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Alphabet Kids

Vol 3 First Qtr 1994

The entire collection of old
Bugs & Bytes issues from 1992 to 1994 are available in book form, BUGS & BYTES In Bigger Prints


by Said Sadain, Jr.
December 1993


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 baby’s 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 children‘s exposure to violent and horror video films. Psychiatrists and psychologists offered their own explanations of tormented upbringing and ill caring. Reporters uncovered that Child B‘s 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 respectable forum.

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.
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