Tender Sensibilities

The other day, the Wife was pulling out of our driveway and saw a gaggle of early teenaged boys.  I was not with her.  One of them made an offensive gesture (not the middle finger) as she passed.  The Wife was flummoxed as to how to react.

I don’t have that particular affliction.

At any rate, she posted about it on the Book of Face and received a myriad of reactions ranging from “do nothing, they know where you live” to say “my husband has a gun and a shovel…I doubt anyone would miss you”.  The latter was my personal favorite.  I got to thinking about what I would have done had I been with her/near her.

As with anything, there is what I would have liked to have done and what I would probably have done.  I have been known to be quick to act/speak in the past and sometimes it’s a good thing…other times, not so much.  My initial reaction would have been to slam on the brakes and jump out of my car and get up in their face(s) but quick.  No one treats the Wife that way.  No one.I was once at a park with the family and there were a bunch of teenagers and they were yelling the f-bomb and the n-word like it was going out of style.  There were a ton of little kids at the park.  Consequently, there were a ton of adults at the park.  Not one of them did/said a damn thing.

Again, I don’t have that particular affliction.

I may not have handled it the best way, I’ll admit, but I handled it and they didn’t continue their behavior.  In my opinion, the problem was solved.  A while later, a dad came over to me and said I should be careful in dealing with teenagers because someone may think I was harassing them.

Really?!?  This is partly what is wrong with this country.

Now, let’s back up to those punk kids on my street.  What should have happened was they should have been drug by their ear back home and plopped in front of mom and dad.  If the parents are any kind of parents, they’d have handled business from there.  If not,  then perhaps a brief legal lesson regarding CA Penal Code 415(3) would be in order.  I can assure you the gesture was “inherently likely to provoke an immediate violent reaction”.  PC 415 (3) requires the use of offensive words, but I’d argue that gestures communicate just as much as words.

That incident got me to thinking about how sad today’s culture (both public and within police work) has become.  We’re so scared of offending someone’s tender sensibilities that we are left with inaction.  God forbid we hurt someone’s feelings.  My goodness, how will their fragile psyche ever recover?

Back in the day, it would have been no problem to grab up little Johnny and drag his happy little ass back to his parents by the ear and tell them what happened.  His parents would have given Johnny a well deserved smack and made him regret his actions toward a lady.  These days?  Heavens, you can’t put your hands on a child.  Parents are too afraid to discipline their children with simple consequences.  You can forget corporal punishment.

Let’s talk about law enforcement for a second.  Used to be you had to have thick skin to be a cop because the teasing was relentless. Now though?  Goodness gracious, we don’t want people to get emotionally damaged!  What if they end up in therapy?  My stars, the humanity.  What if you read something about yourself on a website?  What if the public makes fun of you?  What if *gasp* a blogger calls you out on something?  Would your reaction be appropriate or would your whining drown out all other sounds around you?

In my opinion, a good teasing is a great sign of camaraderie.  I’m not talking malicious hazing, I’m talking about simple teasing.  If you can hack it, it goes to show that you not only have a sense of humor (an incredibly important part of police work, if you ask me), but that you can be part of a team.

I have a nickname that was granted to me about eight years ago after I admittedly did something dumb/silly (note: I didn’t say dangerous and/or illegal).  And no, I won’t tell you what it is or what I did, so don’t ask, smarty pants.  I will only say it wasn’t a big deal and the joke/prank was funny.  Sufficed to say, I embraced it because a) I deserved it and b) to get bent out of shape about it would have been tantamount to showing I couldn’t handle the pressure.

If you can’t handle the pressure of a little good-natured teasing, how can we expect you to handle the pressure of a serious situation?

The direction society is going is frightening.  It hasn’t changed overnight.  Instead, it has been a steady decline in which parents are afraid to react, people on the street are afraid to react to something for fear of retaliation, and cops themselves are handcuffed in how they can handle situations both in the street and in the PD.

Does this post solve anything?  Nope.  But my sensibilities feel lighter after offloading them.  They’re much less tender now.

Image courtesy of Flickr and macbooklw

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic. Snark is encouraged. Being a prat is not.

29 thoughts on “Tender Sensibilities

  1. I remember the exact moment I became aware of this problem. I was a freshman in high school, reading an article in my dad’s copy of Reader’s Digest about two boys who had broken into their school over the weekend, vandalized lockers and stole food from the cafeteria. The school caught the culprits and suspended them, but did not expel them. Their parents were suing the school district for damaging the boys’ self esteem by suspending them and thereby labeling them “bad.”

    My first thought, of course, was, “Who in his right mind would want to eat cafeteria food so badly as to steal it?”

    My second thought was, “What in the hel is wrong with these people?” I knew, even at the tender age of 15, that something was terribly amiss.

  2. Every post you have written about the decline of youth in America – complete lack of respect, parents wanting to be “friends” with their children, and so on – has been so spot on. It sickens me to hear children speak back (you know I am being generous here) not only to other adults, but also to their parents. I’m totally behind corporal punishment. For the hand-wringers out there, there is a difference between corporal punishment and abuse.

    Years ago, my ex-hub and I were in Vancouver at a restaurant where there was a child who was badly misbehaving and getting away with it. We struck up a conversation with our waitress who had a delightful British-type accent, and found out that she was from South Africa. She was now a single mom living in Canada, and was horrified to see how undisciplined children here in North America were and was clear that her child would not be allowed to behave poorly. She said that corporal punishment was still in place in South Africa, including in the schools, and that you would not witness such awful behavior there; I took her on her word, but if you have any readers from there, I’d love to hear them chime in.

    Just this past weekend, I was in a supermarket where two teenaged boys were throwing a six pack of yogurt like a football in the dairy aisle. When one of them failed to catch it and it fell and broke apart, they laughed and ran. I glared at them and told them, “You need to pick that up.” I think they did, and probably placed the damaged goods back on the shelf before they returned to their father(!) who had been at the other end of the aisle.

    We need more parents like you and the Wife.

  3. An entire generation of children were raised by the me generation. We act surprised when their children follow suite. I agree with you MC that the steady decline in America can be directly related to parents not being parents. Letting kids listen to Rock and Roll music, stay out past 10, and even hold hands before marriage! EGADS! Every generation misunderstands the youth.

    It used to be when Little Johnny did something stupid the community would act. I’d be hard pressed to name half my neighbors, so when Little Johnny does something stupid I’m not even sure he lives in my neighborhood, let alone my block.

    People today are pushing more and more apart because of religion, politics, heck even the appearance of differences because those that lead thsoe groups remind us of the “others” who seek to harm us. As a result people feel less of a need to interact with others they meet who are not like them. Your park example was hilarious. Harassing kids shouting profanities? That guy is a symptom of the problem. He’d rather his kids pick up some adult language than assume the role of an adult and stand up for what is right.

    There was an interesting program (couldn’t find the episode http://abcnews.go.com/WhatWouldYouDo/) that played out a hidden camera scenario. A girl is being dragged by the arm at a somewhat busy intersection while raising her voice and saying things like “let me go” “stop it” etc. Dozens of well to do folks nearby do nothing, one man even refuses to look at them. From a block away a couple of “thugs” for lack of a better term come running to her aide. People simply believe that if they jsut keep their heads down nothing will happen to them.
    The wife getting the dirty gesture is a tough call though, MClets in tow etc, but the problem has been brewing for a generation.


  4. A few years ago, whilst a teenager, I was walking past a bus stop in our local town centre (yes, I’m British) when an elderly lady fell whilst getting off the bus. I asked her if she wanted a hand getting up but was told in no uncertain terms to “f**k off”. Instead of all the other elderly people getting off being shocked/ disgusted by her comments, they all scowled at me for having the sheer temerity to help her up.

    It cuts both ways, unfortunately.

  5. Corporal punishment got phased out of the school system after my family moved from KY (where I had recently completed second grade) to GA (and started third grade).

    I misbehaved and disrupted a class once and my stepfather had signed a slip when he enrolled me giving the school permission to use the paddle. I got the paddle and when I got home, I got another one from my stepfather for misbehaving in class !

    Hard to say which hurt worse, the embarrassment from the teasing afterwards or the paddling itself.

    Yet here I am today, relatively well grounded and a functioning member of society.

    While I hesitate to knock on CPS, a lot that has changed over the years has been an increased fear of that organization and busybodies reporting the slightest thing. For every person in the grocery store that thinks that parent needs to paddle and discipline that child, there’s one that’s going to whip out that cell phone and call CPS as soon as the parent shows the slightest bit of “hands on” parenting. I reckon Tommy Jordan’s experience would be an example, even though he just shot his daughter’s laptop.

    That reliable old rule has been broken beyond belief in this day and age. “If it ain’t broke…. Don’t fix it !”

  6. Years ago I was working at our local high school as a substitute teacher (or as I called it, a moving target). I’d written a kid up for using chewing tobacco in class. After class the kid comes up to stand toe-to-toe with me (he had about 8 inches on me – I’m a short woman), and says, “B***h, I know where you live!” (Not tough, BTW, since I live in a very rural area where everyone pretty much knows and is probably related to everyone else.)

    I looked at him and said, “Great. Because right here, on school property, I can’t touch you. You won’t have that kind of protection at my house, and I WILL beat your tail like your mama should have!” As soon as it popped out of my mouth I thought, “Uh-oh, that probably wasn’t the best way to handle that,” but I’ll be damned if I was going to back down either. I knew if I did that kid and his buddies would make my life hell for the rest of the school year.

    The kid took a couple of steps back, looked back at his friends (who looked just as confused as he did), and said, “I was just pickin.” Then he took the write-up slip and went straight to the office without another word.

    I told the vice principal what happened, and was told that the student was probably “just having a bad day,” and I shouldn’t take it seriously. This is the same VP who told a teacher who politely asked a student to sit down and was punched in the face that they couldn’t file an assault charge because he didn’t feel that they should penalize the student for a “bad decision made on impulse.” (Teacher did it anyway, especially when they found out that was not the first time the kid had had that sort of “impulse.”)

    I will say, though, that things have gotten harder to some extent. I do second-guess myself now more than I did before – because all it takes is one phone call, and you’re trying to find an explanation for every bruise or mark. And with two boys that are just two years apart, let me tell you they can rack up the random bruises and marks! In fact, when my oldest broke his arm at school several years ago, I was relieved that it happened at school, because I knew there was no chance anyone could question what happened. It’s sad that we’ve swung that far, and yet we still have parents who get away with years of abuse, and even murder.

    • Every time you post a Teenager story, Motorcop, I tell you not to get me started. Then I just don’t say much. This post though has got me started.

      THEY (the school) couldn’t file an assault charge??? I am glad that did teacher did, AND I hope she quit right then and there and filed suit against the school/district for creating a hostile and unsafe work environment!

      A student told me he was going to kick my ass one day back in Ocotober. He was still in my class the next day and he hit me with the classroom door. I didn’t wait for the school. I got my cell phone and called 911 right there in front of 25 other students. I. DO. NOT. PLAY. and when the district put him right back in my class 2 weeks later in spite of the pending criminal charges I have against him, I walked out. I. DO. NOT. PLAY. BYE!

      The sad thing is that at the previous school a very excellent A student in my class hated her science teacher. She told that teacher one day that she’s gonna deck her. She got expelled just for that. The inconsistencies are sooooooooooo maddening!!!!!!!!

  7. http://www.esquire.com/features/man-at-his-best/punching1207

    Just read that article. I’ll wait.

    As a prosecutor, I can assure you that preceding author’s philosophy will get you arrested (unfortunately.)

    Also, I can assure you that a punk giving the bird, without more, is NOT 415(3). In re Alejandro G., 37 Cal. App. 4th 44. (Agin, unfortunately)

    Now, If he walked up to her, right in front of you, and called a (FRAKKING) (WOMAN OF LOW MORAL CHARACTER) and asked her to (PERFORM AN INTIMATE ACT)* then it would be 415(3), because it would be reasonably forseeable that you would introduce his cheek to the pavement in a forceful manner.

    * fill in the bad words of your choice.

    I think PC 242 needs to be relaxed. Freedom of speech should not mean freedom to not expect an ass kicking for conduct that is objectively obnoxious.

    • It was more than the bird, but I’m aware gestures don’t meet 415(3). Also, I would have been disappointed if you didn’t point that out.

      By the by, that article was freaking awesome.

  8. For the record, my first thought was to stop the car and say “I hope my daughters never bring someone like you home”.

    MC, not sure how many of your readers regularly take their kids to the park, but the punk kids aren’t where it starts. Adults don’t even tell someone else’s child to play nice, not throw sand, allow other kids to play on a specific structure, etc.

    It’s no wonder *why* the punk kids didn’t restrain themselves at the park… They’ve never had to!

    • Um… I do. Often. With gusto. Loudly enough that the parents can hear me. I once even climbed one of those bouncy air-filled slides and barred the children from coming down after watching a toddler reduced to tears because child after child pushed him back into the corner to go down the slide ahead of him.

      And I was hard pressed not to spank every single one of them.

      And not one parent said a word to me. They probably didn’t even see me do it. They obviously were not paying attention to their children at all.

      It’s a sad, sad state our world is in, but rest assured there are people trying to fix it, no matter whose kids I have to lecture, or even physically (though gently and carefully, in such a way that their feet do not leave the ground) detain.

  9. Count your blessings that you are not the parents of these sweet and innocent little tykes. In fact, that is exactly what you should say to them-

    I am so glad that I am not your parent so that I do not have to put up with you 24/7!

    Their will reply will be-

    What is that supposed to mean?

    Final response-

    You think you’re smarter than me. YOU figure it out.


  10. In a lot of cases you only have to look at the parents to realise that the apple doesn’t fall very far from the tree. I am often found working on the public counter at my place of employment and it is very saddening to see young kids beyond saving and their useless parents who are an utter waste of perfectly good oxygen. Then there are the families that get it right and they are a pleasure to help and interact with.
    I am very sorry to hear that your family was subjected to such poor behavour but I think to react or not to react is a mixed bag. Sometimes a reaction is exactly what they are hoping for and by not reacting Mrs MC might have denied them that bit of pleasure while other times, depending on the offender, a reaction can pull them into line. I guess you have to be there to judge. Either way they can be held up as an learning example. This is what you don’t want to become.
    Best wishes and thoughts to you and Mrs MC and the Kidlets.
    Take it easy.

  11. I wouldn’t do anything…. but then again, i live in a city were teenage goes around beating up random strangers. People burning down houses because of an argument. People getting shot over dog poop.

    I was outside during some yard work when a bunch of 6-7 years old were playing with a toy gun (I hope it was a toy gun) like they were robbing each other… not the cowboy and Indian I remember kids doing when I was going up.

  12. You bring up a very good point about the society that we live in and how tender everyone has become, it seriously scares me to think that this is what our kids will be surrounded by in school, friends, sports, etc. I being an immigrant never had an issue with being disciplined, well my parents never had a problem disciplining me that is. One day as my dad was about to whip my ass, I, in my full blown 8 year old wisdom told him that if he did I’d call the cops and he’d go to jail. My dad was not phased at all in fact he handed me the phone and said go right ahead because I highly doubt that the officer will have a problem with me disciplining you for misbehaving, disciplining you so that you grow up to be a good hard-working adult and he never has to deal with you in a criminal fashion. I was too scared to test his theory, he whipped my ass and I never threatened to report him again. Often times I think you can tell a child that was/is being raised in an immigrant home by their behavior because most immigrants are not afraid of disciplining their children, I know I am greatful that my parents were not. That is not to say that all American parents are afraid of disciplining their children, because God knows their are good and bad parents in every culture and society.

    I think a lot of the child welfare programs that have been implemented are good, but so often they over reach, teachers/medical professionals/cops/priests/yard duties/garbage men/neighborhood watch guy are forced to report any bruise that they see because God forbid that the kid wasn’t just *gasp* being a kid and fell while riding a bike, playing a sport, climbing a tree, etc. Being an EMT I have seen some truly sad and abhoring cases of child abuse and neglect where CPS did a marvelous job, but I have also seen children taken from good homes because the parents were doing their job and disciplining their children. It scares me to think of what kind of adults the kids of today will grow up to be, oh wait never mind I live down the street from a college party town so I already know.

    And as to what Justin said well here’s a different kind of example http://www.nypost.com/p/news/local/queens/passers_by_let_good_sam_die_5SGkf5XDP5ooudVuEd8fbI

  13. Mr.Motorcop, you’ve touched a nerve. Although I don’t come from the same background as Rita A. (Post above), I agree with the essential theory behind what she, and you, say. But that’s not really what’s on my mind right now.
    You refer to The Wife. Who’s wife? Yours, or somebody else’s?
    Impressions. My impression of a man who refers to his spouse as an object (The Car, The House, The Wife, etc.), unfairly or not, is negative. It doesn’t matter if you love her so much that you would crawl on your hands and knees across shards of broken glass tainted with some deadly neurotoxin just to retrieve her tissue (so she wouldn’t be fined for littering) because I would not know that. I would just know that you refer to her as a thing. But why should you care what others think about you? The boys in your story don’t care what others think. That’s the problem.
    I’ve been reading your blog off and on for well over a year (maybe two?) and I kinda like you. You’re like a cactus: prickly, but the flowers are pretty. She’s YOUR Wife. Not THE Wife.
    (P.S. If she says she likes you to refer to her that way, tell her to grow a pair.)

  14. Interesting. Mr. Mark,yes there is a cut both ways. Here,where I live,there is a park where childern go play in and the senior citizens like to call PD,saying that they are making too much noise. Kid you not. Not acting up or fighting,just doing what kids do. They tell them not to ride around and throw snowballs,etc. And go home. Nice. And on corperate punishment? There is a very,very fine line about this where I live and you better be right about using it. With restaining throw in. Results can and will be a bit not favorable on your side. Growing up,my sisters and brother plus myself were kept in line by our parents,and we came out pretty well in life because of their love and firm hand on right and wrong. I don’t believe in overkill in being able to control and showing the error of one’s way. Seen it both ways and it’s not right. Parents should be parents,first in behavior and attiudes and growing up means for children and their life,working within society. Respect is earned,not a gimme by thoughts,actions and words.

  15. Reading this post reminded me of an incident a few years back. My husband was on a fishing trip to Canada. I needed to get out of the house for a bit and decided to take my little ones to McDonald’s so that my 2 year old daughter could play in the PlayPlace. There was a grandmother there with her 5 year old grandson who was terrorizing the other kids. This woman spent a good 20 minutes trying to convince her grandson that it was time to leave.

    Well, the little angel decided to start body slamming my daughter to the mat on the top level of the PlayPlace. I told the grandmother to stop her grandson and she started pleading with him to be nice. I was thinking about climbing in there and giving him a taste of his own medicine, especially since I doubted anyone would see me. The problem was that I was holding my 2 week old son at the time and the thought of handing him off to a stranger to hold just didn’t sit well with me.

    I marched up to McDonald’s counter and told an employee that somebody ‘better get in there and stop that kid.’ The employee rolled her eyes and headed for the play area. I think she thought I was being overly dramatic. She walked in, saw what was happening and told grandma “Oh hell no! You’d better get that kid out of there!” She then went in and got the kid out of there while grandma stood there and mumbled. I turned to grandma and loudly advised her to give up any thoughts of a college fund and told her to invest in a legal defense fund instead. If it weren’t for my little guy, I would have had no trouble going up and not-so-gently stopping that little fiend.

    My point is that grandma was such a pushover that she probably raised her son/daughter to be a mush. He/she in turn created that little demon. Three generations wasted.

  16. On the ambulance, they call me “Waffles.” A long story relating to the Midwest blizzard of 2011, a stalled car, this cold EMT, and a member of the public who took me in and fed me……..you guessed it: waffles.

    A sense of humor is fantastic in the realm of public safety. And I have to admit that it’s refreshing to read a sensible, mature, occasionally faith-filled perspective from your line of work.

    Stay safe out there.


Comments are closed.