Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Curbing Anger: Daring Difference

Jack Bolton

Andrew Griffin

Nathan Marshall

Walk free.

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.


Anonymous said...

I had a quick glance over the "rap sheet" and stopped glancing before I felt really ill. This is horrendous.

"Life may have dealt you a tough hand, I don't know, but you play that hand. Your decisions are yours and yours alone."


Lori said...

As usual Dave you are able to show restraint and still send a powerful message.

I will never understand what drives people to be so cruel. There is not strong enough language to express what I think of these bullies.

Joyfulgirl said...

3 days. How horrific. What can be inside someone to be able to do that-and to keep doing it-for 3 days.

Nathan Dawthorne said...

and on this spirit day don't forget the queer youth who have committed suicide of the years and wear purple to let them know we DO care about their lives

Megan said...

James Thurber said "Let us not look backward in anger, or forward in fear, but around in awareness." Hopefully, though tragic, horrible incidents like this one will help to bring awareness to the rights of those with disabilities and help to bring about justice for these hate crimes.

Liz Miller said...





What? What? How? I just can't.

Brenda said...

I'm aghast, and more than a little heartbroken that these 'men' were shown such mercy by the judge. If, by the age of 18, they have not yet learned compassion from parents/schooling/society, what hope do they have of learning it now? The impotent sentence they received will do no more than reinforce the idea that the torture of an innocent is really no big deal. They will almost certainly re-offend, and the next time it will be worse. Shame on them, and shame on the judge. He's no better than they are.

Anonymous said...

This reminds me of a case here in Pittsburgh, PA.. I will leave the link instead of going into the details.

This world we live in is scary when someone will take a human life and do such things too a person.

Dave, I love reading your blog.

Colleen said...

Dear Dave:

Unbelievable! They did these horrific things to this young man because they were "bored"?!?!?! And then they got such a light sentence. This happened in England - I wonder if they had tortured a cat or a dog for 3 days if they would have got off so lightly?


Kristin said...

That is absolutely horrific. My heart is breaking for their victim.

Princeton Posse said...

I cannot express how disheartened this post makes me feel. There is no possible explanation that will help me understand what those "men/boys" were thinking.

Optional Mini Bus Charter said...

I cannot comprehend how someone could be so heartless to someone so helpless.

AkMom said...

I have no words.

theknapper said...

I'm hoping these young men find their way to your blog and are able to really hear your message....both the anger and what their responsibilities are and what they and we can do differently. Thank you.