Stop the “Badness”

Jan Morgan-Swegle, Editor


By:  Jan Morgan-Swegle

A few days ago, my husband emailed me one of those nostalgia things that float around the Internet from time to time.  This one was about growing up in our era.  It reminded me of our childhood rituals—playing outside until dark with our friends, going home when our porch lights went on, making decisions via “eenie, meanie, miney moe” and riding our bikes. Although I didn’t focus on it then, I grew up in a very good way—I felt safe.

I knew that there were “bad people” in the world beyond my front door because  I would hear my parents say, “What is this world  coming to,”  after watching the local news on television.  But the “badness” seemed so far away.  Our parents, our neighbors and our teachers were our protectors—an  impenetrable first line of defense.

But, as time went on, the “badness” got closer and closer.  I remember being a teenager and seeing on the evening news that a  girl that lived less than 3 miles from us had been abducted.  After a few days, she was found alive, but she had been sexually assaulted and the assailant removed one of her eyes using a screw driver.  It was a horrifying crime that shook us all.  It was like our safe, little world had its perimeter breeched and now we were afraid.

I remember walking home from my friend’s house one night.  It was only six houses away, but there were tall bushes by the fourth house.  I started to walk all the way to the edge of the sidewalk, as far away from the bushes as I could get.  “What if that man is hiding in the bushes,” I thought.  “What if I get kidnapped?”  My stomach would tighten as I walked by and it didn’t relax until I got home.  “I made it,” I remember thinking.   But forever after that, I didn’t walk past the bushes without being very careful and ready to scream at the ”badness” that may be lurking there.  I started to think that I was only safe at home and in school and any time I was in between, I was at risk because at every corner or in every dark place, a bad man was about to jump out.

But then, there was a mass shooting in Colorado at a school.   And, after that, criminals started getting younger and more dangerous than the man hiding behind the bushes.  Pretty soon, it happened again and again.  School shootings at small faces full of fear.  Teachers were teaching practice lock down drills and how not to be a gun man’s target instead of math and English.

A few weeks ago, my husband and I  went to Florida to see our granddaughters.  One is 4 and the other, just over a year old.  They are beautiful, amazing and happy.

Our daughter-in-law was recently elected to a position of authority in their state and we celebrate her accomplishment.  But, with that  and all that comes with it, there is fear.  Our son and his wife don’t want us to post pictures of the children on social media.  They don’t want us to record those special,  yet routine family moments that we all share because their children might become targets.

As I was growing up, I thought I would learn many things in school, but never how not to be a target.

Recently, I saw a cartoon that described the new “badness.”   There was an aging veteran standing outside of a cemetery next to a young boy.  The caption was, the older man speaking to the boy, “I lost my best friend in 1968.”  The boy is also looking into the cemetery and responds, “I lost my best friend after second period.”

Why can’t our children just be children?  Why do they have to worry about  not being targets?

Oh please, can we find a way to stop the “badness?”