Wednesday, May 11, 2005

This Will Anger A Lot Of People

Actually, this won't anger a lot of people, since not a lot of people read my blog. But you catch my drift.

The world, it seems, is captivated with the sad story of Laura Hobbs and Krystal Tobias, two girls who were murdered in Zion, Illinois on Mother's Day. I am not. I had heard vaguely about the case, but I don't think it stuck in my mind. Danielle seemed incredulous that I hadn't heard much about it. (For those of you out of the loop like me, Hobbs and Tobias were stabbed to death on Mother's Day. Hobbs' father was arrested for the murders. From what the Post said, the evidence seemed weaker than a virgin daiquiri, but I'm sure the media will waste no time convicting him.)

You say it's horrible. You'll get no argument from me. But why, might I ask, is the story of Demarcus Williams not getting national attention as well?

You probably don't know who Demarcus Williams is unless you're a fanatical Post reader. He was a four-year-old kid who made the grave mistake of annoying his daddy while he was watching television. So his daddy hit him. Then hit him again. And again. When it was over, Demarcus was dead, and his daddy - after confessing - was in jail. What's more, Demarcus was only one of seven people to be murdered in Prince George's County, MD this past weekend.

A Google search on Laura Hobbs turned up stories from Denver, Chicago, Washington - everywhere. A similar search on Demarcus Williams turned up old stories about basketball players.

So why the focus on Laura Hobbs/Krystal Tobias and not on Demarcus Williams? The conspiracy theorist in me wants to say that it's because Hobbs and Tobias lived in the posh Chicago suburbs and Demarcus Williams lived in the working-class environs of D.C. Maybe it's because the Hobbs case has more mystery around it. There are any number of reasons why the national press would latch onto one and not the other. But the truth is that these kids all deserve national attention. Every murdered child does, and I think we all understand that. And that's the problem.

Here's my theory as to why only Hobbs and Tobias are getting national attention. To treat the Laura Hobbs case with such national fanfare is to say that her case is somehow exceptional. Thus, we delude ourselves into thinking that violence against children is rare by making a big deal out of only the occasional case. In creating this delusion, we create along with it a complacency that allows us to maintain our faith in mankind.

Think about it. How would you feel if, every time you opened the paper, you discovered that another child had been murdered, that yet another smiling, happy, innocent face had been ripped unfairly from this world? In the back of our minds, we know it happens, but we simply don't want to believe that children other than Laura Hobbs and Krystal Tobias are the victims of brutal acts. By pouring our hearts out for just these girls, we avoid the draining, gut-wrenching process of having to do it for every murdered child.

But I refuse to buy into it. I won't follow the Hobbs and Tobias case because I know the truth - things like this happen every day. And as torturing as it may be, I'll let my heart bleed for every child that dies, whether by the hand of their father or by a misplaced bomb. Because this illusion we create has a darker side - it causes us to give short shrift to the sociological trends that cause people to murder children. It ignores the flaws that run deep in our society that allow such sick, disgusting acts to occur.

Our society is one that looks upon the creation of life with shame, but upon the taking of life with pride. We are consumed with our wants, and we allow ourselves to get angry when we don't get exactly what we want. We value the actions - and therefore the lives - of the rich and powerful over those of everyday people. We think of what's best for us before we think of what's best for those around us. All these things, I think, contribute to people's willingness to kill children. I may be wrong. But how will we know if we don't confront the problem?

And if we continue to convince ourselves that the murder of children is a rare, freak occurrence, what impetus will there be for change? What will cause us to do the soul-searching we so desperately need? Complacency is the friend of the status quo. Violence against children is not something that we can ignore and hope it goes away. We must confront the demons in our society, and confronting the truth - that children die violent deaths in appalling numbers every year - is the first step. We must do it for Laura, for Krystal, for Demarcus, for all the children who have ever died violently. And if not now, when?


Ben said...

I think you were right the first's getting attention because they were in a posh suburb. Things like that are not supposed to happen in posh suburbs because posh suburbanites are "one of us." Whereas Demarcus is - I am guessing by the name - Black. Maybe poor, too. He is, to much of the media which caters to the White Middle Class, an "other." Perhaps they even expect it of people who are "not like us."

Also, now that Scott Peterson is convicted and Terri Schiavo is dead, the media needs to focus on some other drama to captivate the nation and distract it from any real issues.

Now, in response to your main point. Ok, children are murdered every day. And what are we supposed to do to stop it? In places like Darfur there may be a solution...send in troops to protect the victims of genocide. But how do we prevent the deaths of Laura and Demarcus? Precisely what sociological trends lead to their death? What darkness of soul caused someone to murder them? If we cannot do something about it (and maybe we can...I'm open to suggestions), who are we helping by wearing our hearts on our sleaves and denouncing the callousness of others?

Jeff said...

We are undeniably the most violent of any Western society. My point is that we as a society must face up to that. And we avoid having to do that by holding up one case and pretending like it's an aberration, that we're not really that violent.

"Perhaps they even expect it of people who are 'not like us.'" - That's probably a good part of the problem. People expect violence, so they give up trying to stop it. If we treat each case as a tragedy, it creates in people the will to stop violence.

Violence, of course, doesn't exist in a vacuum. I listed a bunch of things I thought contributed to our violent culture in my main post. Reversing these things in our minds - a difficult task to be sure - is key to doing something about it. One of those contributing factors, of course, is callousness...

Danielle said...

Posh suburban Chicago? Wha?? From what I saw on tv, posh suburban must equal lower middle class/working class. The father was a recently released ex-con. All the people interviewed seemed like regular working class folk, people who didn't go to college and such. I guess you may not have realized that I had heard about that young boy. My expression of dismay is genuine. I was a child abuse victim afterall. The nature of their house did not make ME sit up and take note. Shame on you, Jeff.