A bit of a follow-up on my post on the deaths of young people in Chicago based on a comment from a friend. I think it’s important to understand where I’m coming from.
From my point of view (with exceptions, I’m sure), those young people who were killed are children. Even the 25 year-olds. Turning 18 does not magically make you an adult. Turning 21 does not magically make you an adult. Expecting someone to behave like an adult just because they have a magical birthday is magical thinking.
Yes, the law says that you are an adult when you turn 18. The law is fucked up, though. We pick an arbitrary age for adulthood because it’s easy. It fits snugly within our paradigm of personal responsibility while allowing us to smugly shrug off the experiences of the children who commit crimes.
That isn’t to say that using a certain age as a guideline is a bad thing. It is perfectly reasonable to assume that a person should be an adult by the time they turn 21. Where we fail is in our steadfast adherence to everyone being an adult at age 21 no matter what. Demanding a 21 year-old who had no support system growing up to behave like a functional member of society is like me demanding that my grandmother be able to pick up an iPad and use it flawlessly. I see 3 year-olds using them as if they were second nature so surely a 90 year-old should too.
What we call “adulthood” is just learned behavior. We were just lucky to have the correct combination of parents, friends, and neighbors to attain “adulthood” at the socially acceptable age. When we demand that others who didn’t have that combination behave like us or suffer life altering consequences, we behave like children.