Teen Beat Nation
I've recently been wrestling with the idea of trying 16 year olds as adults. I know that people feel a need to respond harshly to youth crimes, and don't like the idea of a violent sociopath's record being wiped clean a year after his conviction. Still, there's something fundamentally wrong with the approach.
You see, the problem I have is that I don't think it's fair to grant really bad kids legal adulthood while denying it to kids who are really good. Kid A shoots up someone's house because they said uncomplimentary things about his shoes, and everyone falls ass over teakettle trying to declare him an adult, to go to Adult prison and put on Adult diapers before they put him in the Adult gas chamber. Kid B gets straight A's and volunteers at the soup kitchen, but does anyone come out and say "well, he should get to vote and have legally sanctioned sex with his cute girlfriend Suzie?" No. He can act as adult as he wants, but if he wants "adult" status he's got to do something bad. It just isn't fair.
How about a little consistency with the law? You turn a certain age, and you're an adult. Period. You can vote, go to jail, have sex, get drafted, buy alcohol, drive a car, pose naked, own firearms, the whole Adult Package. Pick an age: 21? 18? 16? 12?
And I'll be honest here. That "Kid A" vs "Kid B" debate I was bringing up a moment ago? Total horseshit. I don't believe a word of it. I *hated* that kid who volunteered at the soup kitchen in high school. He was a self-righteous prick trying to pad his college application. I do, however, have a deep love for political constipation, and bonding the forces that want to keep kids naive and disenfranchised into their twenties with the forces that want to treat the little hoodlums like the felons they are is E-ticket Entertainment.
I want to see the same uptight "think of the children" types who are always clamoring to kill twelve year olds faced with the reality that giving life sentences to LA gang kids means that their little Charlene has every legal right to set up a webcam on www.barely-fourteen.com. Want to kill the bad kids? You've got to let your own kids buy cigarettes and Jagermeister. You can threaten to kick them out of the house, but they'll be eligible for welfare!
Then, of course, you have the troubling issue of military service. No one wants their fifteen year old to go off to war, but twenty year olds are simply too smart to stand on the front lines. Me, I'm torn on the issue. Part of me wants to pack those little skateboarding punks off to eastern European minefields as young as possible, another part of me dreads the creation of the single most annoying segment of American politics: the Veteran. Yes, I'm terribly appreciative of those who died protecting my freedoms, but if you came back alive you clearly weren't working very hard at it, now were you?
And nothing says fun like the NRA finally getting to come out of the closet, insisting that a well-armed sophomore gym class is a polite sophomore gym class. "We can avoid future Columbines by making sure your children have the stopping power and training to put down those trenchcoat-clad Quake geeks before they have a chance to take out any teachers." They've been itching to say it out loud for years, it's about time we gave them the chance.
And of course, there's the affect it would have on our political system. You see, while eighteen year olds can vote, they mostly don't vote. They're too cool for that, they have other things to do with their lives, and really, they don't want to take part in anything where they only have an equal say in the outcome. They don't want to vote for someone who'll lose, because that would suck, but they don't want to be a follower and vote for the guy who would win either, because then they'd have to share in the blame when he turned out to be a total loser.
Fourteen year olds, though, would VOTE. They'd come out in droves and sleep in the streets to be the first to vote. They wouldn't care when you told them there wasn't any advantage in it, they just like being first in line, and staying up all night with their friends is really fun. Sure, it would be a drag having to vote for just one President, instead of your whole favorite band, but that's what primaries are for.
Plus, I'm not entirely sure that President Spears is less fit for the job than the current occupant. She's more energetic, less opinionated (quite a feat), more articulate (no feat at all), and her hidden puppeteers are a hundred times more Machiavellian -- a finer fit for the job in every respect. Plus, congress would probably just pass her budget hoping they'd get to cop a feel later. And we all know where she stands on the "school uniform" issue.
Just keep Christina Aguilera away from any grassy knolls.