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Saturday, Aug. 27, 2016

Place blame where it really belongs

Wednesday, February 19, 2003

A former area resident now living in Milwaukee sent me a copy of this week's Milwaukee Magazine which included a cover story on the murder of Charlie Young. The name may not be familiar but the murder was. Young was killed by a mob of teenagers who beat him with sticks, a shovel, a tree limb and various other random weapons. The killers ranged in age from 13 to 16. Some say younger participants were also involved but that matters little right now.

At the top of the killing list was Marlin Dixon, a 14-year-old. His younger brother was also charged with murder. Marlin was not what most of us would expect of an average 14-year-old. For starters, he was already a father himself. And like the long list of social misfits, Marlin came from a large family headed by a single mother, living well below the poverty line. The list literally goes on and on.

But that's not what has my blood pressure on the rise. In the lengthy article, an array of social activists try to make the argument that society is as much to blame for the murder as are the individuals involved. And to me it is this single yet incredibly important difference of opinion that so clearly illustrates the wide gulf in our society.

Let's face it, we've reached a point of no return in our society when it comes to pointing blame. It didn't start with the O.J. Simpson trial but that case brought the blameless technique into vogue. And I, for one, believe we'll never return to the true issue of personal responsibility. And why? Because pointing the finger of blame elsewhere works!

Six different schools in five years, a grade point average of .098, 92 absent days of school last year alone and a nightly curfew of 9 p.m. year-round. Take these elements of the story into context. Is that the life of an average 14-year-old? And if you agree that it is indeed not average, then how can society be blamed? Tell me that. Explain to me how this background can equate somehow to a fault of society? Sure, throw in the fact that this youngster has already fathered a child himself. Throw in the fact that his father consistently claimed that he was not the boy's father.

At the core of this case and countless others is the issue of poverty. But let's examine that point as well. No one chooses to live in poverty but there are some realities in our world. Odds are that a single mother of seven with no education and no male in the home may well be living a life of poverty. I didn't make these rules. Nor did society. It's simply a reality and an issue of common sense. But let's quit blaming society for violence. Let's start blaming individuals for violence. And then let's force them to face the consequences of their actions.

I am both appalled and frustrated that well-intentioned, God-fearing, educated people don't get it. These society scientists who want to blame society for these acts of violence must be frustrated that they can arrive at no other answer. The problem in some communities is so overwhelming that after-school programs, mentoring programs, remedial programs and every social program under the sun will do absolutely no good whatsoever.

The streets claim the lives of many young men because they choose that path. Granted, their options are limited but that is not the fault of society. And I'm getting sick and tired of those who will not face the reality of today's society and point the finger of blame in the faces of those who commit these acts of violence.

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