Who is in charge? Therein lies the problem

Tuesday, December 1, 2009 | 12:01 a.m. CST

I lived in Kansas City, off and on, for about half of my lifetime. And up until a couple of decades ago, I would tell anyone listening that if I was ever stranded anyplace in the United States, I hope it would be in that city.

That’s because as far as I’m concerned, I have found Kansas City residents to be the most friendly and accommodating people anywhere in the country.

Now when I read the Kansas City newspapers or listen to the news, I am just flabbergasted to learn that it is one of the most dangerous places to live in America. This new reality makes me want to say, hold it, people, when I was growing up, families in my neighborhood slept in the local park all night during the summer in this place.

When I was 11 years old, I held my first job, operating a popcorn machine at a candy store next door to a theater that didn't have concessions in its lobby. I worked nights on one of the most notorious streets in the city and nobody ever bothered me. As a young adult, I attended meetings, day and night, all over town, and I was never ill at ease.

Of course, I know this change has happened to cities and towns everywhere in the last few years. I worry about this all the time, and the thing I worry about most is the number of young people whose obituaries wind up in the papers. As I listen and observe this trend, I have begun to put together my thoughts on this subject.

As we try to beat the clock to buy the latest electronic gadget, to stay tuned to the latest celebrity scandal, to catch the latest movie, to get to the football, basketball or baseball game, I think we have failed to notice that all of our systems have failed and the structure of our civilization is in a state of collapse.

First, let us look at our family units. Families who once sat down to eat together, to nurture and nourish each other’s spirits, who kept each other safe, are now stuffing food down their throats at fast food restaurants alone among strangers, alone within the family circle, staring at a television, computer or cell phone screen or alone with members of their social network, texting.

And where are the parents who are responsible for these families? Alone with everyone else, doing the same things. So, who's in charge? Well, no one is, because all of these people have the right to freedom of choice, so they can do whatever they please.

And, guess what, they are. Therefore, no one is responsible and no one feels loved, safe or secure. What was once a family is now just a group of strangers.

And then there is an entity, loosely defined as an educational system. There are free, public schools where some people once walked miles to attend, and where many others marched to protest their inability to be admitted, where now in many places teachers and administrators operate under the auspices of irresponsible parents and recalcitrant pupils,  and students show up when and if they feel like it.

So, who is in charge? Well, no one because all these people have freedom of choice, so they can do whatever they please. But aren’t these people the future generations who will be in charge of the country? Well, yeah, duh.

Now we come to those whose job it is to make sure our society functions smoothly, the justice system. In the interest of time and money, it seems to me it would make more sense to build any new schools inside the prisons. That way, it would be cheaper for the taxpayers to maintain both institutions under one roof, since so many of those who enter kindergarten will ultimately wind up behind bars.

And, maybe, since law enforcement has to spend time and money over and over again arresting the same offenders for the same offense or greater ones, perhaps, we could just assign them the same room for life. So, who is in charge? Well no one is, because all of these people have freedom of choice, so they can do whatever they want.

I suppose then, if we don’t live in a dangerous town or city today, we can plan on living in one in a few years. Otherwise, if this isn’t the game plan, and since we don’t want government in our lives, do you think maybe we could pay young people enough money not to have children until they have learned good parenting skills, and can we pay parents enough to be responsible for their children and let professionals be in charge of education?

Freedom of choice to do anything we may want to do without the disadvantage of having a lot of rules and regulation may be fun, but obviously it’s not the ideal system to make living together in peace with justice easy. It’s probably going to get to the point where adjustments or going to have to be made. Either that, or let the criminals be in charge.

In the meantime, could someone stop the world and let me off? Well, it was just a question.

You can join the conversation with Rose M. Nolen by calling her at 882-5734 or e-mailing her at


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