OK, here’s my dilemma. I caught one of my closest friends in a lie. Wait, not only did he lie to me, he also betrayed my confidences, sought to besmirch my reputation, and then “no showed” a Passover Seder that I hosted last week without so much as a phone call.
If this had happened twenty years ago, the cad would, once confronted, hang his head in shame and beg for forgiveness. Mutual friends, aware of the transgressions, would rush to intervene or mediate. The issue would be resolved quickly.
But today is March 30, 1994. Mutual friends run from the risk of involvement and the establishment of guilt. There are no consequences in the post-Reagan 90’s. There is no shame. Remorse? Hell, he feels wronged! He claims to be a victim of the high standards I set for his behavior. I owe him an apology.
Welcome to the 90’s, a time where being wrong is OK and being right can get you a law suit. Oh, it’s just not this. This failure to accept responsibility for one’s behavior has become all too common.
There is a teacher shortage in Cleveland. I have been substituting at an afternoon Hebrew School. It was a lot of fun teaching fifth, sixth, and seventh graders Bible and Prayer. Some of the children even learned something in my classes. Of course there were behavior problems. Most of the kids didn’t want to tangle with someone 6’4”/220 pounds. They tested. I made it clear where the lines were. They behaved. But, each class had one or two that would not. Why? These children had learned that they were “untouchables.” Let me till you about two sixth graders.
The first is a fat, obnoxious child that has yet to have an original thought. He disrupts the class by copying the bad behavior of others, but doesn’t do it until after everyone else has stopped. His major problem is that he is also a terrible liar. When he handed in his homework, I noticed that half was done by him (all caps, misspelled words and sloppy) and half was done by someone else (properly spelled and neat). I started laughing when he claimed that he had done it all. Do you want to guess who his mother is? That’s right, a teacher in the same school. His mother claims that the differences are because he did some of the work in the car.
Our second little boy is the youngest of several demons. Loud and out of control, his mother claims that he is simply bored. I’ll never forget the day that he brought Chicken Nuggets to class! Non-Kosher food in a Conservative Synagogue. His mother? After years of terrorizing the Synagogue’s School Director, the mother is about to become an officer of the Synagogue.
There are no consequences for these children’s misbehavior. As long as Mom or Dad can bail them out, or make a big enough fuss, these children will continue to disrupt every class they are in and making learning almost impossible for the other students.
Where does it end? One day they will cross a line and their employer, the government, their spouse, their friend or whoever it is that they have hurt or offended will have had enough. There will be no quick forgiveness. There will be no easy escape. There will be punishment and retribution. It will probably be awhile till that day dawns for the two sixth graders. But its 12 noon for my friend.