Profiles in cowardice
President Barack Obama proved once again that he is a good speechmaker. His farewell address was moving and touching at moments.
Having said that, he also proved himself a poor speech content manager.
On Tuesday night, the nation was still reeling from a sickening Facebook Live feed of a teenager bound, beaten and tortured by four other young adults who were charged last Thursday, and a deadly shooting rampage at Fort Lauderdale International Airport on Saturday.
A cornerstone of Donald Trump’s campaign was a pledge to make American inner cities and streets safer, which resonated with voters and victims in areas previously taken for granted by Democrats. Chicago just posted the highest murder rate in two decades, and set a record for shootings in 2016. Another 28 people were shot on New Year’s Day.
And yet in a final speech of more than 4,200 words, the word “crime” is conspicuously absent. The omission is a punctuation point to the president’s and his party’s deaf ear about an issue that affects millions of victims.
The common thread linking the Fort Lauderdale shooting and the Chicago torture crimes is despicable cowardice.
The two males in Chicago posed for their mug shots with chin-up defiance. Real tough guys, using a tied-up kid for a punching bag. And the Fort Lauderdale shooting suspect allegedly knocked his girlfriend around prior to engaging in a gunfight with unarmed elderly travelers.
Both incidents were also partially captured on video. They are disturbing to watch.
To see a terrified human being bound and gagged is innately revolting. But the girl filming it was constantly laughing, as were her codeviant cohorts. And when they weren’t guffawing in whoops and hollers they were dropping f-bombs and other foul-mouthed and maimed-grammar expressions like stereotypical caricatures.
These are precisely the kind of “knuckleheads” Bill Cosby was talking about in his speech commemorating the 50th anniversary of Brown v. Board
of Education: “They can’t speak English. I can’t even talk the way these people talk.”
Collectively, assuming all four stayed in school, they represent an investment by Chicago public education of nearly $750,000. And they can’t string a subject and verb together without adding f-words.
If it wasn’t nauseating to remember, when the girl turns the camera back to herself, that there’s a scared and brutalized victim cowering in the corner just a few feet away, the soundtrack would be comical. No comedian, not even Cosby, could parody the reality of their butchery of the language with more hilarity.
But nothing about the episode is funny. It’s horrific, not only because we got an unvarnished glimpse of barbarous teenage torture in an era of unparalleled civilized sophistication, but also because this glimpse is but the tip of the iceberg.
The thugs reportedly held their victim captive for two or three days; only about an hour and a half got recorded on video. It’s harrowing to imagine the other untold and unseen horrors.
Presumably, these voters on the video are among those who stayed home instead of turning out for Hillary Clinton. It’s almost as stomach-turning to imagine their truly deplorable vote counting the same as responsible adults’, and to contemplate that the future of the republic is in an)y way connected with their wildly remiss moral, social and political compasses.
“F*** Donald Trump” they shouted, in between physical slaps and verbal berating of their hostage (their ransom demands reflected their ambitions: a whopping $300).
This rare, uncensored peek into poor inner-city teenage lifestyle should be a wake-up call on several fronts, not the least of which is its disconnect from all semblances of normal decency.
The cursing, the vulgarity, the illiterate language, the idleness, the callousness, the lawlessness (even if nonviolent)—much of what is seen on the video is everyday routine for far too many young adults in urban decay areas.
On the streets, what happened to their kidnap victim wouldn’t be considered all that serious. He survived, with no gunshot wounds, no broken bones. In a lot of high crime-ridden neighborhoods, worse fates befall teenagers all the time.
Down south across the continent, the suspected airport shooter left a litany of red flags before finally graduating into cold-blooded mass murder.
Reported domestic-violence incidents, child pornography investigations, restraining-order violations, illegal weapons, complaints to the FBI of mind-control about joining ISIS. It’s hard to concoct a clearer combination of factors all pointing in a dangerous direction, and yet our labyrinth of laws somehow contain loopholes large enough for homicidal maniacs to slip through.
Pundits complain that we have too many people in prison, but that’s a misplaced analysis. We have too many violent criminals still running free. All prisons can do is separate harmful criminals from society, which is enough.
But prisons won’t fix anything. That will take major changes in attitudes about parenting and schooling in areas where money is scarce and social maladies are rampant. Maybe a new president can help, maybe not. But at least he’s willing to talk about it as an important priority.