- The Washington Times - Thursday, March 10, 2005

“Do violent video games make people violent?” my youngest daughter, Andrea, asked the other night. “No,” her dad and I said simultaneously. “Unless,” I added, “there are no militating circumstances. And it’s up to the parents to be the enforcers.” The same can be asked and said of rap music. My question to you adults is: Are you paying attention?

We knowingly open impressionable minds to such influences by indulging them with MP3 players, CD players, XBox and the like. Low-income, low-tech families tune out the realities of the constant one-note messages and sexual innuendo in rap music and videos. Then we turn around and ask Philip why he abuses little sister Elizabeth.

We turn off our moral compass and let the V-chip do its thing.

The Rev. Al Sharpton (gulp) appears to be rising to the challenging occasion of being a soldier in the culture war, proposing earlier this week that radio stations voluntarily participate in a moratorium on rap music. “There’s a difference,” thereverend said, “in having the right to express yourself and in engaging in violence and using violence to hype record sales, and then polluting young Americans that this is the key to success, by gunslinging and shooting.”

What seemingly brought Big Al around was a recent New York shooting that is reportedly linked to the notoriously big rapper called 50 cent. (Note: Young people and DJs call 50 cent “50.” But I’m obligated to lift “50” to a more honorable level and call him by his given name, which my daughter said is Curtis Jackson.) Mr. Jackson reportedly is feuding with his former protege, The Game, and “dissed” The Game.

Understand, Mr. Jackson has a new album, “Massacre,” that is set to debut next week at No. 1. “Massacre” follows his 2003 debut album, “Get Rich or Die Tryin’.” The titles in and of themselves speak volumes, and the fact that “Massacre” is poised to come out of the box at No. 1 speaks even louder to Al Sharpton’s motivation. Or does it?

I have nothing against rappers or rap music per se. But when I learn in one week that the federal government is probing criminal enterprises in the rap industry and Al Sharpton says stop the violence, then I say it’s time to pay attention to reaffirm the occasional messages we send our children. As Al Sharpton said, “The whole body politic of America addressed Janet Jackson’s breast … Here you have actual bloodshed and people are not responding at federally regulated radio stations … black kids are expected to shoot each other, and nobody cares? Well I care, and I think somebody should do something about it.”

The preacher in Al Sharpton brought it home to Sister Sadie: “Let me be clear. I am in no way saying we should ban music based on lyrics.” God bless the reverend for that. But Al being Al said a lot of other things, too, including going too far by saying, “Let’s hit the record companies.” He also said since “we” buy the records it is “we” who should wake up and take action.

That “we” should be “we the parents.”

Do we know what our children are listening to? Do we know what videos they are watching and what games they are playing? Do we know whether they are indulging in sexual chatter online?

Do we know that one of the latest trends for young people is removable fake bulletholes that can be plastered on cars to make them appear as though the driver and the vehicle are “survivors”?

Wake up people.

With our eyes wide shut, we are shirking our responsibility. It wasn’t OK to let Big Bird and Mr. Rogers raise an entire generation. And it’s not OK to let video games such as Max Payne, Star Fox and Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon raise the next. There’s a balance to be struck, and we simply are not holding up our end of the bargain by trying to strike it.

I have nothing against rappers or rap music in and of themselves. My beef, so to speak, is with parents not parenting.

A forewarning: Al Sharpton — right and wrong — is headed to Washington to speak his mind with the people who make the rules. Then, mark my words, the people who make the rules are going to pacify him and play Big Brother. Before you know it, parentswill cede more ground in the culture war,as the arbiters of what’s right,what’s wrong and what’s appropriate. That’s what happens when “we the parents” walk around with our eyes wide shut. How do you think the V Chip came into being? Or are you one of those parents who isclueless about the V Chip?

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