1) The content in this post is meant for adult audiences. It contains material that is graphic (unfortunately) and violent in description.
2) This might be a little bit on the long side, and my apologies for that. But this is not something that can quickly be covered in a blog post. But I will do my best.
3) This post will probably raise more questions than answers.
I’ve been sitting on this post for some time. I started to write it, and then just saved a little bit as a draft. It felt like it was going to be an important one, and as this is a very serious topic, I’d thought I would make sure and give it proper consideration.
Awhile back I ran across this article. Please read it before reading any further here. I’m not sure how much media coverage this has gotten. I don’t have TV (I do Netflix or watch on the internet or listen to NPR) and I tend to be out of the loop on things, but I don’t recall hearing much about this story in the major media outlets after it first broke.
At first, I was saddened by this. I was emotionally overrun. I’m not sure if it’s my practice that led me to feel this way, or maybe it’s just the brutality that I hadn’t imagined possible in our backyards. I haven’t felt emotions like this from a news story since little Kayla Rolland was killed. I didn’t break down and cry, but it was the first time in a long time since I felt so much empathy from a news story. I couldn’t and didn’t want to read any more or hear about it. It was too brutal. Too savage. This is not a reality we as Americans are accustomed to dealing with. This is something that happens in Darfur or Burma. But savage brutality is not limited by geographic or political boundaries. It is not something that is intrinsic in any singular race, age group or religion. The reality is that sometimes, Darfur is in our backyard, and right outside of our schools.
After the initial sadness of this story vanished, it was replaced by anger. Pure hatred. Remember that scene in Fight Club where Ed Norton just goes to town on Jared Leto? That’s exactly what I wanted someone to do to these boys. This trash. Wastes of human existence. I wanted them to know how it felt to be in that girl’s position. To have the totality of yourself be completely dominated and then obliterated in one moment. This girl will never be the same. Any semblance of who that little girl was before that night has been nullified.
But now I’m trying to feel compassion for these individuals. Not just because that is the “Buddhist” thing to do, but because I’m starting to see that true compassion cannot exist conditionally. In order to do that, I suppose I have to first understand how/why this took place. I don’t think there is an easy explanation, but I’m going to try and at think it through here.
First, let’s take a look at the attackers. The attackers themselves were just children, all teenagers. We know how out of control a teenage boy’s hormones can get, but we also know that rape is almost never about sex. Rape is about anger, about power. I can watch a scary movie and not get too freaked out about people getting killed in it. But I cannot watch a rape scene. This is still something that is fairly taboo in movies today, but is steadily creeping in. I’m wondering now why it is that I have such a hard time watching sexual assault, even when I know it’s fake. I think maybe because it represents a loss of innocence. It represents the de-humanizing of another individual. Watching someone be assaulted in this manner is watching someone have all their power, their freedom, their will, their “self”, stolen by another person. It is the most brutal of torture, because it tears apart the victim’s mind. Their reality becomes forever shattered. A body is much easier to heal than a mind/psyche. I wonder what will happen to this girl?
So why the power grab? Did this just boil down to a case of pecking order, alpha male, leader of the pack macho-ism? I think it’s something more than that. I think part of it is the desire to fit in. It seems like this need and desire to belong and be accepted is growing inside our youth, multiplying itself exponentially with each passing generation. It used to be that you needed to just fit in with your peer group. Now, you have to fit in with the entire world. The information age has given birth to a new global community. We’re able to invite the whole world into our lives with a blog, a MySpace profile, Facebook, Twitter. And with that invitation, we’ve unknowingly opened ourselves up to criticism on a global sense. So instead of trying to impress just their schoolmates, kids now have to compete with children from all over the country, and all over the world. And of course there is the media. Kids are trying to fit in with Hollywood, with MTV and their teen celebrities of the week. This enormous pressure has led kids to try and leap over moving cars in the attempt to be the next YouTube star. They’re willing to risk it all for popularity.
Maybe that’s why the 20+ witnesses did nothing to help out their fellow human. They were too worried that if they would speak up, that they’d be thrown out to the fringe of their social stratosphere. Or maybe it’s the YouTube culture that has made them numb to reality. They’ve become accustomed to playing the audience in the grand play of life, rather than step up and be the actors. It’s easy to sit in the cheap seats and hurl insults or applause. But it’s so much harder to get up on stage and put yourself out there for the whole world. And when they do step out of their shells, what does our youth do? They put it on the internet. They text. They don’t take the big leaps in real life, because the risk is too great.
Back to the attackers. What made them think that this wasn’t that big of a deal?
Theory 1) the disconnect
First let me say that I love the internet. I love what it has done for communication, the flow of information, and all the pictures of stupid drunk college kids doing something embarrassing. I’ve talked about this a little before but this time is a little different.
Maybe it’s something bigger than just internet and TV. I wonder if this mentality started becoming more prevalent when our society started becoming more automated. We have less of a hands-on approach to life than we ever have before. All of our food comes pre-packaged for easy consumption. Our grapes come from Chile, our Chili comes from a can, and who the hell knows where hot dogs come from? Our clothes come from China, our news comes from a box, and our relationships come to us via MySpace. We rarely touch the things that affect us most in life; and are mostly clueless and unaware of their true nature and origins. If we’ve become this disconnected from our food, our shelter, our every day necessities, isn’t only natural that the next great disconnect would be with each other?
And once we become disconnected, why then should we assign any meaningful value to each other? Is that what happened here? Did these boys become so disconnected from humanity that they no longer viewed this girl as having any intrinsic value whatsoever? It’s obvious that these kids didn’t give two shits about their actions or think there would be any consequences, but why? This was so brutal! This goes beyond your everyday bullying or school fight or over aggressive male dominance bullshit. This even goes beyond your normal case of rape.
Theory 2) The boys are evil.
That’s not meant as a joke either. These boys might just be evil. Stripped of any kindness, compassion, empathy, or anything else of value. These boys might just be empty inside and downright evil. Maybe they’ve never known compassion in their own lives, never been touched by kindness. But is that possible? That they’ve grown up in a micro-society void of any goodness, right here in America? Some sort of empathy vacuum? Maybe it isn’t void of any charity and kindness, but rather in their world, that which we consider “good” is just the opposite. Narcissism, indifference, and cruelty are their noble virtues put up on a pedestal to be videotaped and broadcast via YouTube. Those that don’t fall in line will be ostracised, victimized, and scattered to the margins of their society. Is all of our “good” seen as weak and useless in their world? And if the media has become their primary parental figures, influencing them more than their biological parents, their religion or their neighbors; and knowing what the media does to distort the truth and sell ads, maybe it’s not that crazy?
I suppose it’s just speculation, I’ll never know for sure. Maybe this is what’s so troubling. We’ll never get to the root cause of this. It will happen again, and once more we will be left shaking our heads, wondering what went wrong. Wondering how our own youth could do this to each other. We’ll cry out for their heads on a platter, and they will be sent to jail for most of their young adult lives, and then some. And it will happen again. And again. Because as a society, we aren’t willing to look at the “bad guys” as having any value. The problem is with them, not with us, so we’ll just lock them up when they step out of line (and we know they will). All the time not realizing that there might just be a way to prevent this from happening.
How do we do that? I don’t know. Maybe we could start with compassion?
That’s all for now. Cheers.