I don’t frequently write about news stories, especially ones that are still going on, but I saw a news article that I cannot get out of my mind. The story concerned two teenagers, who apparently tried to rob a mother who was taking her baby out for a stroll in her Georgia neighborhood. When the mother made it clear that she did not have the money they were protesting, the older teenager took out a gun, said that he was going to shoot the baby, followed through on that threat, and then shot the mother in the leg before running away. The two teenagers were seventeen and fourteen years of age. The mother survived, but the baby did not.
Before I go any further, regardless of what did or did not happen in this still-unfolding event, I want to take a moment to acknowledge the life that has been lost and the family that is in grieving.
Murder is not acceptable. I become quite baffled when people say that a young murderer “didn’t know what they were doing.” Of course they did. When it is murder (which I will distinguish here between self-defense or accidental manslaughter), it is by definition planned. You know what you are doing. Furthermore, to say that one is too young to know what they are doing suggests that there is an age in which murder remains questionable, perhaps even acceptable or normal, and that such a belief must be weeded out of a person through age and instruction. This could just be me and where I have grown up, but I have never seen murder as normal. As long as I can remember, I have never seen it as an option or something that I didn’t know enough about not to engage in. From a moral standpoint, it was out of the question.
Is this what happened with these two teenagers? Did their upbringing challenge or alter their views on murder? I have no idea and I do not want to imply that I do. The story is still being revealed and there are many facts that need to be overturned. Some say that the mother did the “wrong” thing by not giving the boys her purse (even if there was no money in it). Some say that it’s due to the education system that the boys behaved as they did. Some question whether the boys really existed, or if the story was just fabricated for selfish/attention-seeking reasons.
In some ways, it doesn’t matter. This is not a post about the two boys or the mother or the baby as much as it is what this story represents. Taking your baby out for a stroll in your own neighborhood used to seem like a good idea. Is that no longer the case? If a mother, who was out at 9:00 AM carrying only a purse and no other visible signs of wealth, has to worry about being attacked, who else has to worry as well? Should we drown ourselves in fear of who we may meet around our neighborhood corner? And if a teenager takes someone else’s life, does/should the state have the authority to take their rights (or life) away?
Of course it is nowhere near a new concept (and I am sure if we go back to the age of human sacrifices, we could find even worse examples), but human life has meant less than in previous years. This is natural, and expected, after wartime. I see a lack of consideration for human life in the video games that get distributed each year, in the films that get the most press and the largest box-office openings in America, in the television shows that treat nuclear explosions like the opening of a fizzy soda can, and in the comment sections of true-life murder stories, in which the readers leave hateful rants without even once acknowledging the life or lives that have just been lost.
I am trying to refrain from being a hypocrite and going on a rant here. Yet when human life becomes disposable, and can be thrown away like an afterthought of anger (which, it seems, is exactly what happened with the Georgia Baby Incident), something must change. We are not dealing with the characters in a novel or a video game or a television show. The people around us are not figments of our imagination or artifacts of our sub-conscious, but fully realized creatures with fully realized hopes, dreams, emotions, families, friends, and futures. Don’t take those futures away. Obviously you don’t need me to tell you that. Obviously this isn’t a movie; this is real life. This we know to be true. Now let’s have our actions match our knowledge.
*Photo credited to Jason Evans, CNN