Gangsta Genes

Here’s the latest scientific research  that tries to give credibility to the packs of tattooed, drop-out, criminal punk-asses, who’d rather bust out your car windows and each others faces than take responsibility for their own lives. 

The debate over the root causes of criminality – genetic or environmental – goes way back.  It’s a theory that has influenced criminal justice practices for decades, and the fluctuations between either camp determines the ebbs and flows in  social intervention programs for pre-offenders and the types of incarceration, rehabilitation and parole conditions for convicted juvenile and adult criminals.

My 9 year old and I watched a classic movie this weekend, The Bad Seed, the whole premise of which is based on the idea of inherited criminal character versus an environmental cause.   My son was just as fascinated with this movie as I was at his age; maybe because this highly stylized and moralistic film shows a clear image of what true evil and sin can be committed by fallen man.  On the other hand it could leave you with the false impression that you aren’t such a bad person after all – you’re certainly not a homicidal 8 year old so you must be pretty good.  

When our children are young and innocent we’ve all wondered to some degree whether they will grow up to be law-abiding, honorable, good people.   I can remember freaking out a bit when my youngest son was 4 years old and constantly acting up at church.   He’s always been a bit of a monster and I’ve spent many hours in frustration over his wild child behavior.  These early episodes should have been a tip-off to his now diagnosed ADHD.  On this one particular Sunday, we’d made the gazillionth trip out of the church to regroup and burn off energy.  I finally asked him, “M., why are you acting up like this?”   I really didn’t expect an answer, but he shocked me when he just popped right back, “I evil, Mommy.”   I thought for sure I had a future axe murderer on my hands. 

What does society do then with these gangsta teens?  I for one am not ready to blindly accept the idea that they just can’t help it.  It’s in their genes poor things.  The opening field of genetic research I think is going too far in their passion for finding the genetic cause of everything.  Isn’t assigning genetic factors to every human behavioral and psychological condition pretty close to denying our free will and leaving us only one step up from the instinctual behavior of animals?   I give these  gang bangers more credit than a school of fish, and I still believe in the old-fashioned idea that if you can’t find the self-discipline to change your life than you’re going to have to pay the consequences.   

My little gangstas (Spring 2007)

My little gangstas (Spring 2007)

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