There were no "olden days."
In addition, no child in the history of Albert Lea has been abducted by a stranger and gone missing. Our city’s crime rates are about the same as 30 years ago when children roamed the neighborhoods, not the couches. Our city’s violent crime rate is about one-third of the national average.
By sheltering our children, we, as a helicopter society, are doing more harm than good. We are part of the obesity epidemic.
We are letting the pedophiles, drug dealers and other bad guys win.
Even the United Nations High Commission for Human Rights has acknowledged the importance of play in the cognitive, physical and emotional well-being of children. And here we are, taking it from them. Our children are in greater danger when we drive them at 70 mph on freeways than when they are playing unsupervised with friends at parks.
In the olden days, boys played pickup games of baseball. Now, they only play baseball as part of an organized summer league, surrounded by grown-ups telling them what to do. It used to not be that way. They used to just be kids, playing how they want to play.
Where can young people go to get away from grown-ups and be themselves? For at least one generation, they have gone to video games and the Internet. They aren’t allowed go play with friends at the park because a social worker will visit the home, so, instead, kids will find strangers online.
So because we are worried about the imagined ill will of strangers at parks, we force our kids to stay home where they find strangers over the Internet or get fat playing video games.
Way to go, society.
I happen to have lived during what Tim Engstrom calls the "olden days" and none of that is anything I recognize. I remember Jacob Wetterling. I sure as hell remember what happened to Johnny Gosch. They were regional disappearances and abductions, to be sure, but they were part of the lore of the Midwest and they changed the way parents behaved. I remember stories of kids who wandered off and were found dead because of accidents--very common in the winter and in farm communities. I remember when Loren Bellrichard was allowed to run around blowing people up, or so they failed to prove. I remember a whole lot of colorful characters who wouldn't hesitate to beat the living shit out of a kid for nothing--the history of Albert Lea is a violent one, not a lemonade dream on the front porch. I remember the racism, too, but that's a whole other can of worms.
So, the problem is, I've got a memory, too, and things are much, much better when we have laws in place that force parents to be accountable for keeping track of their kids. See, I remember a whole generation of neglectful parents--the Baby Boomers--who took a powder and didn't bother raising their kids because they were drunk or high all the time. Their kids ran wild. The very laws that Engstrom decries exist because bad parents can't be corrected without some form of legal code in place to help people sort out who is and who is not really, really neglecting their kids. I remember a lot of stories about abused and neglected children all around us, and most of the laws we have in place now are designed to help social services deal with awful parents--the kind that go off and drink and the kind that leave their kids in hot cars, and, yes, the kind that abuse their kids or let them have the run of the place. Letting your kids go around unsupervised actually makes them someone else's problem, and that's not exactly the way things should be. Your dopey kids are your problem, and that's that.
Tim Engstrom doesn't care about any of that because olden days and playing baseball and he's tough and you're not so shut up. This is how nostalgia gets in the way of common sense. You let a kid run wild and it won't be about sports--it will be about theft, vandalism, and drinking near beer where there is no adult supervision. Each and every law he complains about is rooted in experiences that left social services and the state's law enforcement community trying to find an answer for parents who let their kids get into trouble through a lack of adequate supervision.
I mean, doesn't Engstrom bother to read his own newspaper notices about the near-constant plague of unsupervised children--some as young as fifteen--getting caught drinking? Didn't he notice the big story last week or so about the kids who vandalized the Salvation Army? Those kids were improperly supervised and allowed to take out their frustrations on the Salvation Army. I don't blame society. I blame the parents who showed them what rocks do to glass.
The problem with his nonsense editorial is that it doesn't even bother with the facts of living in Albert Lea. This would be the same city where a large number of predatory sex offenders have been allowed to locate themselves and live their lives because we can't lock them up forever. When a new one pops up, the cops don't even bother holding a meeting anymore because of the apathy of the community. Up until he moved to Austin, there was at least one good reason not to let your kids out of your sight in certain parts of Albert Lea. Does the name Paul Berg ring any bells?
Yeah, Paul Berg actually tried to abduct a young girl from the streets of Albert Lea, and he would have gotten away with it if he hadn't been beaten like a dog on the sidewalk. And if you think he was the only sex crazed maniac trying to have sex in public with children, you haven't been reading the Albert Lea Tribune.
So, you know. Olden days were better and now everything sucks. Whatever, man.