should know better, on all of these. Even kids. 14 year olds may be stupid (we all know they are), but they still should be able to discern between basic rights and wrongs. Of course they're confused about the details, but they should get the big things, like "You don't kill people and if someone else does, you tell a grownup" and "Posing nude is stupid". We baptise kids at age 8, after all, because it's old enough to distinguish right from wrong. So why are all these kids (and adults) so confused? These are only a few examples I've seen in the news lately--kids (like 9-21 year olds) killing their siblings, friends, parents, children, etc; parents abusing or killing their children; parents giving their kids drugs and alcohol, etc.

I'm not sure why they don't get it. I suspect it is the result of multiple things--these kids are the second or even third generation raised in day cares (without a mother at home even at the crossroads), their major adult influence comes from the media (TV, radio, movies, teen mags, online, nintendo, etc) and other nutty kids, and people aren't allowed to discuss definitive right and wrong anymore for fear of offending someone--so if they don't get told at home, they probably won't get told at church or school either. Probably lots of other things. And this generation, that can't tell what's right and wrong--they're our future. Scary thought.

Naturally, this isn't as widespread as it probably seems. These stories make the national news because they are still shocking, which means they aren't SO common. Gang killings; kidnap, rape and murder of adult women; burglary; carjackings; unwed parents (especially teens); etc, DON'T make the news anymore except in the local papers--these things are too common. People don't care to hear unless it is particularly grisly or unique for some reason. So the fact that kids killing people makes the national news means it's still shocking--we aren't accustomed to hearing it, so it doesn't happen as much as it appears. But it shouldn't be happening at all, and the stories are becoming more and more common. It's a scary trend.

I am reminded of my mission. I didn't report the two murders that were confessed to me--I was under obligation NOT to, since the murders were confessed to me when I was a minister (I even checked with a general authority to be sure, though). But I also went to a Regional Conference where the General Authority in attendance talked for a long time about how people can lose so much of truth through sin that they even lose the light of Christ and, therefore, have no way to choose between right and wrong. The sad thing is that this is happening to younger and younger children--so that kids who are just past baptizing age can have sinned so much that they no longer have the light of Christ. Also our society as a whole seems to be losing the light of Christ, so to speak, so that this can be allowed to happen. If it takes a village to raise a child, and these are the children we are raising, what are we thinking?! Obviously Satan is deceiving people who even have the light of Christ still, though--like the family that thought they were choosing right by forgiving and asking a murderer to go free. (Perhaps I am too judgmental--perhaps it was right for them to make the request for reasons I don't understand....)

I don't know how to solve the problem. But it sure makes me determined to have family home evening, read the scriptures with my kids, teach them, take them to church, and do what the Lord has advised, or they have no chance. Society isn't getting any better, and I can't trust anyone else to teach my kids right and wrong.

No comments: