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No Wonder They Scream

August 24, 2003

As the students’ summer waned, I heard talk of the usual trouble around downtown — from a surprising variety of annoyed people.

Perhaps with the advent of school days, the problem will diminish, although it seems that much of the problem involves young people no longer beholden to a school calendar.

I don’t think there’s any question but that there is a “problem.” If I lived in the neighborhood, I would consider the trash, rude noise, displays of irrational (and illegal) behavior with motor vehicles, etc., to constitute a problem.

If I came home at nine expecting peace but heard instead the full-voice shouting of a single four-letter expletive, over and over — I would consider this a problem.

And if I found at eleven that the same voices were still sullying the night with the same meaningless utterance — I would consider this a problem.

The limited skill with vocalization is alarming enough. Chimps say more.

I thought of all the parties involved: suffering neighbors, oblivious parents, the baffled youths themselves. Often enough, they’re all innocent. I don’t mean in a legal or ethical sense, as if no one is accountable, but in the sense of finding themselves burdened by the inexplicable manifestations of rampant biological nature.

We might consider what Katharine Hepburn said to Humphrey Bogart in “The African Queen”: “Nature, Mr. Allnut, is what we are put in this world to rise above.”

Or not. Either way, we’re here. How shall we live?

For the Screaming Youth of F Street, adolescence is hard enough without having to go it alone, with no parental help, no emotional or intellectual resources of their own, and no one but those in the same boat to associate with. How else to interprete them?

Happily, most young people in town are not in this boat. But perhaps you must deal with one, or you want to try to understand one, or help him or her. Here are some helpful points of view.

An interesting analysis of the range of human response to the trials of adolescence is “Talented teenagers: the roots of success and failure.” It reports on years of research into why some young people cultivate their talents while others never develop theirs.

I haven’t finished it yet, because I’m reading another book by the same author called “Finding flow: the psychology of engagement with everyday life.” It’s a book in the Science Masters Series, of which the library has nine. A few others in the series might even help this discussion, such as “How brains think” or “Why is sex fun?”

If you want to understand, or just remember, the teen years, the library has a three-video set called “Teen species.” Good title.

There are gender-specific books: “Reviving Ophelia: saving the selves of adolescent girls” and “Raising Cain: protecting the emotional life of boys.” And non-specific: “Restoring the teenage soul.”

Some are intended to guide as well as to explain, such as “Teen-proofing: a revolutionary approach to fostering responsible decision making in your teenager” and “Helping your depressed teenager.”

Some books are intended for teen readers, such as “Teen esteem: a self-direction manual for young adults” and “How to get a job if you’re a teenager” and “Chicken soup for the teenage soul (I, II, and III).”

Or “Life happens : a teenager’s guide to friends, failure, sexuality, love, rejection, addiction, peer pressure, families, loss, depression, change, and other challenges of living.”

Yikes. No wonder they scream.


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One Comment
  1. Vicky permalink

    Dear Jeff:

    In 1970s, when I saw a picture from the newspaper one day about the Punk tribe of the United of Kingdom, I almost laughed out of my head.

    Where were the most of college female in 1970s? If you asked anyone of college female in my generation of who is your favor star of Hollywood movie, half of them would say “James Dean”, whoes cool look and rebel attitude catching female heart.

    Where was I in 1970s??? If you knew a place called “Hong Jang-Chung music library” in Taipei, you would find me hinding there very often in 1970s; I loitered there in my youth, …

    Here I would like to share two haiku of mine with everybody —


    Outstanding hairdo
    Rebel against tradition
    The PUNK tribe I am


    In a rainy day
    Jazzing up soggy spirits
    Hey! you panacea


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