Righteous Indignation

by Theresa Spranger, Bioethics Program Alumna (MSBioethics 2012)

Lately, I have heard several news stories that have shocked and saddened me.  I want to believe in basic human decency,in charity, and love of neighbor, but sometimes feel like evidence is contrary to my preferred view.

I know terrible aspects of society exist, but usually choose not to focus on them.  I feel they are anomalies and that people are generally good and decent.  Though, there are some stories lately that have threatened my world view.  I focus on these stores in this post because I think it is important that we as a civil society become outraged by these events.

Story 1: Texas – A 13 year old foster child runs away from her foster home.  She accepts a ride from three men, is taken to an apartment and repeatedly raped by up to 10 different men through the night.  Full story: http://www.theblaze.com/stories/2013/07/24/immigration-detainers-placed-on-two-mexican-men-charged-in-horrific-gang-rape-of-13-year-old-texas-girl/

Story 2: Oklahoma – A 23 year old college baseball player from Australia was shot in the back while walking down the street.  He was killed by 3 teenage boys who claimed to be “bored” and therefore decided to “kill somebody.” Full story: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/08/19/christopher-lane-australian-baseball-player-dies_n_3782318.html

Story 3: Ontario, Canada – The family of a severely autistic child found an anonymous letter at their home.  The letter was full of hateful language putting down their child, calling him useless, unlovable, and suggesting the mother euthanize her son and allow scientists to harvest his organs.  Please read the full text of the letter, it is shocking.  Full story: http://www.theblaze.com/stories/2013/08/19/read-the-unbelievably-hateful-letter-sent-to-family-with-autistic-child-do-the-right-thing-and-move-or-euthanize-him/

Why did I choose these stories?  What links them to each other?  They all show a lack of respect for the human person.  The men in the first story lack respect for women and children.  The boys in the second, lack respect for human life and do not recognize moral consequences.  The woman in the 3rd story does not feel that a handicapped child or his family deserve to be treated with dignity or respect.

These events should outrage us, as decent citizens we should unite against this type of senseless violence.  I think they do outrage us, but are we giving them enough focus in the media? Are these events spurring us to discussions of causality or pointing us to a bigger flaw in the fabric of society?

It is said that you can tell the character of a man by how he treats those weaker than him.  We are a nation who sides with the underdog, we love the kid who stands up to the bully to protect the nerd, the hero who jumps on the subway track to save someone, the children who find victory and their place at the Special Olympics.

What type of character do the people in these news stories have?  Do the men who raped that poor girl have any decency?  Do the boys who killed that college student have a conscience?  Does the woman who wrote that letter have compassion?  These people are self-absorbed, concerned entirely with their own desires and comfort.  Their actions are cruel and evil.  In the first two cases the persons should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.  In the third she should be held accountable for her rude behavior and publicly shamed by her neighbors.

Allowing these news stories to come and go is not enough.  We need to be outraged.  We need to denounce these types of senseless acts of violence as wrong.  Our world is full of gray areas, but is there still right and wrong?  And do we still know what that is?

Detroit is no exception to these types of unfortunate events.  We recently had two homeless men killed in a hit and run, they were not hit once, but by two different cars, neither driver stopped to care for these men.  I am ashamed to live in a city where that would happen.

There is decency left in our society though, and this gives me hope.  One of those men used to sit in his wheel chair by the freeway entrance, since his death someone placed his wheel chair on that corner and people have placed flowers and trinkets in his honor and written messages on the chair.  The other man was a regular at Detroit Tiger’s games, a bit of a local celebrity for fans.  Shirts were made up with this man’s signature phrase (“Eat ’em up Tigers”) and sold to cover funeral costs for the two men.  We are a good and decent people, but we need to remember this and express it more often.

Let us be: good, compassionate, loving, hopeful, helpful, and kind.  Let us build a world of respect and love for one another.  We are all different, but that is what makes life interesting and exciting.  How dull the world would be if we were all the same.

Different, but equal, no one of us is more important than another.  We have become a self-absorbed, self-obsessed culture, constantly on social media glorifying our own lives.  So many of us have lost our connection with other members of society, we have lost our sense of community, our respect for people, and the reality of responsibility and consequence.

For me, I want to see all persons, of all walks of life, races, sexes, intelligence levels, physical ability, religions, etc. treated with the respect and decency they deserve.  I will not stop being outraged by the news stories I shared and I will not stop working for a world where these stories cease to exist.

[This blog entry was originally posted in a slightly edited form on Ms. Spranger’s blog on August 23, 2013. Its contents are solely the responsibility of the author alone and do not represent the views of the Bioethics Program or Union Graduate College.]

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