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PAGE 4-A, THURSDAY. APRIL 15. 1993
Violent Social Indicators Point
To Option Of Pulling The Plug
While education officials at both the county and state level
formulate new, tough policies to reduce and prevent school vio
lence, recent newspaper and magazine headlines bemoan
"America's cultural decline." Who?liberal or conservative.
Democrat or Republican?can argue against the reality that
America is in desperate social straits? And where is the evidence
of that more frightening than the fact that children acquire
weapons and bring them to school?
Former education secretary and drug czar William Bennett,
in a Wall Street Journal article last month, assembled eight chill
ing cultural indicators to form a piteous portrait of the moral, so
cial and behavioral decline of modem American society from
1960 to the present.
Among them are:
?percentage of illegitimate births, 5.3 in 1960, 28 in 1990:
?children on welfare, 3.5 percent in 1960, 11.9 in 1990;
?violent crime rate, 16.1 per 100,000 in 1960, 75.8 in 1991;
?teen suicide rate, 3.6 per 100,000 in 1960, 11.3 in 1990;
?median prison sentence, 22.5 days in 1954, 8 in 1990;
?children with single mothers, 8 percent in 1960, 22 percent
?average SAT scores, 975 in 1960, 899 in 1992.
?average daily TV viewing, 5:06 hours in 1960, 7:04 hours
It's that last statistic which may relate to the problem of
school violence in a stronger fashion than most of us would like
to concede. Voices as politically influential and disparate as
George Will and Hillary Rodham Clinton have been published in
recent days expressing their concerns about the correlation be
tween violent television programming and our increasingly com
Contrary to the rationale of those who create television pro
grams, life indeed imitates art. The majority of American chil
dren do not grow up in households in which their parents teach
them to solve interpersonal problems with guns and switchblade
knives. But almost every American child grows up in a home in
which he or she view dozens of acts of violence every day, cour
tesy of that dependable glass pacifier, the television screen.
George Will cites studies which found that "neither economic
growth, civil unrest, age distribution, urbanization, alcohol con
sumption, capital punishment nor the availability of firearms ex
plain the 10- to 15-year span between the introduction of televi
sion and the doubling of the homicide rate in the United States
In the world as television presents it, "violence is ubiquitous,
exciting, charismatic and effective," he adds.
Hillary Clinton says this: "The lowest-common-denominator
quality of much of what appears on television and in other forms
of popular culture?the constant barrage of violence and explicit
sexuality?reinforces the loosening of human bonds, undermin
ing the evolution of a mature person. For many people, it is af
fecting not just what they think about, but also how they think,
because it reinforces a kind of episodic, reactive, almost frantic
mode of behavior. 1 think, on both the actual substance of enter
tainment and the process by which it's delivered, there are
grounds to worry about its impact?particularly on children."
Take your pick of voices to heed?the conservative Will's or
the liberal Clinton's. Remember your power?and perhaps your
responsibility?to pull the plug.
LETTERS TO THE EDITOR
Owner Of Vandalized
Home Hopes For Justice
To the editor: arrests. It is now up to the courts to
We recently were notified by the take appropriate action. Let's hope
Brunswick Electric Membership that justice is served.
Corporation that our vacation home Carole Humphrey
in Coastal Retreat had been illegally Lexington
entered. Upon talking with Detec- u ? ^ , , ,
live Caison from the Brunswick Hewett Did GOOd Job
County Sheriff's Department, we To the editor.
were informed that our home, along The suspension and subsequent
with many others in our small devel- firing of Brunswick County's solid
opmeni, had been broken into, van- waste director is a tremendous set
dalized and things stolen. back for the citizens of this county.
We are located four hours from comparing this action to
SSiS f JH?!dnSjMi m!E?Tfind it difficult to be
temoon at closing ume, which is 6 .. .... ,
e ? ? f? . lieve that the former county manag
p.m. for us, we started out on a four- ., . ... , .
f . . ' ? ? .. r. er would do this as one of his last
hour nde to arrive at 11 p.m. to find ?- ? . . n \ .. u a
our home totally vandalized. After ofncial ^ / k "cweURhas don*
cleaning and trying u> secure our ? L? Bru"sHw,fck
home until 3:30 a.m. Thursday, we ^oun^,and * r,cwardcd for
had to drive back home without any h,s g00d Z
rest and open our service station at Aa!?' wm
(More Letters, Following Page)
I understand that four juveniles
are responsible for all this damage. 1
know who they arc; the two girls
happen to be our neighbors. What Beacon welcomes letters
has happened to our young people? I to the editor. All letters must be
myself am 34 years old and if I had signed and include the writer's
done anything like this, my parents address and telephone number. .
would have beaten me half to death. Address letters to The Brunswick
The sheriff's department was ex- Beacon, P. O. Box 2558. Shal
trcmcly helpful and understanding, lottc, N. C. 2&459.
but can only do their job by making
Some Decisions Shouldn't Be Made For Us
Little Red Riding Hood, The
Adventures of Tom Sawyer, Little
Women, The Diary of Anne Frank.
Catcher in the Rye. TTic list goes on
To what list do these titles be
long? Best sellers? Yes. Classics?
Yes Banned books? Again, Yes.
That last answer disturbs me
greatly. Community by community,
title by title, there arc narrow-mind
ed people in this country who arc
trying to restrict what you and 1 read
and what our families read.
The killer is, sometimes the cen
sors themselves haven't read the
books in question. Because the
books have made the list in one na
tional newsletter or another as hav
ing curse words, violence, refer
ences to sexuality, witchcraft, etc.,
then local groups launch their cam
paigns to rid them from local book
shelves, or at the least, to bar young
people from reading them either as
classroom assignments or even on a
Come on! By the criteria used by
these groups?as in the recent situa
tion in Bladen County?almost any
work of fiction or non-fiction could
be made off-limits for one "reason"
or another. In the interest of protect
ing us, these people arc really en
dangering our welfare as a people.
The stories listed above have in
spired generations of children.
Reading Little Red Riding Hood has
never prompted me to pack a wine
bottle in a hamper and set off
through the woods alone to any
If they're concerned about vio
lence, they might want to consider
the French version of this book (I
have a copy that belonged to my late
grandmother, Josephine Thames
Usher, a devout woman who taught
for years at the orphanage in
Thomasvillc.) In that version both
the grandmother and the wolf come
to tragic, violent ends. It appears the
story may have been "cleaned up"
in translation. I don't think French
children arc worse off from having
read the other version, or my grand
mother for having read the French
It's not that I don't appreciate the
concerns of these would-be censors
for the delicate minds of young
readers. I do.
As far as I'm concerned they have
every right to avoid reading those
books and to restrict ihcir own chil
dren's access to ihcm. Whai might kill a good book: who kills a man
serve their purpose better, however, kills a reasonable creature, God's
is to try reading the books of con- image; but he who destroys a good
cern with their children and dis- book kills reason itself."
cussing their objections as they go. It seems to me we ought to en
Thcy have a right to try to inllu- courage a free marketplace of ideas,
cnce the behavior of others, to en- Try to influence them with sound
courage others to not read or buy argument and reason, yes, but while
such books. But they do not and also allowing others to make their
should not have the right to censor point though it may be contrary to
books, one title at a time,-simply be- our own. Good ideas may take root
cause this book or that doesn't con- in private, but grow and expand
form to their personal idea of what when debated and discussed and
is decent or appropriate. They don't shared.
have a right to decide for others that Something similar happens with
their children have no opportunity to a good book, a great book, a book
read such books. that shares experiences that have
One of the inherent goals of a li- meaning, or that causes us to qucs
brarv and or a school is to offer a lion, to think, to understand our
rich diversity of information and selves or others, to make better
material. Books broaden the depth sense of our times or of history,
and breadth of our experience vicar- B,adcn Coumy Commissioners
(with one voting to the contrary) re
Through education we are not out f ^ (0 ovcrridc thc bUc
o create s.nglc-m.ndcd clones but dccisjon nm l(/'hol(] a b?
to help develop mature young adults hcarj on whic? h d
who can think, reason and make dra,; ,csls as bcing unfil for
good cho.ccs for themselves. Books Ka<icrs. Bravo.
lend themselves to that process. As '
John Milton once wrote, "Where But be warned. The threat of con
there is much desire to leam, there trovcrsy or challenge can have a
of necessity will be much arguing, chilling effect almost as powerful,
much writing, many opinions, for not just on the library board of
opinion in good men is but knowl- trustees but on thc library staff
edge in the making." which select books for thc library
Writing in the same work, collection. Thc result, indirectly, can
Areopagiiica, in 1644. Milton said be a subtle, less noticeable form of
that "as good almost kill a man as censorship.
Warning: This Column May Be Hazardous
l was hanging around with some
of the guys the other day and, as
usual, one of them was smoking a
cigarette. I absentmindedly picked
up the pack and glanced at the side.
There I discovered to my horror
that those things CAN BE DAN
GEROUS TO YOUR HEALTH!
"Look out!" I shouted as I
slapped the burning butt out of my
friend's mouth and stomped it into
shredded paper and leaves.
One by one, the guys got up from
the ground, brushed themselves off
and re-holstercd their weapons. With
bewildered looks, they backed slow
ly away and ran for their cars.
"What? I was only trying to
help!" I shouted after them. 'The
package says cigarettes can mess up
your respiratory system!"
Just what is the point of all these
stupid warning labels anyway? Do
those wiener-brained consumer ad
vocates really believe that one single
person on the face of the earth has
ever been discouraged from smok
ing after reading the side of a ciga
rette pack he just bought?
Does anybody even read product
warnings anymore? Nowadays,
when you buy a new television or
other appliance, you get an owner's
manual the size of Webster's
Dictionary. Fortunately, the first 200
pages arc in bold text with little
signs that say "Caution!" and
These visual aids help the typical
consumer quickly identify and skip
over all the warnings about things
you shouldn't do with your new
product. Like running your vacuum
cleaner in the shower. Or leaving
your head in the refrigerator when
you close the door.
Instead, you can go directly to the
small print at the end of the book
that tells you how to operate your
new machine: 1) Plug in. 2) Turn
switch to ON.
If you're in the neighborhood of
40 or older, you will recall exactly
when all this warning stuff?the at
tack of the safety Nazis?started.
Remember the first matches we
played with as kids? You snuck
them out of the house. You opened
the pack. You lit one up. And you
held it next to the object selected for
your next experiment in flammabili
Then, when you started using
matches to secretly fire up one of
dad's Lucky Strikes, you probably
noticed that a strange little sentence
had been added to the folder
CLOSE COVER BEFORE STRIK
Evidently, this was to prevent in
jury to those people who had the un
fortunately habit of lighting a match
and immediately holding it against
die others in the pack. This would
result in a horrifying conflagration
the size of a 3-vcar-old's birthday
Faccd with this attempted intru
sion by faceless authority, many
adolescents rebelled and brazenly lit
their matches with the covers open.
The true radicals developed the
technique of "one-handing" a match
by bending it over against the
scratch board and flaming it while
The safety Nazis counter-attacked
by forcing match manufacturers to
mount the scratch boards on the
back of the pack. The resulting frus
tration led directly to the urban riots
and anti-war protests of the 1960s.
Now everything has a warning la
bel. Handguns come with papers as
suring that such weapons are intend
ed "for target use only." The own
er's manual for a new motorcycle
capable of travelling 175 miles per
hour cautions the purchaser "not to
exceed posted speeds."
Right. And monkeys might fly
out of my nose.
1 hale to blame lawyers for all
this. But they are such easy targets.
Every time you read a warning la
bel, you can easily imagine the law
suit that precipitated it (or the one it
was intended to prevent).
Picture if you will Barney
Bonchead, hung over, shaking like a
paint mixer and struggling to light
his first cigarette of the day. Why?
Because there is no warning label
telling him not to.
Nor was I lie re a warning on
Barney's whiskey bottle, which
causcd him to consumc way too
much and pass out.
Since there is no warning on the
match book, Barney fails to close
the cover before striking. His trem
bling hand causes the burning match
to brush against the others. The pack
Unfortunately, Barney works as a
night watchman at the Sunny Point
munitions terminal and he has just
awakened after passing out on the
He takes a few puffs on the ciga
rette, then notices that his left hand
is on fire. He drops the flaming
match book. It starts a fire that caus
es an explosion that propels portions
of Southport into the Caspian Sea.
All over America, cars in pursuit
of speeding ambulances make U
lurns and bee lines toward Bolivia.
The clerk of court's office is
swamped with lawsuits from rela
tives of former Southportonians who
have been blown to bits.
And who gets blamed? Not
Barney. (He's been vaporized.) Not
the supervisor who hired him. (He
doesn't have enough money.) Not
the U.S. government. (They have
No, the lawsuits are filed against
Seagrams Ltd. and Philip Morris
Inc. and the National Match Com
pany. They have lots of money. So it
must be their fault.
Yeah, that's the ticket. They en
ticed Barney into drinking by pub
lishing all those slick "Crown
Royal" advertisements. And they
made him want to smoke by plaster
ing "Marlboro" logos on his favorite
racing car. And they were recklessly
negligent for not having a flashing
red light on each match book.
It's aii their fault. Isn't it?