by Said Sadain, Jr.
WARNING: THIS STORY
MAY SHOCK YOU!
During the closing weeks of November 1993, newspapers
closely followed a jury trial in the Preston Crown Court of England. Day after day, the
world became aware of the deepening pain and horror that engulfed an affair about toddlers
and children, and the absence of reasons and rhymes.
According to the prosecutors, in mid-February 1993, two
10-year old kids, called A & B, led a 2-year old toddler named James Bulger away from
his inattentive mother in the Strand shopping center. Together, Child A & Child B took
James for a 4-kilometer walk across Liverpool, pulling him or carrying him or dragging
him, past and away from at least 60 adults who saw the three children that day but did not
bother to lift a finger to relieve the suffering of the crying baby. Together, A & B
abused James, each aware of the babys suffering, each refusing to seek help from the
adults they met on their way to a deserted railroad track. What ensued thereafter jolted
Liverpool out of its Beatlemania innocence.
The two-year old baby suffered a violent and prolonged
attack at the end of the walk. James small body received at least 30 blows from
bricks, an iron bar, feet and fists; blue paint was doused on his face; his half-stripped
body was dumped on the railroad track and severed in two by a passing train.
Under British law, the Alphabet Kids, during the trial,
could not be named in the press because of their age. When, however, they were convicted
by the court at the close of the trial, the media, for days, splashed their names on
premium space and prime time and dug out every bit and piece of their now 11-year old
lives, their history and characters. But names do not matter now. Not to James Bulger. Not
to a society shocked to the core of its conscience.
Child A & Child B were described as bad boys from
broken homes, misfits at school, wicked and cunning, prone to truancy, shoplifting and
bullying. Their crime was pronounced as an act of unparalleled evil and barbarity. The
judge of the case, trying to make sense out of the lunacy, attributed as part of the blame
the childrens exposure to violent and horror video films. Psychiatrists and
psychologists offered their own explanations of tormented upbringing and ill caring.
Reporters uncovered that Child Bs father rented a video film that closely depicted
what more or less happened to Baby James. Several British members of parliament (MPs)
demanded restrictions on the sale and rental of horror films. Authorities revealed a
network of 12-year olds running a mail order business of violent videos.
But was it really just the videos or the broken homes,
or the school atmosphere, or peer pressure or the devil incarnate himself? If reports are
to be believed, Child A & Child B are not even the worst of the truants in Liverpool.
Elsewhere in the pages of tabloids and newspapers, or
on television monitors, British society constantly reads about Peeping Tom stories on
members of the Royal Family, about soccer rowdies who rampage regardless of where the ball
bounces, about politicians who shout profanities at each other across tiny benches, about
the maiming and the killing of women and children in nearby Bosnia as if these were as
natural as the colors on the TV screens. And more disturbing than the crimes and the
abuses is when one sees and reads about leaders and other dignitaries justify the inaction
to this carnage or rationalize the causes to that indignity at one or another level of
Can British MPs alleviate the matter by merely
restricting the sale of violent films? Without prohibiting the making of violent films? Or
without changing the prevailing morality in, as just one specific case, an industry that
seeks to entertain? It is of course the height of folly to think that only children
can be so capable of evil as to solely deserve these restrictions. Society assigns the
blame to the curiosity and gullibility of children and their easy access to technology,
and society responds to this situation by conveniently pulling down the blinds. Nobody
not the chicken, not the egg should accept this thinking. Or else, no 60
adults, not even 60 million adults, will be able to prevent a tragedy like that of the
Alphabet Kids from repeating itself.
No doubt society will have to do more than draw down
blinds, or lock up doors and windows. Even US President Bill Clinton, addressing Hollywood
in December, declared that laws are not enough to save the children from the rising
violence, and urged industry leaders to reduce violence in shows and movies, and cooperate
more in bringing a whole generation back from the brink. In the same
speech however, he took another step backward by carefully saying that he did not mean
that the industry should make wholesale changes. One can discern in this equivocation that
concepts such as freedom of expression and human rights are still not well-understood even
in the West, a failure that is aggravating the situation.
Society, it seems, still has to fully realize that
children need not be at the brink to deserve something far better than what adults are
willing to give them now and be responsible for. §