London’s Burning

London is my favorite big city. I’ve visited twice, and always felt perfectly safe walking its streets. I love its history, architecture, culture, and diversity.

So it saddens me to read the news of London’s riots. And not just for the heartbreak it causes to the people hit hardest by the looting and arson. But also because it reminds me that there are so many kids out there being raised with no moral center.

In other words, these hooded thugs running through the streets breaking windows and setting buses on fire, were apparently never taught the difference between right and wrong.

What, did the parents think the school system was supposed to do that?

Did not their mother, father, grandmother, uncle, or neighbor ever point out that stealing from someone is bad? That setting fire to a building might cause pain and suffering? That spreading fear and panic is probably not the best choice to make?

That’s what saddens me most. And it makes me wonder how close to home this kind of thing could hit. Am I surrounded by a simmering lawlessness that is just one thin excuse from breaking through the surface?

We’ve seen riots before, all over the world. But, most of the time, there is a legitimate rallying point. In Egypt and Syria, it was democracy. In Los Angeles, back in 1992, it was a criminally unfair court verdict. In Washington, DC, in 1968, it was the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr.

But London 2011? It may have started with a police shooting, but the rallying cry is now, as one looter said, “I’m here to piss the police off. I’ve come out for money, this is our payback.”

Even my own 13-year-old son was perplexed by this attitude. He would never choose violence and theft as a means of expressing himself. He said, “I just can’t imagine running around breaking things like that, especially in the place I live.”

But I guess I raised him right. I sure hope a few others have. I hope my neighbors have. I’d hate to think that if the teens next door get upset at the police or government they’d burn my house down in retribution.

It wasn’t that hard for me to teach, through both word and deed, my own kids about respect for the life and property of others.

Apparently, not everyone thinks it’s important to pass on those kinds of life lessons. We’re seeing evidence of that on the streets of London as I type.

I’d like to tell the parents of those rampaging thugs, “It’s not too late. Even if your son is 18 or 25, it’s not too late to march out into the street, grab him by the ear, and tell him to knock it off.”

Maybe that’s all they need to hear.

One thought on “London’s Burning

  1. There are lots of psychology explanations going on right now to try and explain what causes mob violence as seen in London and several other English cities over the past week, the most popular being that there was definitely a spark caused by the shooting dead by police of a man and the confusing mess of rumours that resulted from that shooting – its still unusual in the UK for armed police to shoot someone.

    Once the spark was lit there was an escalation of disorder and copycat disorder across several areas of London which was not related to the original shooting at all but merely motivated by a mob mentality and greed, its no coincidence that sports shops and electrical retailers were specifically targeted for looting and there is a lot of talk of exactly what the mob mentality means, that moment when an individual bends down to pick up some looted stuff from a pavement or steps through a broken window and helps themselves to a few football shirts or trainers, they probably didn’t offer any violence or disorder but just turned up later and helped themselves, truly believing at that point that they were doing no wrong – that tipping point when morals disappear from a population is currently being wrung out on TV screens all over the UK.

    And now the politicians are talking tough and blaming the police for not taking firmer action sooner – the same politicians who were criticising the police last year for taking tough action on the central London tuition fees protesters, the “kettling” tactic that was used on that occasion to round up hundreds of protesters and keep them herded together for hours at a time had to be withdrawn from the police tactics after political pressure – but then we all know how often politicians change their tune the world over don’t we ?

    As for parenting, some of the hundreds who are appearing in court this week are far beyond the age of being parented, the profile of the looter is far reaching and is not at all what (for example) Los Angeles saw in the Rodney King riots and yet bizarrely we are seeing our Prime Minister seeking the opinion of a police commissioner who is credited with tackling gang violence in that city, his advice being seemingly completely at odds with the Prime Ministers Tarzan-like chest thumping and Vladamir Putin style posturing for the press – talking tough and then finding a solution are two completely different things.

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