pondering the UK riots

This post begins, yet again, with an apology for the silence in the past days. But, I have a good excuse. This week, we welcomed the first grand-child into our clan. She is healthy, beautiful, and blessed with loving and caring parents. Our son`s face absolutely bursts with joy and pride every time he says her name! We know that she will not only be loved and cared for – she will be raised to love and care for others. We know this, because we know her Mommy and Daddy!

Meanwhile, we`ve been following the riots in the U.K. with horror and sadness. Prime Minister David Cameron has not minced his words in response to the escalating criminal activity. He has vowed to prosecute all who are guilty of the violence, destruction and theft. He told the nation that if you are old enough to commit these crimes, you are old enough to be prosecuted. There are “pockets of our society that are not just broken, but frankly sick.” When you see 12 and 13 year olds looting and laughing, you know that there is something “badly wrong with our society.” There is “a complete lack of responsibility, a lack of proper parenting, a lack of proper upbringing, a lack of proper ethics, a lack of proper morals.”

Who is to blame…parents, society, politicians? There is no denying that the growing gap between rich and poor has left a large, disenfranchised underclass. Poor, uneducated and unemployed, they have lost all hope of reaping the benefits of our consumer society.  Mark Easton, BBC Home Editor wrote a thought-provoking editorial that describes the fine line between recognizing societal issues and using them to excuse criminal behavior.

Can the root causes of the violence be pinned on bad politics as opposed to simply bad kids, bad parents and bad morals – “criminality – pure and simple”? 

When the Home Affairs Select Committee completes its inquiry it will find itself treading that narrow line between condemning and contextualizing the unrest, but it would be hard to imagine any such investigation not wanting to consider what policies will be most effective in ensuring England’s social landscape does not have parts left tinder-dry and combustible. 

The bewildering events of the past few days are a reminder of why, however difficult, no country can afford to ignore any strata of its society. 

These are hard questions, and there are no easy answers. Ed Miliband, the Labour leader, stated that all of us have a responsibility. This I believe.  What we do, for good or ill, affects those around us and affects society. The UK riots show how strong the ripple effect can be when bad choices are made. One manic moment of torching and looting can ruin lives and livelihoods. But, I have to also believe that the good we do has an equally strong effect. I have to believe that ordinary goodness can balance out extraordinary evil.

As we continue to bask in the glow of our new grand-daughter, I’m filled with gratitude for the love that surrounds her. She won the baby lottery, but so many don’t. When I was in the midst of parenting wee ones, I often complained that I was “only a Mother.” As I watch our son and daughter-in-law embrace their little girl, I now know that being a loving parent and raising compassionate, caring children can be one of the greatest gifts you can give to the world.