As I speak with citizens in Los Alamos, I’m asked ‘What is your position on’ or ‘How will you deal with’ some specific issue. Well, there is so much going on, and I have to admit that I am not on top of every issue. I have been very focused on what I see as our Out of Control County Government and the disconnect between the County Council and the voters. I have absolute clarity on how I plan on addressing those topics. For other items that are not yet on my radar, often times I respond with ‘Can you tell me about the issue that concerns you?’.
Last week, I was asked about how I would address the issue with our youth in Los Alamos. Not having seen anything in the local media, I asked, ‘Which issue are you concerned about?, There is a Youth Center.’. The response shocked me. They said, ‘The high incidence of rape and suicide of the youth in Los Alamos’. I’m hoping my jaw didn’t bounce when it hit the floor. I’ve seen nothing in the local media that talks about this as a problem. If it is a problem, and I suspect it is to some degree, and we are not working to resolve it, shame on us as parents and shame on us as a community. Don’t blame the events in the news for not spending time guiding your children and building good people.
I’m not a social worker, a psychologist or a psychiatrist. So I cannot frame an answer as well as those that understand how to deal with these issues as professionals. Outside of those with a chemical or mental imbalance, I do not understand what leads a person to see themselves as unimportant or allow others to devalue them to the point that taking their own life is an acceptable solution. I sit here with tears rolling down my cheeks as I try to put myself in the position of someone who has lost all hope, or as a parent who has lost a child without having had one last chance to show that our love for them is more important than any transitory event. We should be showing them that our love for them is absolute and that everything else will pass.
I had a chance to speak to a young lady who attended one of the high school dances, recently, and to hear her repeat the language and describe the demeaning attitudes expressed by some of the male students towards the ladies present would have been dealt with swiftly by any gentleman or responsible parent present. Yet, I understand that many of these young ladies tolerate this insolence and disrespect. Perhaps it is peer pressure, changes in social norms for our youth at that age or a byproduct of our society. And, if it is accepted, then I would suspect that the number of rapes or unwanted sexual contact in our community is far higher than reported.
I have to believe that we, as parents, and our role models in society are to blame. That and the Internet and cell phones. At a time when our youth are fighting so hard to identify themselves, their roles in society and their hopes of the future, they are bombarded by the news, conflict in our society and abusive commentary. They see demonstrated that this disrespect is socially accepted and encouraged. They are told about and feel the stress from our jobs, our financial woes, our beliefs, our conflicts, our expectations of them. They go to school and are assaulted physically, mentally, socially and sexually by other students. They are locked in a classroom where a teacher may be pushing a political agenda, or has strongly expressed opinions of the roles of men and women, or our leadership, or world issues. Movie and TV personalities tell us who to like and who to hate. And that information changes with the phases of the moon.
Is it any wonder that in a society where grown-ups, and I use the term loosely, can barely keep all the balls in the air and cannot have a civil conversation about things from different perspectives, and show respect others, regardless of gender, religion or national origin, that our youth are unable to find themselves and so they live with wild abandon?
I think back on my youth. My parents taught me right from wrong, without having to find someone to blame. They taught me respect for myself and others. They told me I could be whatever I wanted. Learning was most important. It involved using your ears, more than your mouth. Politics was not a topic of conversation. Hatred was not tolerated. Disrespect at home or at school was met harshly. It was then reinforced more harshly at home, if it started at school. I never knew if we had money or didn’t. If there was something I wanted to buy, I had to work to earn it. Then, before I bought it, my parents would discuss the value of the object and the value of saving money. I learned to be responsible for myself and responsible as a member of society.
I’ve heard the outcries about the media and political molesters in the news. I’ve heard critics of the president as a role model. I’ve listened to our school officials taking political positions against law enforcement. I’ve heard our political leaders play citizens and non-citizens as pawns against each other in their quest for power. Why are we surprised when, lacking any better role models, our children behave the same way? This is not President Trump or a movie mogul assaulting our children, these are your children allowed to behave this way.
Yet, these are not the problems we should expect our children to resolve. Certainly not with tainted values. By burdening with them with problems that they cannot resolve, we teach them futility. We make them think they are weak and powerless. We allow them think they are useless and without value. And since we cannot fix these problems, then it is hard for them to see us as a bastion of hope and peace. How can we expect them to find anything but despair? As parents, we are obligated to present our children with challenges and the means for succeeding. At the same time, we need to allow them to focus, by keeping the irrelevant ‘noise’ from distracting them. We need to provide them with boundaries which are there for guidance and protection. And they must always know that we are there for them.
Just as we are to blame, we are also the ones that can change it.
Our children should be allowed to enjoy their youth and discover themselves. They should be taught to think, without being taught to think ‘my way’ or with slighted information. They should be encouraged to try new things. They should find out who they are through their own enthusiasm. We should not burden them with our problems. With all the media hype and negative public discourse, we should help them understand what is going on. Why do some people see things one way and while others see it differently.
We should recognize that our children are not us. Their desires and goals may not be the same as ours. They should be allowed to find out who they are and given the freedoms to discover. We need to make opportunities available to them. We need for them to believe that we value them, no matter what and that we support them in all the positive things they do.
Which brings me to what I think we need to do, as a community. We are a community built of great minds and great spirits. Each of us is excited about something that we do. Our community is full of opportunities to involve our youth. We, as parents, not only need to make these opportunities available to our children, we need to encourage them to participate. We need to show our enthusiasm for things we want our children to experience, but also encourage them to bring us ideas to support. We need to put down the cell phones, step back from the TV and the computer and take a new direction which is really an old direction. Go outside and play. But let’s make it one better. Let’s be encouraging and supportive.
I know of one PhD astrophysicist (might be two), who sets up telescopes in their driveway whenever there is a celestial event. She narrates, describes, takes questions and shares her enthusiasm, without the expectation that all attendees will become PhD’s, but perhaps just stargazers. There is another teaching about the upcoming Super Blue Blood Moon eclipse at PEEC. Let us, as a community, help these generous people share their passions with our youth. Let them show our youth that what they learn in books becomes real in the world around them.
Los Alamos and the surrounding community is a natural paradise. We can teach self-sufficiency with nature as a backdrop and resource, while teaching respect for environment. We can offer wilderness survival for those that have been inspired by those types of movies. We can teach the benefits of quiet time alone, away from the distractions through camping and hiking.
I think the County government could help those of our youth with a more hands-on preference. I understand that there are those who want to build. Perhaps when the County awards construction contracts, they require the contractor to open a number of apprenticeships to local students. I know the University teaches welding and other construction related skills. Why not use our tax dollars, in what we purchase, to benefit our youth?
We have the tools, the means and the people to excite our youth about themselves and their future. Let’s not limit our youth to our expectations, but use what we have to open the world in front of them. Let them discover.
We need to allow our youth to find their place, even if they find it in traditional roles. We have to teach our young the skills to survive on their own; how to cook, the benefits of a clean living environment, how to use tools. These are not limited to traditional perceptions but are needed as a demonstration of how to live, how to care for a family. I learned a lot when UNM-LA had a chef come up from Santa Fe and teach a cooking class. In non-traditional ways, my mother taught me how to cook and how to clean and the need for both. In traditional ways, I learned to build, maintain cars, use weapons and fight, occasionally ask for directions. All these things built confidence in myself for whatever role I found myself.
As your County Councilor, I will make certain, that as we spend your tax dollars, that we look for opportunities that empower our youth, help them build confidence in themselves, teach them the tools to succeed and free them from the burdens that are not theirs to bear. But we will not be their parents. We need you for that.
Paid for by Citizens For Brady W Burke
Brady W Burke, Treasurer