The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

February 5, 2013

Changing our culture

The Register-Herald

— Last Friday evening a group of citizens got together at the Raleigh County Commission on Aging to discuss ways to change the culture of violence that is beginning to prevail across our country, in areas both big and small.

Those gathered included political representatives, school officials, members of law enforcement, church leaders and local residents.

The concerns expressed are certainly real.

One church elder described the world as “chaotic and confusing”; an elected lawmaker said the “innocence of our children was forever shaken” by the recent mass killings at a Connecticut elementary school. Many who spoke pointed to the need for action.

Action is indeed what it will take to enact a cultural change and, while not impossible, it will take firm commitment and involvement at all levels.

But none of those things can really happen if it doesn’t start in the home.

Parental involvement, and emphasizing to our children the need to be civil and respectful, is the binding agent that will rebuild a base of discipline that has greatly deteriorated during the last three-plus decades.

The “anything goes” attitude of recent times didn’t spawn drug abuse, violent crimes and moral bankruptcy — but it has accelerated those issues so quickly that society has been steamrolled and has come up wondering just what hit it.

Our youngsters have been directly exposed to this culture and have grown up with a belief that much of this behavior is OK and acceptable — when it really isn’t.

Miller Hall, a veteran Raleigh County educator who also spoke at the gathering, put it very succinctly in our opinion, calling on “everyone” to reach out to our kids.

“None of you are exempt from helping our young people.”

And that’s really what it will take from all of us, providing the right example. For many of us in our 40s, 50s and 60s, we’ve failed to follow through in teaching the lessons and leadership we were taught.

Culture certainly can be changed; a look at our history tells us that.

But it’s up to the adults to put the foundation in place, and then grow it.

Standing idly by won’t work.