As I sit here, on what started as a quiet Saturday morning, I am reflecting on how times have changed since the days of my youth.
I live in a neighborhood of older homes in Louisville, Kentucky. It is much like the neighborhood in Springfield, Missouri where I grew up. It is a mixture of blue collar workers, single 30 somethings, couples just starting out and some retired folks sprinkled in the mix. Generally, a quiet neighborhood on a street without through traffic.
Suddenly, my peaceful Saturday morning repose is startled by yelling in the street. For a moment, I am tense, all systems alert at a danger that might be passing by. The dogs go crazy. their barking adding to my angst. I tiptoe to the window to sneak a peek at what mayhem might be happening in my front yard. It is a group of four teenagers walking down the middle of the street talking loudly to each other, cussing, shaking their fists in the air.
They look threatening. They are today’s youth. They look like a street gang, although they don’t dress any differently from many of the youth I see here. They have tattoos, they are only in their teens and they have tattoos. They have body piercings. They have stretched their earlobes to accommodate large metal rings. They will look this way when they are in their 80’s.
I was a child of the 70’s. We had self-expression, we were rebels in our own right. (I pierced my ears, for Pete’s sake. We also used terms like “for Pete’s sake” and who the heck is Pete, anyway?)
For Pete’s Sake: Euphemistic variant of for Christ’s sake or for God’s sake; “Pete” perhaps invoking Saint Peter or perhaps influenced by for pity’s sake (according to Wiktionary)
But we also had a little thing called “respect”. If there was a group of teenagers walking down the street yelling and cussing, they were something to be worried about. It just didn’t happen. I’m not saying that we never cut loose and were loud and obnoxious, but it wasn’t in broad daylight in the middle of the street where all of the neighbors could see who we were! They would have been on the phone to our parents before we could have made it to the end of the block. And maybe therein lies the problem.
I know my neighbors on each side of me but I don’t know anyone else on the street. These kids could live on my street and I wouldn’t know it. We have lost some of our feeling of community. I have often thought about having a “get to know your neighbor” party in the front yard on a Friday evening but my fear is, would anyone come? Does anyone really want to know their neighbor?
So, I guess we, as a community, have created these kids. They have no fear of repercussions for their actions. Is it self-expression gone wild, or just apathy on the part of the parents. I often wonder how my child would have turned out had she been raised in this environment. It’s something to think about…