The Commerce News
November 10, 1999
On 'The Lost
Children Of Rockdale County'
The teenagers of Rockdale County say they have had enough publicity
following Georgia Public Television's airing of "The Lost
Children of Rockdale County." The documentary exposed a
horror in which hundreds of children 12 to 18 participated in
drunken sex orgies that led, among other things, to 17 reported
cases of syphilis.
On screen for all Georgians to view were 13-20-year-olds telling
about parties that involved drunken group sex, children revealing
lifestyles in which parental absence seemed the norm.
Asking for a new "documentary" to tell about the rest
of the kids of Rockdale County is a bit like Egypt Air asking
for equal time devoted to all of its safe landings following
last week's crash off Nantucket. That isn't the way news works.
"The Lost Children of Rockdale County" tells an amazing
and sick story. It should be required watching for every parent,
because it vividly shows what can happen when parents spend more
of their energy trying to attain the "good life" of
material possessions than in taking care of their children. Given
the demographics of Rockdale County, it is likely that the parents
of the "lost" children are family values, conservative
Republicans whose own morals, when it comes to sexuality, are
of mainstream America. But they were asleep at the helm in their
It was only after the documentary aired that parents and other
young people wanted to be heard. Public health officials had
earlier tried to call attention to what was going on, but only
50 parents attended a public meeting, and most of them could
not understand that the absence of good parenting was the root
of the trouble. Most of them seemed oblivious to what was going
It is hard in this community to imagine that a 15-year-old could
throw a party for 30 to 40 friends at which so much alcohol was
served that all participants were roaring drunk; that an incredibly
wild party could take place in the middle of a subdivision and
no adult be aware of it. It is hard to imagine that parents could
be unaware that their children were regular smokers, hard to
imagine that children could repeatedly come home drunk and their
parents not ever notice. It is hard to imagine that one child
or more did not get cited for DUI, tipping at least one set of
parents off that something was amiss.
It is to be hoped that citizens of Rockdale County are embarrassed
and even angry, but their anger should be directed at their community
and themselves. Those whose children were part of the scandal
should be especially humiliated; the others should learn from
the documentary that children are at risk when Mom and Dad abdicate
responsibility. Providing a child with designer clothing, a sleek
new car, cellular phones and unlimited money does not fulfill
the requirements of parenting. Attention, supervision, communication
and companionship are all part of what it means to love a child.
And all are more important than providing a child with every
material item the child fancies.
The real horror of the Rockdale County story is that there are
absentee parents all across America. Few of their children will
likely end up in the wild debauchery that occurred in Rockdale
County, but any time children are left unsupervised day after
day, week after week, the potential is great for disaster.
"The Lost Children of Rockdale County" should be required
watching for parents. It is a wake-up call to all parents, but
especially to those in Rockdale County. Maybe GPTV should come
back for a follow-up in about three years to see what parents
have done to make sure the problem does not continue. And if
the glare of statewide publicity seems too bright for the residents
of Rockdale County, they would be wise to put the blame on those
people whose actions caused the publicity. They don't have to
The Commerce News
November 10, 1999
A poll released recently found that 27
percent of Americans think winning the lottery is their best
chance at obtaining wealth for their retirement years. I am not
Indeed, winning the lottery is my best chance of obtaining wealth
as well. Fortunately, I am not counting on being wealthy.
Don't get me wrong, I'm as materialistic as the next guy. I'd
love to have the money to buy a new truck whenever I wanted,
to finance fishing vacations to exotic locals and to acquire
an estate in the country.
I'd like all those things, but I don't desire them enough to
work as hard as it would take to acquire them or to buy them
at the expense of our savings.
The U.S. Census Bureau says that the median savings of American
families was just $1,000, and that includes stocks, bonds, etc.
That means half American families have more and half less. Only
47 percent of those surveyed said saving and investing are the
most reliable means of attaining wealth.
Most Americans really don't covet wealth; they want the trappings
of wealth, the nice homes, the ability to travel, gadgets and
gizmos, name brand clothing, SUVs for everyone in the family.
To acquire them, a lot of people are in debt up to their ears.
The average balance on a MasterCard is supposedly over $2,000.
That means, not only are Americans not saving, but they're also
incurring debt. In just the last 10 years, look what has become
"necessary" to live in America: Internet service, $20
per month; dedicated phone line for the computer, $20; cable
TV, $25; cell phone, $20. Suddenly, the cost of living is up
by $85 per month, just for communication and entertainment.
Having things is more popular than saving to buy them later or
saving for retirement. Society pushes us to possess; it pressures
us to be in style and cool. Most people can't meet that demand
and put aside savings too. As one who would rather have a few
dollars in the bank than that new boat, I may be in the minority.
Jackson County residents over age 18 spent an average of $304
each on lottery tickets in 1988. None of them won $500,000. I
don't know what percentage of county residents play the lottery
regularly, but if it is half, then those people are spending
more than $600 a year on average in pursuit of prizes against
People spending that kind of money to play the lottery clearly
are not good stewards of their money. For most of them, winning
the lottery probably is their best chance at acquiring a half
million bucks, since they're prone to bad financial decisions.
Given that their chance of winning the lottery is one in 10 million,
a lot of people will have nothing in the bank when they can no
There are countless opportunities to put money aside for the
future, but for many, having things now is more important. The
lottery gives them the ability to fantasize about gaining sudden
wealth, but fantasy won't pay the phone bill or buy groceries.
Winning the lottery would be fine, but I'm not the sort to spend
money on odds that long. And since I'm not willing to make the
effort to acquire real wealth, I'll have to learn to be content
with what I have.