It has been less than three years ago that a video surfaced of four Chicago young adults aged 18 to 24 beating a mentally disabled teenager. The group tied up their victim, cut his hair and tortured him for hours while showing some of the crime live for about 30 minutes via social media for anyone to see. Remember, America was outraged?
The two females and two males were charged with kidnapping and assault and with committing a hate crime because the victim was disabled and his race was a contributing factor in the beating. All four were found guilty and given sentences ranging from probation to three to eight years in prison. Apparently, their sentences did not serve as a deterrent for others.
That was in 2017. Two years later, a similar attack occurred, again in Chicago, again the victim was a special needs person, and again the cowards were a group of four. This attack also was recorded and published on Facebook. However, this time, the criminals were even younger. This violent group of teen girls was 13 to 15 years old. They, too, could be seen punching a defenseless 15-year-old girl. While the girl was being victimized, encouragement and laughter could be heard from others off camera.
It remains to be seen what appropriate punishment will be deemed sufficient to fit this crime. Certainly, the ages of the teens will play a part. But, should it? This was a serious crime. This was not a kids-will-be-kids kind of conduct. That defense should not be permitted in this case and in so many others we hear about.
Breaking windows out of boredom, throwing tomatoes at cars, toilet-papering houses are understandable kids hijinks. Cowardly mob action including beating a single victim — especially one with special needs — is not what kids do.
At what point do we conclude the intent and seriousness of the crime should render the age of the perpetrators irrelevant? Some kids are capable of committing adult crimes. But time and time again, we see very violent youth given leniency merely because of their age. Much consideration often is given to the potential rehabilitation of the criminal without enough regard to the long-term, life-changing trauma to be endured by the victim.
While advocacy for juvenile reform is a societal necessity, there is an old truth some seeds will fall on bad soil and will not grow no matter how much water and sunlight it receives. Some seeds cannot be replanted.
The brashness displayed in both these incidents made them more newsworthy than others. What about the countless similar acts that are not recorded? How much senseless violence is society expected to tolerate? Have we reached a point in which youth violence is an acceptable norm we have to prepare for similar to natural disasters?
Mob violence, especially when the victims are less able to defend themselves, never should be a tolerable offense. There should be no second opportunity to offend. Once humans succumb to an animalistic instinct to intentionally inflict harm upon another, they should be treated as such.
We treat animals that have been removed from their natural environment with more expediency and severity when they, well, act like an animal when it results in harm to a human. Captured tigers and elephants and whales that are used for our entertainment have been put down for the deaths of, or harm to, humans. Holding animals to a higher standard than we do our own species never has made sense.
There is a special place in hell for cowards who prey upon disabled victims. Until, then, we should provide them with a special hell on earth.