Loss of American Civility: A Non-Political Reference to our Changing Society: Part One of Three Part Series

Stephen Arch                      sparch@comcast.net             www.thedailyarch.net@facebook.com

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Imprison u, shoot u, sever your spine, crush your larynx, send u to war, keep u poor, call u a thug, not let u vote. But u can sing for us.

Here's my demand: I want every African-American currently incarcerated for drug "crimes" or nonviolent offenses released from prison today.

Next demand: Disarm the police. We have a 1/4 billion 2nd amendment guns in our homes 4 protection. We'll survive til the right cops r hired

(Michael Moore, Filmmaker, took to Twitter on Thursday April 30, 2015 to make some demands — namely, that America’s police be disarmed and “every African-American currently incarcerated for drug ‘crimes’ or nonviolent offenses” be set free from prison).  

  Michael Moore's vision of a lawless society, as portrayed in  Mad Max -  Directed by George Miller, starring Mel Gibson - the irrelevancy of order and police

Michael Moore's vision of a lawless society, as portrayed in Mad Max - Directed by George Miller, starring Mel Gibson - the irrelevancy of order and police

This is how he would solve the violence issue in our society - go figure.  Create total chaos and order will eventually be restored.  It is this twisted thinking, and it is this irresponsible commentary that is published that helps fuel these fires.

For those of you who know my writings, particularly the Growing up Catholic series - Parts One through Ten, you know that my history was framed by the dictates of nuns masquerading as teachers.  A very abusive gaggle of attack "gestapo-like soldiers of God" ready to pounce on unsuspecting students whose personalities were yet to be developed and who were growing physically, and more importantly, emotionally. Which is the point of this piece, in a way. Honestly, and I am not taking His name in vain, but thank God times have changed, or at least that is what I'm told.  My son, a product of Catholic education, had a wonderful career with nurturing teachers, nuns and lay teachers alike.  In fact, in his high school, the nuns (a different order, of course) who taught him were some of the kindest, supportive teachers I have met.


Recently, in Baltimore, during the violent destruction of property and attacks made on police by school age children, a mother, Toya Graham, an openly frustrated single mother of six children was doing what she knew was best for her son at this time. She took several well-landed slaps and punches to the head of her 16 year old son.  Again, I agree with Ms. Graham's attack - she was saving her son.  

However, the repeated blows to the head, extremely angry, were directed at the subject of this essay - the angry 16 year old son.  That is:  what made this young man so angry that he would throw chunks of concrete at "forced to by their own bosses" cowering police who couldn't respond?

This video became instantly famous.  I even posted on Facebook whether she should be Mother of the Year for keeping her son from continuing his angry assault on police, who were basically on the defensive because of the "stand down" order they received.

When I saw the clip of the mother beating her son, so frustrated, so angry, so pleading, I honestly felt for her, and still do.  And subsequent interviews of Ms. Graham on national television shows demonstrate that she is trying to be the best mother for her children.  She is sincere.  She cares. We need more moms who care as much as she does in our culture, regardless of race.

After watching the clip over and over again (I even published it on my social media), I began to wince a bit and then really started to have feelings that I haven't had for a long time. Feelings that took me to a place I really didn't want to go.

Yes, she was doing what she knew best - the best way to stop her son from partaking in regrettable activities.  Maybe even saving his life in the unfortunate event something happened to him in the commission of a crime - toward others, property, or police.  This piece is not a criticism of this mother; however, it offers another view that violence begets violence, in any and all forms.  But the fact that a mother (in this American society, right now, cannot speak to her son and demand verbally that he "stand down" and that he cannot be reasoned with is a problem for me).

According to Eliyahu Federman, a USA Today contributor, who writes on religion, culture and law:  In the video Graham is also seen repeatedly hitting her child. The initial blows appear to be part of her effort to physically drag her son away from rioting, which is certainly understandable. But the continuing slaps and punches seemed to stem more from anger and punishment. After the incident, she even posted on Facebook how she "beat the shit out of him" and conceded in an interview that she "just lost it" after seeing her son amid the protesters (totally understandable).

Just like cursing doesn't work, hitting children is also ineffective discipline. Physical punishment actually increases violent behavior among youth. According to the American Psychological Association, "adolescents who were more likely to engage in fighting, bullying, and victimization of others reported that their parents engaged in corporal punishment as a disciplining method."

Graham should be praised for being a caring parent with pure intentions. If more parents dragged their teens away from violence, the world would be a much more peaceful place. With that said, shouting, cursing and hitting your teen should not be praised, and is certainly not ideal parenting, no matter the circumstances.

I could not agree more with Mr. Federman.  If one is to watch this video over and over again (which most have), elements of this video to me stand out as important to the discussion of American Civility.  First (and again, I must reiterate how much I understand the frustration of Ms. Graham) the anger is so very visible: the anger of Ms. Graham and the anger of her son. Additionally, and this I noticed after watching the video again and again, the reactions of the people watching this act of discipline.  Look at the faces of the bystanders.  None look shocked. None look surprised.  Most feeling, probably, they best not get in Ms. Graham's way. This is almost humorous. No "wow, look at that" reactions.   Just casual stares watching this violence take place.

Actually, these people watching were probably thinking "I'm not getting in that crazy woman's way.  I'm not about to get a beating, too."

No.  I am not in any way saying that any bystander should have intervened.  Ms. Graham's 16 year old son was actually getting what his mom thought he deserved.  And Ms. Graham, obviously knowing the consequences of her son's involvement in rioting, did what she did out of love. Her intent was to protect her son from doing something he would indeed regret.

And then we are treated to a photo in the national media of a very young boy handing out water to police officers.  This is normal behavior.  This is civilized behavior. However, we are "surprised" to see this photo because it is surrounded by surreal violence taking place in his community.  As a society, this photo should/must be commonplace.  The "norm" rather than the "exception."  

And, additionally, this is not an issue of race. I know it's just a television show, but the idea behind a work such as Sons of Anarchy demonstrates just that - live by the sword; die by the sword.  A complex issue that is very simple to understand.  Something that has been portrayed in media forever, it seems.  William Shakespeare understood this in his writings of all of his tragedies - Othello, Julius Caesar, Hamlet, and on and on.  These are NOT current issues, but they are becoming increasingly current in our society:  sports, school shootings, gangs, etc....

The Greeks through their tragedies, also, demonstrated and advanced the notion that violence does indeed beget violence - in many different forms, in many different scenarios.

According to Psych News Alert: The Voice of the American Psychiatric Association and the Psychiatric Community (2014 study):  . “Substance abuse and low self-esteem have been noted as increasing vulnerability to domestic violence; however, they may be a consequence of the violence rather than a cause of the violence."

The point is that all things start from the home and the environment.  Ms. Graham's son was obviously embarrassed by what his mother was doing to him in public, but Ms. Graham's son obviously and noticeably is a very angry young man.  

This is my point.  Children are not "born angry."  They learn anger - from many, many sources.  And, even though Ms. Graham was doing the right thing by frantically helping her son, one has to wonder where the anger in this 16 year old is nurtured.  This anger toward police, toward his fellow human beings, must, as any expert will explain, come from somewhere.  

Just as I saw and experienced real anger as a child, I know from where it comes.  But I had some innate understanding that the anger and the lack of civility that I experienced was wrong, and I know that, having children of my own, the anger cycle had to stop, and that is what my wife and I accomplished - an accomplishment that makes me proud that I was able to not promote anger in my own household. I prayed that I never had to perform the same acts on my own children that Ms. Graham found necessary on her own child at the time. This statement is not intended to make me seem better than anyone else, particularly Ms. Graham.  She is a hero for this situation.  Imagine in any type of violent situation, a mother, a father, or both would show up and physically drag their children (any age) away from a volatile situation? Sounds wonderful.  I am no hero whatsoever.  but an observer of human behavior - a learned behavior.

Additionally, as a high school teacher and administrator for many years, I learned, particularly now in our current American society, yelling and screaming at children in school DOES NOT WORK.  Students of today actually did what I did so long ago (due to injustices I experienced): agitate a weaker teacher into screaming at them and becoming at least emotionally violent is "good sport" for young people.  I even saw that some students would irritate teachers just to see them become out of control.

And this beginning, growing up in an angry world, is doing nothing but teaching anger to another generation, which will most definitely, if not curbed or completely stopped, continue for generations to come. And because of all media, cameras, cell phones, "news" programs, and some weird sense of support that throwing money at any situation will make things better - it will actually worsen with generations, degrading to a point that violence is the norm. That is unacceptable.

Next Week

Part Two:  Loss of American Civility:  The World of Sports