Children of the Corn – 2012

By now, you’ve probably seen or heard about Karen Klein, the school bus monitor, who was verbally attacked by a pack of feral teenagers.  This story reminds me of a Stephen King story about mutant kids who believe anyone over 18 should die.

Growing up, if I or anyone in my school had done something like this, we would’ve had our mouth washed out with soap sometime before or after a good beating with a belt.

Mrs. Klein, a widow, who has chosen not to prosecute these predators, is a far better person than I am.  If it were me, I would pursue every means possible to punish these misfits if for nothing else but to get them the psychological counseling they so obviously and desperately need.

You don’t need to be a mental health provider to know these kids are seriously disturbed.  My first thought was that they were soulless, but from a strictly religious point of view, I believe they have a soul.  But those souls are so depraved, so blackened, so vicious, and so lacking in any humanity, it actually may be too late to save them.  Having spent over two decades in the area of child welfare and abuse, my sense tells me to look to their parents and home life to see how they were raised to exhibit such cruelty to another human being.   As I said, these kids are in need of some serious therapy.

And Dr. Brian Russell, attorney and psychologist, agrees with me.  “… While I’m glad to see the country coming out so strongly against bullying, I think:  1) this particular woman clearly should never have been put in the bus monitor position with these particular kids, and 2) the parents of the kids involved have mental-health emergencies on their hands.  They need to get those kids to shrinks, perhaps get them to church, and most importantly, get them immersed in some intensive, value-centric structure and discipline immediately.  Kids who take pleasure in causing the kind of suffering that these students caused this woman have proverbial screws loose in their brains, and if people like them make it out of childhood with those screws still loose, it’s likely to be bad times for them, and for those with whom they come into contact, in adulthood.  If such loose screws ever tighten up post-childhood, it tends to be only after people get hit — literally and/or figuratively — very, very hard by life.”

If any of these kids were mine, I would hand him a 2-month supply of Vitamin D today because he wouldn’t see the light of day until the first day of school.  Forget about iPads, iPhones, iPods or Xbox games or television or whatever else fills these kids’ heads with violence that creates this type of depraved indifference to another human being.  He’d be writing an apology to Mrs. Klein, to the school and to the community, in general, asking for their forgiveness for his vile behavior.  (So far Mrs. Klein has refused to accept their apologies.)

If I were in charge of the school bus, I wouldn’t even allow these kids back on.  If it was inconvenient for their parents, I’d say, “Well, ain’t that too bad. Deal with it.”

If I were Empress of the World, I’d have a Wall of Shame on each and every school in the nation next to the Honor Roll.  At AthenaMiddle School, I’d make sure their photos would be at the top of the board on day one of the next school year.  In my world, these kids would be shunned and their behavior would be reflected in their school file.

If you have the stomach to actually watch the entire video, the sickening, vulgar words spewed at this 68-year old woman go way beyond any “school prank” or “they’re just being kids” rationale.  I’ll bet this same type of behavior was evident in their school which, in today’s culture, is completely impotent to deal with this conduct.  If the parents condone this language in the home, then there’s something wrong with them as well.

This malevolent behavior has always been around.  Cruelty to animals is a common behavior in children and adolescents who grow up to become the next serial killers or other violent criminals.  But here, we’re talking about cruelty to another human being.  I suggest these parents get their children to the shrink and Church as soon as possible or we’ll be reading about them in a true crime book one of these days.

I don’t get it, but if you do, God bless you.

At the Precipice

When I heard Robert Duvall speaking with Mike Huckabee last year about his film, “Get Low”, I knew it was my kind of movie.  It’s the story of a man who wants to throw his own “funeral party” while he’s alive and have people come and tell stories about him and is loosely based on a true story that took place in Roane County, Tennessee in 1938.

Sounds a bit quirky but the movie is anything but.  Mr. Duvall plays the main character, reclusive Felix Bush, who has lived the life of a hermit for the past 40 years on the outskirts of town.  He’s taunted by children who throw rocks at his windows, rumors have been spread about him and he’s feared by the town folk.  As the movie unfolds, we realize that it’s Felix who has a very dark secret, well hidden from everyone but his friend and minister, Charlie Jackson, who has to be coaxed by Felix into attending the “funeral party” to insure his story is told if he, Felix, is unable to unload the heavy burden himself.

Eventually, Felix’s secret is uncovered.  He slowly and painfully reveals to the hundreds of town folk who have assembled that, 40 years before, he fell in love with a married woman who planned to leave her husband and start a new life and family with him.  A tragedy results.  Spoiler alert: Move on to the next paragraph if you plan to watch the movie.)  When she doesn’t arrive at their pre-arranged meeting place, Felix goes to her home, confronts her husband, who sets fire to the lower floor of the house.  Felix rushes upstairs to find his love on the floor having been beaten by her husband.  The husband, who was able to make it up the stairs, attacks Felix who cannot recall if he leaped from the window or was pushed.  In either event, he is emotionally destroyed because, ultimately, he was unable to save the woman he loved.

He details his shame in having even looked at the woman, who, in his words, allowed him to feel love the only time in his life.  He admits that had he not done so, the tragedy would not have occurred.  The guilt he felt over the past 40 years was palpable and his public confession was excruciating to watch.  (Mr. Duvall’s performance was superb but overlooked at this year’s Academy Awards.)

I commend Mr. Duvall for having executively produced this film and bringing to the screen a story about old-fashioned ideas like shame, guilt, remorse, forgiveness and, finally, redemption.

As I watched the credits of “Get Low” roll, I thought about people similarly situated today.  Do the characters in these modern-day real-life dramas feel anything – remorse, guilt, shame, humiliation?  Do they ever seek forgiveness or redemption?

The latest in this long list of public offenders is, of course, Arnold Schwarzenegger, who just this week publicly admitted to having fathered a child with a member of his household ten years ago.  After serving as Governor of California and leaving office in January, he finally told his wife.  He now asks the press and public to respect his wife and children.  How come he didn’t?

There was a time in America when any type of scandal would have and did destroy the careers of celebrities and politicians because the public was not as forgiving as today.

Celebrities and public officials like Woody Allen, Paris Hilton, Barney Frank, Roman Polanski, Al Sharpton, Jimmy Swaggart, Eliot Spitzer, John Edwards, Kobe Bryant and Kim Kardashian, all who’ve done shameful things, breathe a sigh of relief because, in today’s America, they can continue to maintain political power or enjoy highly lucrative careers because of society’s acceptance of their “indiscretions.”  We’ll see how Arnold’s career goes after this.

On the other hand, I often wonder if the average Joe actually feels the kind of regret, dishonor or embarrassment felt by the character, Felix Bush.  In the real world, obviously no one is reduced to ashes because of their behavior, but lives and families are affected forever by bad behavior and are often destroyed beyond repair.

While celebrities and public officials often have no sense of shame, I’d like to think that there are those private individuals who do regret their actions and try to make amends.  But for those selfish, narcissistic people who couldn’t care less about the destruction they leave behind in similar circumstances, life goes on.

On good days, I have to believe there are more people in the former category than in the latter.  While seeing the public offenders continue to enjoy profitable careers and acceptance by the public, the pessimist in me says we’ve lost the notion of right and wrong, we’re circling the bowl and we’re going to Hell in a hand basket, but I’m hoping we haven’t completely lost our moral sense of direction but merely on the edge of the precipice, still able to take a step back.

Bottom line:  I get Felix Bush.