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We need a teen center

POSTED March 12, 2010 10:14 p.m.
Beelzebub is roaming the streets of Turlock.
Well, not really, but it sure seems that way after hearing about the behavior of a group of local children. According to police reports, half a dozen juveniles tortured a seagull Sunday afternoon in Donnelly Park. A witness reported seeing six to seven 12 to 14 year old boys kicking and twisting the wing of a  seagull. The bird was injured so badly that Animal Control officers had to euthanize it (the complete report is available online at www.turlockjournal.com).
Could these boys not find anything at all better to do on a Sunday afternoon? While parents and guardians are ultimately responsible for the actions of their children, I think it’s time this community invested more into appropriate after-school and weekend activities for our youth. If we don’t, Sunday’s incident could easily turn into a city-wide “Lord of the Flies” phenomenon with groups of schoolboys suddenly becoming savages.
Many of you may think that a few boys playing rough with a bird is nothing to get upset about. I should be glad that the boys weren’t gang-banging, selling drugs or burglarizing my house. Well, just wait a year or two and those same boys will probably be starting their life-long careers of violence against humans.
Studies have found that many people convicted of violent crimes had a history of animal cruelty. Jeffrey Dahmer, Ted Bundy, Andrew Cunanan, David “Son of Sam” Berkowitz, and Albert “Boston Strangler” DeSalvo were cruel to animals before they started hurting people. Many murderous children and teenagers — such as Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold of Columbine High School — also have histories of animal cruelty, according to the ASPCA.
When I think about six or seven boys continuing to torture a bird until its wing is almost pulled completely off, I have to wonder what kind of group dynamics were going on. Didn’t at least one of the boys think, “This is wrong!” And if he did, why didn’t he say something? I guess Tommy Lee Jones in “Men in Black” had it right when he said, “A person is smart. People are dumb.”
Law enforcement officials know this to be true. How many “World’s Craziest Videos” do I have to watch of normally laid back citizens tearing apart a city because their favorite soccer team lost a match before I realize that this fragile thing called society could come crumbling down any second?
The recent popularity of reality TV shows should have been my first indication that we, as a society, are returning to our caveman days. Reality TV programs showcase people with winner-take-all attitudes coming out ahead. They make the worst aspects of human nature seem attractive to impressionable youths (and adults). When the strong no longer protect the weak and the right path is forsaken for the easy way, then we are all doomed.
The only way out of this Armageddon is to fund a teen center in Turlock. Without constructive, adult-supervised activities our youth are left to find entertainment by their own devices. City Council members, City staff, service club members and concerned Turlock citizens, I beseech you to come together and make our youth a priority in 2010.
To contact Kristina Hacker, e-mail khacker@turlockjournal.com or call 634-9141 ext. 2004.

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