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January 06, 2017

Stop politicizing that sadistic Chicago kidnapping story

Back in June, CNN ran a story that provided a modicum of hope from a law-enforcement perspective and jarring, next-generation disgust from humanity’s standpoint.

“Criminals are increasingly using mobile live-streaming platforms to document their offenses in real-time,” read the first paragraph of the article. “Social networks are facing an uphill battle in stopping them.”

We’re not talking about petty vandalism, shoplifting and any number of assaults that found viral fame with a soundtrack of folks yelling “Worldstar” as they bore witness. We’re talking murders and rapes. We’re talking veering toward a total breakdown of societal norms.

Here’s one way to look at that trend: Some of the worst among us are so voyeuristically inclined that they’ll give police and courts just about everything they need to ensure arrests and convictions. That's the upside of this heretofore unforeseen evolutionary glitch.

Here’s another way to look at it: Such behavior makes the case that some members of society – albeit because of generational, technological shifts – have lost any semblance of morality and humanity to a nearly nihilistic extent.

The trend itself isn’t new, but it came into stark focus this week when news broke out of Chicago that four sadists streamed live video on Facebook of a mentally disabled man being beaten and taunted, threatened at knifepoint and forced to drink from a toilet bowl.

If you’ve seen it, you’ll never forget the stomach-pit disgust it elicited.

If you haven’t seen it, you’re better off than those who have. 

Jarring doesn’t come close to describing its effects. It does sum up some of the responses to it, though, what with Chicago being outgoing President Barack Obama’s hometown and America being in a constant state of politicizing any issue that arises.

But this column won’t serve as a rant against those who fed steroids to a hashtag deeming it a “Black Lives Matters Kidnapping” without any supporting evidence that’d morph ideological theory into tangible motive. (Heck, I even got accused of enabling this crime because I made fun of a Bristol Palin rant last month.)

It won’t criticize those who put “We Support (Insert Town Name Here) Law Enforcement” signs on their front lawns while not hesitating to decry investigators who didn’t cast protocol aside and deem it a hate crime as quickly as some would’ve liked, either.

It also won’t serve as an excuse mill to sweep away the fact that the savages responsible for the crime did evoke a disdain for President-elect Donald Trump and white people in general.

And it won’t delve into the blowback that held “if all black people (including Obama) are responsible for this crime against a white victim, then all white people (including Trump) are responsible for Dylann Roof’s slaughter of nine black people in a South Carolina church.

We’ve all danced this knee-jerk blame-assessment dance before, and far too many more times this year than I can remember in my more than four decades on Earth.

Instead of ending in a collective bow before the audience, it’s done nothing but drive us further apart, each side believing more staunchly in the positions they held before the music commenced.

What good comes of politicizing this horrible crime against humanity if we don’t take a second to consider how we got to this point? None.

What benefit do we get from people hollering about how different the headlines and coverage would be if the races of suspects and victims were reversed? None.

Does screaming across the ideological aisle do a single damn thing to restore the dignity of an 18-year-old victim that was been stripped away because he was targeted by criminals of a different hue? Nope.

Does falsely claiming that the story isn’t getting coverage in the “liberal” media do anything but further expand our societal divides further than the bridge can reach? Uh uh.

What this case should – but apparently won’t – do is serve as a tipping point to ground folks in the reality that we are all humans, and when one of us is sadistically tortured, all of us are sadistically tortured. Screw politics. This is about basic humanity. If you deemed anything else about this story more important than that, you need to set aside some time for introspection.

Should people condemn this act as a hate crime? Absolutely. Everybody should. And if they haven’t, they ought to do so immediately, and the response shouldn’t be about whether the hatred focused on race or mental capabilities. Hate is hate is hate, and all of it erodes a nation’s soul.

Do they need to tidily package them as being emblematic of a culture on edge because of scuffles at political rallies (like the one I witnessed in September), or debunked accusations of people being targeted through the presidential-race lens (like the one I investigated in early November)? Everybody shouldn’t.

If we use this case to bolster our individual politics, we’re not much better than those four Chicago sadists in the first place.

If we continue on this path – with live-streamed involvement or not – these sorts of horrendous stories will continue to dominate the airwaves and minds and poison our national soul.

Should this become the new normal, not a one of us – regardless of ideology or worldview – should be comfortable. I just hope that’s even possible anymore.