When I saw what happened last weekend at Doc Knapp Field in Oneonta I could hardly believe it. Spray-painting graffiti on walls is nothing new. Heck, in New York City it is considered an art form. But in Oneonta? At a Little League field? Graphic sexual imagery? Nazi swastikas? I was stunned.
When did the evolution of vandalism morph from pranks to crimes? I don’t know, but it has. Soaping somebody’s windows? Sophomoric. Letting the air out of somebody’s tires? Childish. Ringing doorbells in the dark of night and then running away? Don’t even go there.
We know that the three alleged vandals arrested in the 6th Ward spree are under 16. I think two are 13 and one is 12. What is the thought process that goes into a 12-year-old’s mind that says it might be fun to strike a match and burn a structure down? When does a 13- or 14-year-old think it will be cool to draw cartoonish depictions of genitalia on the side of a baseball field wall? When is it ever fun to paint a swastika on anything?
I mentioned to a teenager that I thought what happened at Doc Knapp Field was unspeakable. The teen responded, “Well, you know that the swastika is a peace sign, after all.” I was incredulous.
I looked the 16-year-old in the eye and said, “Tell that to Elie Wiesel.” The teen looked back at me and said, “Who is she?”
Almost everybody in my generation did some act of vandalism when they were young, although I cannot speak for the ladies. We did it, we got a thrill out of it, it was stupid and we wish we could take it back. Why did we do it? Nobody knows. Rebellion? Boredom? Sowing wild oats? Probably all of that. Blame it on the constrictions of rural, small-town life? No, I suspect it happens with young people in big cities also. It just does. The best we hoped to get out of it was not getting caught in the act and nobody getting hurt.