A friend posted this video on his Facebook wall this morning, and I felt compelled to share it on my own wall.
Some might wonder what seventeen year-old Robert Wanek means when he refers to ‘unwarranted raids.’ I know exactly what he’s talking about because it’s something I see in my neck of the woods, a state neighboring his, all the time. I’m fairly certain he is referring to teenage drinking parties getting busted.
You might be saying to yourself, “Well, that makes sense. Teenagers shouldn’t be drinking. It leads to all kinds of problems.” It does lead to all kinds of problems, but I believe this is true only because of the way we, as a society and nation, handle the issue. Most of the small towns I’m familiar with employ at least twice as many police officers as they need. There isn’t much crime in these towns, so what’s a cop to do? Spend long days waiting to catch speeders, and harass teenagers whenever possible, whether they are just hanging out in a group at the park (this most certainly spells trouble), or gathering at night to drink beer (Trouble with a capital T).
Being the parent of three teenagers, I hear about parties getting busted all the time. Three years ago, at the age of sixteen, my oldest son was the victim of an attack by an officer who out-weighed him 3-to-1. The officer clotheslined my son at the neck, manhandled him to his stomach, and cuffed him. His offence? He was leaving a party. Was he drunk and disorderly? No. He stopped when the officer told him to, and after waiting in cuffs to be breathalyzed for an hour, they found that he hadn’t been drinking and sent him on his way. Bruises and scratches covered my traumatized son’s back.
*Note that several kids were injured fleeing this party, one losing their two front teeth in their drunken escape.
After many phone calls and lengthy discussions, an ACLU attorney finally told me that, while I could go to court and sue the city, the likely outcome was not good, even though my evidence included witnesses and photos. It would be better, he advised, to write the city a letter, and ask for an apology from the officer.
The cops around here cruise the streets at night, watching for any movement by teenagers, and if they see two or more going into a house, you can bet they will sit and watch the house for signs of a party. Several local cops have warned the kids that every party they have this coming summer will get busted.
Here’s the main problem with this obsession the police have. The kids are going to party, no matter what. They will find a way. If every party they have gets busted, they will just find ways to not get busted. This usually means moving the parties outside of town, to remote locations, often open fields on somebody’s farm or ranch. These locations have poor cell reception, dangerous access roads, and barbed-wire fences frequently surround them. The kids are drinking miles away from adult supervision or help, should the need arise (and it happens). Does this sound like a dangerous situation? It scares the shit out of me!
I’ll use a party some kids had last fall as an example. The party was on the property of a young, local boy. His family had a ranch across the state line (the land actually straddled three state lines). There were no houses nearby. It was truly a wide-open space. The kids had a bonfire and sat around drinking beer for a while, until four Sherriff’s vehicles, incredibly (given the location), showed up to bust the party.
Kids ran in all directions, across fields, into barbed-wire fences, into mud-filled bogs, into fields of cattle, and one, into a creek. It was November, so the night was cold. Since they had a large fire going, a lot of the kids didn’t have coats. Many of them wandered around lost, all night. Quite a few lost their shoes in the mud and wound up with feet full of thistles. Some roamed for miles until they found a highway and/or cell service to call for help. Do you want your kid hitchhiking on a desolate road in the middle of the night?
Out of approximately 50-75 kids, the cops busted the 15 or so sober kids (designated drivers) who had no reason to run. My kids (yes, they were there), made it home around 3:30 A.M. (the party was busted around 10:30), covered in mud, bruised and battered, after wandering around the fields for hours. Two of them were missing some clothing -they loaned them to others to help them stay warm- and one was missing shoes and had feet full of thistles despite the shirts given by friends to cover the bare feet.
The next morning, kids were still trying to account for everyone. It amazes me that they all made it out alive, without any life-threatening injuries or hypothermia. It is this kind of dangerous situation our children find themselves in when forced to find alternative places to blow off steam and have some fun. Getting busted, and even getting into serious trouble, isn’t going to stop most of them, so why put them into these kinds of circumstances?
I partied when I was a teenager too, but the parties were rarely busted and kids didn’t find themselves with criminal records before the age of eighteen. Drinking and driving was more of a problem back then, but I think kids are more conscientious about having a sober ride these days.
Now, before I finish my tirade, consider this: my early teenage years I spent living in Europe. Even though the official drinking age was seventeen, I could usually go into a bar with friends at the age of fifteen and order a beer, and that was all I had. Often, it was just a Coke. It wasn’t cool to drink yourself silly and I never saw any of my friends drunk. Drinking wasn’t the reason for going to the bar. We went to dance and socialize. I didn’t learn to binge drink until I came back to America. In other cultures, kids are actually taught to drink responsibly, and under-age drinking doesn’t carry the stigma it does in this country. And guess what? They don’t have the problems with under-age drinking, binge drinking, and teenage alcoholism that we do.
I’m trying to teach my kids that same way, but it’s hard to do when their peers don’t understand, have not been taught to drink responsibility, and may never learn.