OP-EDS

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January 16, 2006

Family values should not be dirty words

On the morning of November 13th, Michael and Cathryn Borden died of gunshot wounds to the head.

When I first heard about this double murder in the small town of Lititz, Pennsylvania, it didn’t even phase me. I read about murders all of the time in the newspaper or see stories about them on TV, and this one seemed to be no different. But something about this act of brutality did startle me.

The murderer was 18-year-old David Ludwig, and, when he was caught in Indiana, his 14-year-old girlfriend, Kara Beth Borden, was in the passenger seat beside him. He had crashed his red Jetta into a tree after being chased by Indiana State Police at speeds reaching nearly 100 miles per hour.

Kara Beth had been out past her curfew with David the night before. They met at a home schooling group for religious Christians. Her parents called over David to discuss this with them. David got upset and shot Michael Borden in the back of the head and then shot Cathryn Borden in her bedroom. Kara Beth’s 13-year-old sister Katelyn and 9-year-old brother David witnessed the murders. What has been bugging me recently is the fact that Kara Beth got in the car with David Ludwig when he made his escape.

I don’t pretend to understand the inner workings of the mind of a teenage girl or what sort of pressures this one was under. But the challenge should be for us to think about what sort of society we live in where a girl barely out of middle school can become involved in a serious sexual relationship and about what anyone was doing to prevent it. I don’t think that abstinence-only education is the right solution, but there has to be something that can prevent children who aren’t even of the questionable “age of consent” allowed under statutory rape laws from engaging in psychologically damaging and physically risky behavior.

Our cable television culture—MTV, in particular, comes to mind—specializes in showing sexually suggestive images of women and men. If we, as a society, can agree that white students dressing up as “gangstas” for a dorm party is racially offensive, how can we not argue that, for example, some of the dancing that goes on in middle-school parties these days is not sexually offensive? Is it fine for girls as young as 13 to dance with boys in a sexually suggestive manner?

Maybe the problem is that our parents simply aren’t doing their jobs. Tony Blair, the Prime Minister of England, admitted recently to smacking his elder children when they misbehaved. Recently the Brits added new language to their Children Act, making hitting a child hard enough to leave a mark a crime punishable by as many as five years in jail. While many will scoff at the idea of adding to current child abuse laws, there is no doubt in my mind that these laws need to be stricter, not only to protect the physical welfare of children but also to prevent the formation of aggressive or anti-social behavior.

There hasn’t been a proactive plan to coach unskilled or ignorant parents in the correct ways of parenting, but there should be. We need a policy that encourages parents to involve themselves not only in their children’s schoolwork but also in their social life. If a parent acts as a positive role model, then we make more productive strides as a society in terms of social mobility, especially in regards to poorer families.

The boundaries between childhood and adulthood have been blurred by a sick culture that derides women and imposes negative stereotypes, a problem added to by parents who no longer make an effort to involve themselves in their children’s lives. It’s too bad that phrases such as “family values” have become so negative in their connotations. Everyone needs family values, which should include respect for human life and a reluctance to slaughter the loved ones of our friends. Without some of the “family values” that I often hear snickers at, our children will become lost and directionless.

College is where we become adults. It seems that parents these days are not doing a good job of keeping kids out of situations that they are not emotionally equipped to understand. If one wants to be serious about social change in this country, the Borden case should serve as a wake-up call for us all.