In a few short years, we have gained a material abundance in America that surpasses anyone in history, yet we have become among the most lawless and violent nations among free people. Our cities are torn by riots and violence. Thousands are killed, thousands more injured, and property losses approach billions of dollars. Leaders around the world have long been calling us the “sick man of the world.” Violent crime is on the rise, and as always, young people account for a disproportionate amount of it.
Juvenile courts have not been able to deal with these crimes effectively. Schools find it more difficult to handle troublemakers. Parents are becoming more and more alienated from their children. In the face of this serious national problem, what can we do to correct it?
First, we can only obey the law ourselves, even those laws we don’t like. There are many today who teach that we have a right to break those laws with which we do not agree. The principle of law is sacred and great harm is done if it is broken. If a person breaks the law to get what he wants, he so weakens the law that it cannot help him protect what he has. We need to seek legal means to change unjust laws and endure what we cannot change. It is better to suffer under unjust laws than to be lawless.
Second, we can support our authorities. We need to demand good law enforcement on every level and support our officials when they give it. Usually our officials are capable of doing a good job. All they need is our support. Parents are too often ready to take a child’s side against the police or school officials. Lawbreakers must be punished.
Finally, we can teach respect for authority to our children. The prevention of crimes does not begin in the electric chair; it begins in the highchair. Parents, discipline your children. Give them a curfew. Know where they are going. There is no greater deterrent to juvenile delinquency than parents who are both strict and loving.
Let us then return to the dictum of Theodore Roosevelt: “No man is above the law and no man is below it; nor do we ask any man’s permission when we require him to obey.”