What they did defies understanding. Maybe it just defies MY understanding. For three days they tortured a young 17 year old man with autism. The list of what they did is astonishing in its length, in its cruelty, and (it must be said) in its creativity. Here's a brief survey of what a teen boy with autism suffered at the hands of his tormentors.
they kicked him
they stomped on his head
they beat him with a tennis racket
they threw him down a steep embankment
they pelted him with dog shit
they used sandpaper to scrape the skin off his arms and legs
they punched him repeatedly in the chest
they covered his genitals with adhesive tape and ripped it off
they filmed their abuse on cell phones
they laughed and joked while they tortured a young man who begged to be let alone
Then there's the judge. One Jonathan Geake. I refuse to call him 'his honour' for reasons that will become immediately apparent. The judge sentenced these toughs, these youth, to three months with a curfew and 80 hours of community service. They walked free. The young man with autism fled in terror and now lives in another part of the country coping as best he can with the hideous after effects of his torture.
The newspaper reports were astonished at the sentence. I wasn't. Crimes against people with disabilities aren't taken seriously. People with disabilities aren't taken seriously. While somewhere I read that they boys felt 'remorse', I also read that they did this because they were bored.
'Hey guys, I'm feeling a bit bored, how about we beat and torture a guy with autism for a bit of sport?'
At first I made a list of what they could do next time they were bored:
1) go searching their characters for 'kindness', I figured that should take them, um a lifetime
2) fry some bacon and then close their eyes and imagine their souls frying in hell, that's good for maybe twenty minutes
3) play 'punch buggy' with each other's heads in a VW dealership, I'd pay to watch that
Then I thought, I'm just trying to verbal beat these guys up because they physically beat up their victim. Of what useful purpose does this serve? They will never read this blog, but if they did, I'd want them to go away with some ideas that would serve them well. What matters it to them that I'm really, really angry about what they did? So then I thought that maybe they could ...
1) use this moment for some sober second thought: is this really the path you want to be following? is this really the person you want to become? is this really the life you want to examine when you lay on your deathbed? Change is possible. Begin change.
2) refuse to play victim: you are all becoming men. Be men. Be ready and capable of taking responsibility for your actions. Don't spend time looking for excuses and then reclassifying them into 'reasons'. One of the meanest men I know says that he was abused as a kid, this seems to give him a free pass to be a horrid, horrid person. Life may have dealt you a tough hand, I don't know, but you play that hand. Your decisions are yours and yours alone.
3) notice kindness: see what kindness does to faces. See the effect that taking a moment to be patient or thoughtful has on both the giver and the receiver. See the change that kindness brings. Be brave enough to be compassionate.
4) dare to be different: open yourself up to risk of ridicule. If someone can endure three days of torture, certainly you can endure the stares of incredulity that will come your way when you decide to walk a different path, take a different attitude. Different is cool. Cruelty is, I hate to say it, ultimately simply boring.
You will notice, Andrew and Jack and Nathan, should you ever read this, that I curbed my temper, I curbed my need to simply lash out at you. Don't for a minute think that I'm not angry, that I'm not outraged. But I am an adult. I am a man. Temper is mine to control. I dare to kindness. Even when it is undeserved. I dare to hope. Even when it is unlikely. I dare to reach out. Even when doing so terrifies me.
That, boys, is what men do.