Thursday, October 21, 2010

The Deconstruction of our Youth

I love teenagers—as should anyone who writes about them and for them. However, yesterday a few teenagers left me feeling something very different than love. I have two best friends. I love them both like sisters and yesterday both of them were violated by teenagers.

One of my friends had her back door kicked in my three teens (not one of them over 17). As my friend said, they would’ve been sadly disappointed when they saw she had nothing to steal, but it doesn’t make it any less violating. Idle minds resort to destructive—sometimes dangerous—behavior. Fortunately, nothing was taken from my friend’s house. Thanks to alert neighbors and the fact that these would-be thieves broke in to the basement and couldn’t get into the main part of the house, she came home to find only a damaged door. Still, it’s scary.

My other friend was violently attacked yesterday by a 17yr old girl. My friend has been a social worker for 15yrs and has never had anything like that happen to her. Unfortunately, her job takes her to terrible neighborhoods, into sketchy homes and around unstable people. But she has dedicated her life to helping teens who need shelter, food and education.

I don’t get this behavior, but maybe I’m not meant to understand what would provoke teenagers to kick in a door or physically attack a person who is there to help you. Mental instability speaks for a lot of it, but I think there is also a lack of structure, a lack of morals and a lack of hope. When you feel like you have no chance, why try?

I think about that when I’m writing. While every story doesn’t have to end happily, I think we owe it to our teenage readers to show them another alternative to violently acting out. Does that mean we don’t write about drugs, sex and violence? That’s certainly not what I’m saying, nor am I saying we have to have moral of the story either. We have to tell the truth because kids are smart and will know when the there is bullsh*t on the pages.

The problem is these teens kicking in doors and attacking people aren’t reading our books. If they were, I can almost guarantee they wouldn’t want to engage in such destructive activities. When you know there is a world out there bigger and better than what you know, you begin to hope. Maybe I’m corny or misguided, but I believe hope changes everything.

My question is how do we reach these violent, door-kicking teens? Because I honestly don’t know.


Tere Kirkland said...

That's one of the most thought-provoking questions I've heard in a long time, but I don't have an answer, either.

I don't want to sound naive and say that a good book could have changed the lives of troubled kids, but I do know that when parents read to their children, it can't do anything BUT good. And like you said, being exposed to the bigger world out there inspires hope, and hope inspires change.

All my best for your friends. I've experienced the same frightening frustration, and it is very stressful.


Melissa said...

There's really nothing we can do. not that I can think of anyone. I was a pretty crazy teen myself, because your right, I had no hope (or didn't let myself see that hope was there) but I made a choice because people weren't giving up on me. These kids just need someoene in their lives to really believe in them.

I'm sorry about both your friends, no one should have to deal with that.

Karen Denise said...

Thanks Tere. It really is such a hard question now that I think about it, because anything we say can sound like just talk. Some of these teens really have hard things to deal with. I think of the movie Precious and know that reading a book would not have stopped the abuse she endured, but even in that movie/book she escaped through fantasy.

Melissa, I'm so glad you had people who wouldn't give up on you. That's a wonderful thing to have. So maybe it's a combination of things. Good people, good outlets and hope that can keep kids from making the active choice to break the law or hurt people.

Stephanie said...

I don;t know either. But it is sad and I wish there was a magically solution. We just have to keep being good examples.

Karen Denise said...

You're right Stephanie. I know I didn't like to be preached to when I was younger, but if I saw someone doing something positive, it made me want to do something postitive too. That's why I joined Drama Club in highschool...that and I'm dramatic-lol!

elfarmy17 said...

I found this painful to read. It made me, as a teenager, feel guilty as if I had done something like those teens. However, I know I haven't.

How to reach them...that's a good question. English class won't work, because anything coming from school will be ignored.

Karen Denise said...

Oh Elfarmy, don't feel guilty. But I know how you feel because I often have those feelings when I see a news story and a black person has done something terrible or seriously ignorant. I'm no more responsible for the actions of my race than you are for the actions of your generation. I think there won't be any grand thing that will help but a hundred little things.

Jai Joshi said...

I agree with you that there needs to be more positivity in the books that teenagers read. There also needs to be more structure.

I've thought for a long time that teenagers are indulged in a lot of nonsense simply because their teenagers but that shouldn't always be the case. There are things that teenagers do (like what happened to your friends and a lot of other equally horrible stuff) that is never acceptable. Something has to be done to teach kids that this is NOT the correct way to behave ever.

I hope your friends feel better soon. I'm so sorry to hear about their experiences.


Heagar said...

That's a tough question. I work with troubled youth for a living and it is so hard. Most of them are screwed up because of their parents, and no amount of success can compensate for failure in the home. These kids do great in our facility, and then leave to the same sad they resort to who they were before we helped them. I like to think we can make a difference, either through our writing or other ways.