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Guest Opinion: A return to consequences …

If you happen to be an owner of a Hyundai or Kia with a key-turn ignition manufactured between 2015-2019, you should stop reading this now and check your driveway because a wayward youth may have stolen your car.

Now don’t jump to conclusions and blame the youthful offender – it’s not his fault – the blame lies with the manufacturer for making them “easier to steal.”

That’s the upside-down world we live in today.

Both car companies are defending class-action lawsuits because apparently the anti-theft technology is not keeping up with the cultural rot plaguing our youth. They have no fear because there are no consequences. Punishment is almost nonexistent.

The absence of fear coupled with a shortage of consequences results in a lack of respect; where there is no respect there is no reverence.

I’ve been a business owner in this county since 1981 and with that comes hiring, training, and firing young people. Arrogance, lack of personal responsibility, and attitude will get them out the door quick.

Over the years, I have provided employment to ex-felons, recovering substance addicts, and most recently foster children who reside in a group home. An article in Automotive News about the class-action litigation directed at Hyundai and Kia was the spark that brought forth this opinion.

As a delinquent teenager in a single parent home in the ’60s, I pretty well did what I wanted to do without fear of consequences. My mother did the best she could do to get me to toe the line.

At school, a different story. At Boaz High School, our Principal Mr. Hayes was a disciplinarian who had quite the reputation of “lighting” you up with his paddle. Amazingly, he never had to paddle me.

Fear. The thought of stealing a car never entered my mind even though people left keys in the ignition back then. My fear was I’d go directly to jail. You see I’d watched the movie
“Cool Hand Luke.” In the movie, he was convicted of a far less offense than stealing a car and I knew I wanted no part of a chain gang.

Fear coupled with consequences.

Quick story: Back a few years ago when corporal punishment was still administered in our city school system I picked my son up at the elementary school and he began telling me how he had been accused of an offense of which he was innocent. It was on a Friday and the principal told him that the paddling would come on Monday. He wanted my son to contemplate the coming punishment.

I listened intently as he explained that a phone call to the principal would get him a much needed reprieve. I explained to him that he needed to take the licks – that sometimes life is just not fair.

Monday came and went and amazingly he lived through it. I could have easily been a lawn mower parent and cleared the path for him. But I wanted him to have to deal with this obstacle and the consequences that came with it. Was he guilty? I don’t know and I didn’t care. It was a paddling, not a life sentence! The seeds of a respect for authority were planted and watered that day through a simple piece of hardwood.

The speeding tickets and boating violations that were to follow were handled in the same manner.

Mind you now, on the ones I knew about, I made him go to court to sit there and listen for his name on the docket so that he would have some “bench time” with the judge.

Fear married to consequences will germinate into that trait that is oh so necessary for youth in a civil society – respect for authority, and that respect will eventually manifest as reverence – which is but the highest degree of respect.

Punishment should begin in the home, be administered in school, and be carried out in our legal system.

Our local judges lament sentencing guidelines that handcuff them in doling out the punishment commensurate to the crimes. Moreover, parole and ‘mandatory release’ undercut the deterring effect prison can have. Our lawmakers should take note.

I know of many business owners that have lost hundreds of thousands of dollars through embezzlement and the offender gets no jail time. What’s fair about that? Will they re-offend? Who knows, but it sends a clear message to the next offender – whether embezzler, burglar, or car thief – it’s worth the risk because chain gangs are a relic of the past.

Paul Claborn is the owner of WholeSaleCars.com based in Albertville, Alabama. 

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