Blame aplenty, no help for society's madness

September 07, 1994|By MIKE ROYKO

Now it is time to find those to blame for the incredibly tragic life and death of Robert Sandifer, the Chicago youth who was both a suspected killer and a murder victim at age 11.

No problem. There are more than enough targets for blame. By the time you read this, you'll probably have heard them all: his parents, the courts, social service agencies, gangs, politicians, gun laws, drugs, bloody movies and TV, rap music, schools, the economy, slavery and our violent and racist society.

Have I missed anyone or anything? Sure, but it doesn't matter because we don't have room for it all, so let's just go with the most obvious suspects.

PARENTS. Robert's dad is a criminal and sadist who used children as ashtrays. His mother is a drug user and a fool, who said of her son while the police were hunting him: "He's a nice kid who just needs some counseling."

Obviously, these two boobs should not have had children. But how do you stop them? Tie her tubes? Snip his organs? No, because that's unconstitutional and will remain so unless we become a totalitarian state. Refuse to support them by withholding welfare? That would be legal but it would punish children, so white liberals and black politicians would scream about racism and fascism. Snatch the children away at the first sign of family neglect or abuse? And do what with them? There aren't enough foster homes for even a fraction of the goofed-up ghetto kids; we'd have to build the world's biggest chain of orphanages. So, realistically, not hysterically, what do we do about teen-age mothers and thug fathers, third and fourth generation welfare illiterates? Darned if I know. I guess we do what we've been doing: conduct studies, wring our hands and worry.

THE LEGAL SYSTEM. The trouble with the legal system is that it is so legal. Cops can't sweep public or private housing for guns or drugs: unconstitutional. They can't roust suspected gangbangers on sight: ditto. Judges and social agencies can't grab kids from moronic parents without terrible cause, and even if they could, where are they going to put them? The fact is, our laws, legal system and social agencies are not geared to handle the growing madness in our society. More people are dying from day-to-day crime than were killed in all the riots in the cities. Actually, riots are better because we can call out the troops.

THE POLITICAL SYSTEM. Our Washington politicians can't or won't do anything more than slap billion-dollar bandages on gaping social wounds, while local officials must take the blame and are stuck with mopping up the blood. We'd be better off dumping the entire Crime Bill and most federal anti-crime and social programs and letting local governments and police have the money. They know far better than grandstanding congressmen or paper-pushing bureaucrats what the problems are and how to make a dent. The Washington conservatives say we should lock them all up, while knowing that it's impossible to lock up every yahoo the police arrest. The white liberals and black officials say we should spend more money. In recent decades, we've spent more, and now we have 11-year-olds killing 12-year-olds, and 14-year-olds killing 11-year-olds. For all the good the spending has done, we might as well have given the money to the 11-year-olds so they could play video games instead of shooting each other.

OUR VIOLENT CULTURE. OK, let us ban all violence, sex and dirty language on TV and radio, in the movies, comic books, video games, rap music, novels, grand opera, advertising, vulgar T-shirts, wrestling, hockey and anything else that might taint impressionable minds, young or old. Do violence, sex and foul language really have a negative influence? Well, if great art elevates the human spirit, it figures that the slop will drag it down. But if we are going to censor all the gore that much of our population obviously enjoys as entertainment, be prepared for a long wait. The last legal appeal will probably be heard in about 100 years -- if everything moves smoothly, which it won't.

So we can all mourn the short and sad life of Robert Sandifer, and point fingers. Then we can wait a few days for a new shocking headline and start all over again.

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