Bob Thomas: Does parental love, or guilt, justify forgiveness?
For years I’ve been fascinated by parents who support their offspring even when the most repulsive crimes have been committed, as in the case of Colorado’s “Joker” alleged killer, James Holmes. His parents have said they’re standing behind him.I am well aware of biblical admonitions against judging others — “Judgment is the Lord’s.” But as parents, aren’t we expected to judge our children’s behavior by approving, disapproving, correcting and guiding them as they grow? For more years than I care to remember, I’ve watched parents ever more frequently allowing their kids to get away with everything short of mayhem without being corrected. What about right and wrong? Many parents and teachers refuse to believe in absolutes, that there is a difference between rights and wrongs not only in a religious and moral sense, but also in the sense of decency and order. It is undeniable that kids today have far less respect for authority than ever before. We’ve stood by while well-organized secular forces have snowed us with the pagan idea that children’s rights take precedence over discipline and respect for authority, parental or otherwise. Today, parents’ hands are tied from using even the most benign acts of corporal discipline.Now, I freely admit that if James Holmes was my son, I would not only refuse to aid his defense, I would do everything possible to see that he gets the death penalty. How could I do that to my own son? It would be gut-wrenching, but my conscience wouldn’t permit otherwise. As parents, we who’ve spent untold amounts of energy and time teaching our kids right from wrong and respect for God and legitimate authority have zero parental guilt. Our kids knew they were loved but must pay for any crimes against humanity they may commit.Being a senior citizen, this essay wouldn’t be complete if I didn’t say a few words about the good old days. Of course, during the Great Depression parents spent more time with their children than they do today. Discretionary income, if there was any income at all, was scarce so entertainment mostly consisted of parents and kids playing games together at home, going to parks for picnics and other kinds of free physical activities. Because parents and their offspring were much closer to each other than they are today, there were no soccer mom taxi services or any activities promoting children’s independence, and zero TV. Family togetherness was front and center in our lives. Moreover, since those days there’s been a change in public school teacher attitudes toward students, which has been another contributor to young people’s lack of respect for authority.What’s caused this? Two things: Lawyers and unions. In the 1930s and 40s teachers were the supreme authorities in their classrooms, as they should be, and their administrators backed them to the hilt. Parent-teacher conferences were a regular occurrence with zero hostility. Parents usually agreed with teachers when it came to questions concerning student behavior and/or academic performance. Teachers and parents really did work together. Then with the end of WWII we GIs came home, many to see their children for the first time. Kids, having had no male discipline, ran all over their mothers who were the breadwinners. They resented their “new” father’s intrusion, so when they complained about unfair teacher discipline, their fathers, who desperately wanted to win them over, took their own frustrations out on their kid’s teachers. These fathers, having just returned from three to four years in the Army, Navy or Marine Corps, hated discipline.In came lawyers representing GI fathers, suing teachers and administrators, coupled with the teachers’ union entering the fray to protect the teachers. GI fathers took over most school boards in the late 1940s giving us ”Progressive Education,” forever killing discipline in our schools (I was practice-teaching at that time). Relationships became adversarial. Teachers, administrators and strict parents were neutered. And we wonder how and why society produces people capable of mass murder?• Bob Thomas is a retired high-tech industrialist who later served on the Carson City School Board, the state welfare board, the airport authority and as a state assemblyman. His website is http://www.worldclassentrepreneur.com.