MY WORD: Make fines stiffer for adults

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By John B. Willis

I was heartened to hear members of the Shelbyville City Council may make adult-provided or adult-present minors' use of illegal substances a city as well as a county and state penalty (“Adult hosts of teen parties may be fined,” May 20). This I hope you will pass.

However, I encourage you to change the minimum fine to $1000 for the first offense, with multiples of that for later offenses. Here is why.

  • Minor deaths and injuries from auto accidents and altercations leading to hospitalization or criminal incarcerations are facts.
  • Minors need no adult-assisted or adult-observed assistance in potential proven factual risks of self-harm, harm to society or events leading to either adverse health or criminal events.
  • Adults either providing or observing such minor actions and behaviors require the harshest penalties you will authorize. Why? Their decisions – albeit alleged as "loving, caring actions to supervise at home what their kids and friends will do anyway, unsafely away from home" – are wrong for several reasons.

There is the issue of illegality. They and all minors participating knowingly engage in conspiracy and collaboration to break state laws. The reasons do not matter.

There is the issue of harms. The laws are not instituted because of "antiquated morals" but proven harms:

  • Physiological: proven harms in brain-neural development of adolescents.
  • Psycho-physical: proven harms of early onsets of substance addiction, from both innate reactions to substances, as well as repeated toxicity-events.
  • Social: proven higher risks of deaths, injuries, criminal acts and events, precisely due to the increased toxic effects of substances on the psycho-physiology of youth.
  • Long-term: proven cases where minors using substances have been involved in deaths of others – creating life-long guilt and, often, psychological mental disorders – or in permanent, extensive, physical injuries to themselves, their friends, and others, resulting in (1) lifelong medical costs; (2) deprivations of full, healthy adult experiences; and, (3) accompanying personal, intrapsychic harms due to said disabilities, or guilt in being party to those of others.

There is the issue of morality. The issue is not substance consumption, but what these adults directly and intentionally teach to their children and those of others. Here is what I see, besides the issues above, for what parents do who aid or permit these events.
What about contempt for the law? "I disregard laws designed for the safety of my own children, the children of others, and the safety of society."

What about collusion and conspiracy? "We can do this together. We must keep secret the plan. I will get the substances. You instruct your friends. We will engage the plan ensuring police or 'moralistic neighbors' do not interfere with our fun. If discovered, we will 'use this explanation' – lie – and  say 'this.' If friends become over-intoxicated, we will assist their 'safe' return home, or involve others in the 'consequences of our conspiracy' – sober "safe driver" minor friends, or even other parents – also in the conspiracy, or surprised and upset by it." (The latter “transportation’ issue involves police and the courts even more, including some very, very expensive litigation by plaintiff attorneys – if anyone is killed or injured.)
Therefore, the issues are not "good parents keeping their children safe." The issues are not only those above but the instillation into youth an idea most common now in our society – "If you don't like the law, just break it."
For these reasons, I believe the city council’s proposal of such token proposed "financial penalties" really reveal – possibly – this:  The city council also believes these matters are "somewhat minor (no pun intended) but we must do something."

In closing, I am nor a prude nor a moralistic person. I drank alcohol illegally, whenever possible, from around my freshman year at Shelby County High School on through to my 21st birthday. I should have been killed in my own car, which I completely destroyed when I was 16, but fortunately was alone on the country road to my parents' home. So I have just a little knowledge about illegal minor use.

But I have more to say on this:
If my parents had done what these parents do, and seek to do, I would not have respected them, as I do now. Bill and Majorie Willis always obeyed the law; taught us to obey the law; taught us we ought to be punished if we broke it; and, clearly instructed, that if we broke the law, we must expect to bear the legal consequences. I think there are lessons in this, for this nation.

My wife and I had four teens, and all the previous applies to how we raised them. Unless I have been deceived, I think all four respect us.

I personally know of many high officials in this city and county, who did as I did; some who lost friends in automobile deaths; some who lost their health because of grievous accidents; and some who, perhaps, disagree with what I have said here because they "remember their good times and would like to keep their children safe."
I suppose, it is a matter of opinion, in some respects. Yet as to the facts I cited above, I stand mainly on the facts and not on my parents' teaching nor mine.

Make the fine severe, in multiples. There is nothing "minor" about all the facts associated with this subject, which is laden with the severest implications – for death, injury, long-term consequences and the moral deformation of children by parents who ought to know better.


John D. Willis is an author, a minister and president of Leadership Ethics Online and lives in Shelbyville.