This past weekend the largest mall in Delaware (i.e. your average shopping mall) began to enforce a curfew on Friday & Saturday evenings. “Teenagers under 18 without adult supervision are being turned away at Delaware’s largest mall as of this weekend, as officials attempt to reclaim the center for shoppers, not slackers.”
What a load of nonsense. What a steaming, smelly pile of…um…nonsense.
One thing that will consistently annoy me is the scapegoating of youth. Even in this age that is often described as detached, youth remain very good at finding enjoyment in being together. As our society turns more toward isolating ourselves in cubicles and suburbs without sidewalks, there are less and less places that such group socilization occurs organically. It’s a sobering thought to think that a shopping mall can become the best option for (according to the mall’s GM) more than 2,000 youth on any Friday or Saturday.
If there is a positive side to this, I would suggest that it shines a harsh light on the reality that shopping malls exist for one purpose: to profit from consumerism. The fact that teens aren’t welcome to socialize at the mall stems from the same reason that I have to wander down endless hallways into the bowels of any mall whenever I need to go to the bathroom. The mall places a higher priority on our ability to spend than on my physical need to use the bathroom or the need of 2,000 youth to build relationships with their peers. In an earlier article, a spokesperson for the International Council of Shopping Centers had this to say: “What has to be remembered is the mall is there for commerce; it’s not a hangout. It’s a private property, and it’s there for shopping.”
If the church is alive in Delaware, they will join with other decent and caring people in realizing that young people hanging out with friends is not a problem to be dealt with, but a good thing. They will find ways to foster that desire to build relationships and community. They will give them places to congregate safely, but also on their own terms. They will show youth the respect that they often demand for themselves. They will also wise up to the fact that the Christiana Mall has no additional regard for them beyond their ability to spend and consume. If they must consume, they’ll find somewhere else to take their money.