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          Front Page




BioPark Vandalism Raises 'Respect' Issue

By Jim Belshaw
Of the Journal
    BIOPARK VANDALISM: Posing questions for which I don't have answers hasn't been working out well this week. Lots of mail about the deficiencies of the media, particularly as how those deficiencies are glaring in my case.
    But I see no reason to back off the trend. (When you're on a roll and all, you know?) So I'll finish the week the way I began it, more questions than answers.
    The questions pertain to the BioPark, one of Albuquerque's fine municipal attractions.
    Though I've written not a word about the regrettable recent events at the BioPark, I'm getting angry e-mail and phone messages from readers disgusted with the acts of vandalism that damaged fish tanks at the aquarium.
    When readers are upset enough to be using the kind of language that would make Dick Cheney blush, and I've not written a word about what upsets them, it's probably safe to say the BioPark aquarium assault hit a nerve.
    As you probably know, a few middle school students out on a field trip (or whatever it's called now) did considerable and permanent damage to the large fish tanks at the BioPark's fine aquarium.
    The BioPark banned the school for two years, then the mayor shortened the sentence.
    The mayor was justifiably mad. When I saw him interviewed on TV, I thought, "I'm with you, Marty." I say we sentence the little cretins to two weeks of watching Alberto Gonzales confessional videotapes.
    A few days after the vandalism, a reader wrote with a question, one of those cosmic questions for which there are no easy answers.
    I certainly don't have an answer for the question she poses, but I'm sure someone else will.
    "When I was a kid, I remember going on field trips to aquariums and covertly tapping on the glass hoping the fish would come over and look, even though I knew I shouldn't," Candace Mathews writes. "(I imagined) wild scenarios about what would happen if the glass broke, (but) this was the limit for me. This defacement at the BioPark is a matter of a lack of respect— for oneself, for others ... I can't rail against Imus on this one, but I sure wish I knew who to talk to."
    The idea of public spaces has been in something of a decline for a long time. Movie theaters are the most prominent victims.
    For a lot of people, the movie theater and their living rooms are interchangeable; and if there's a nuisance of any kind, it's those other people in the movie theater, the ones who used to consider it a public space.
    We stick little nubs of earphones in our ears and turn all public spaces into private ones, where respect for the space and the people in it comes as a second thought, if a thought occurs at all.
    So it's not news that respect for public spaces is kind of passé. But Candace asks a more important question: "This defacement of the BioPark is a matter of a lack of respect, for oneself," she says.
    That sounds right to me. It sounds like she's onto something important.
    She then wonders whom she might talk to about it, an expert perhaps to explain why a kid has no respect for himself.
    So feel free to have at it. The floor is open for answers as to why a kid would have no respect for himself.
    Write to Jim Belshaw at The Albuquerque Journal, P.O. Drawer J, Albuquerque, NM 87103; telephone— 823-3930; e-mail— jbelshaw@abqjournal.com.


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