Saturday, May 1, 2010

Where are the Dads Part III: The Final Word?

File Under: It is in Our Hands

Copyright (c) 2010 Manataka American Indian Council

If you appreciated the positive or inspirational tone of the first and second installment of this series, note that this post is not like those two. In fact, if you are having a good day, a good week, or you are just generally glad the weekend is here, then please revisit this post later. I do not want to be responsible for killing your mood or ruining your weekend. However, the stories that unfold in this post are the penultimate proof that our children, and by extension the future of our planet and species, are in crisis.

This post did not begin as a social commentary, nor did I intend it to be a continuation of, “Where are the Dads?” One of the following articles triggered a memory of a related event – adults aiding their children to commit a heinous crime over an argument between juveniles. At any rate, in the process of searching for the story I remembered, I found numerous similar stories – many, many more. The details, motivation, and participants are not universal in all the following accounts. Nevertheless, several themes are constant: a gross lack of moral decency, a lack of self-control, and a lack of reverence for the sanctity of life. Therefore, this post became the next chapter in “Where are the Dads?” because when by failure to teach or by failure to be present, a parent fails to inculcate such vital lessons in the mind of his or her children from a very early age, the events that follow are the results.

Johanna Orozco

On March 5, 2007, two weeks after his arrest for the alleged rape of his teenage ex-girlfriend Johanna Orozco, 17-year-old Juan Ruiz accosted his accuser in the driveway of her Cleveland home and shot her at close range, in the face with a sawn-off shotgun. Later that year, because of a plea deal, a Judge sentenced Ruiz to 27 years in prison without parole. Johanna survived the attack; and after weeks of recovery in a hospital and multiple surgeries (and likely more to come), she went on to attend prom and graduate with her class. Johanna would go on to become an advocate for young teen girls and raise awareness for relationship violence. Because she survived, Johanna was able to use her tragedy to help others. In that light, she was fortunate, others have not been as fortunate.

“Parents often talk about the younger generation as if they didn't have anything to do with it.” – Haim Ginott
“It behooves a father to be blameless if he expects his child to be.” – Homer

Mark and Susan Petric

Later that year on October 20, 2007 in Brighton Township of Lorain County, Ohio, 16-year-old Daniel Petric, severely wounded his father, Mark, and murdered his mother, Susan, showing that sometimes all the love and support in the world is not always sufficient to avoid tragedy. His reason for doing this? His parents forbade him from playing a video game they deemed too violent and confiscated it when they discovered he had purchased it anyway. After breaking into and retrieving a gun from his father’s lockbox the teenager approached his unsuspecting parents while they were watching television. He implored them to close their eyes because he had a “surprise” for them. Expecting something “pleasant,” they did and for Susan Petric that was the last time she would see anything in this world with mortal eyes.

“If you want children to keep their feet on the ground, put some responsibility on their shoulders.” – Abigail Van Buren
“If there is anything that we wish to change in the child, we should first examine it and see whether it is not something that could better be changed in ourselves.” – C.G. Jung, Integration of the Personality, 1939

Derrion Albert

On September 24, 2009, 16-year-old honor student Derrion Albert lost his life after a vicious, unprovoked attack by two groups of area rivals. Even after Derrion survived the initial onslaught and tried to move himself to safety, Derrion’s attackers pursued him, striking him with fists, feet, and railroad ties. According to one of Derrion’s murderers, Derrion “never struck him;” regardless, his killers pressed upon Derrion, going so far as to kick him and stomp his head once he was clearly unconscious. All this transpired as bystanders cheered and called for more violence. As the early 2010 streak of homicides in Chicago illustrates, murder in the city is not new; only that the perpetrators and victims are growing younger. Despite America’s long association with violence and the decay of the family unit, the crisis surrounding children has not isolated itself to America alone.

“Simply having children does not make mothers.” – John A. Shedd
“Although there are many trial marriages... there is no such thing as a trial child.” – Gail Sheehy

Salum Kombo

On December 20, 2009, 18-year-old Salum Kombo, a Tanzanian immigrant and aspiring artist, became the 13th teenager killed in London that year when a 15-year-old premeditatedly stabbed him over an apparent Facebook-related dispute. Because of that 15-year-old’s actions, Salum died when he was in the prime of his life, alone, on a street distant from home and his parents, and in the arms of a stranger. At least in the UK, a passerby will stop and make sure a dying person does not die completely alone.

“What a child doesn't receive he can seldom later give.” – P.D. James, Time to Be in Earnest
“Most American children suffer too much mother and too little father.” – Gloria Steinem, New York Times, 26 August 1971

A few days later that month on New Year’s Eve, back in the United States, 16-year-old Matthew Dubois of Burien, Washington, shot in the face and fatally wounded his 15-year-old girlfriend, Mikarah Sanders. Why? Apparently, Dubois was angry over a comment left on Mikarah’s MySpace page by an ex-boyfriend and the couple was having another one of many frequent arguments. Dubois, shot himself in the shoulder in order to make the murder appear to be a gang-related home invasion. Moreover, Mikarah’s murder occurred just a month after the contested early release of Dubois, who has a lengthy and violent criminal history, from juvenile confinement. [Additional details]

“Character is largely caught, and the father and the home should be the great sources of character infection.” – Frank H. Cheley
“When you teach your son, you teach your son's son.” – The Talmud

Also on New Year’s Eve that year, on the opposite coast of the United States, 18-year-old Amanda Mantini, committed what to me smacks of attempted vehicular homicide, when she plowed into and hospitalized Nicole McCarthy, the mother of a girl Mantini had been engaged in hostilities with on Facebook. Nicole fortunately survived the assault and left the hospital the next day.

“There are no illegitimate children - only illegitimate parents.” – Leon R. Yankwich
“What's done to children, they will do to society.” – Karl Menninger

Returning to Cleveland, our next story could have ended considerably more tragically than it did. In this story most of the perpetrators of criminal activity were adults, by a large margin, the youngest being 23-years-old. However, a MySpace argument (and likely a lack of common sense and intelligence) over the affections of a boy between two 13-year-olds precipitated the ensuing violence. Brendan Fitzgerald, 24, drove the spurned 13-year-old to the home of the other teenage girl, where the two fought, after which Fitzgerald fled. However, 15 minutes later Fitzgerald returned with 27-year-old John Dix II, armed with an AK-47, and two other men armed with revolvers. Upon returning, the impromptu hit squad sees the 13-year-old victim in the back of her parents’ pickup truck, on the way to file a police report. The family sees Fitzgerald return and fearing for the children at home turn around and head back toward the home. Fitzgerald’s gang parks in front of the home and waits for the family to approach. When they do, Fitzgerald’s accomplishes exit the vehicle and open fire. The victim’s father slams the pickup into reverse as Dix chase after, shooting at the vehicle. When the father makes it to an intersection, the family presumably is able to get away. In his recklessness, Dix struck two homes, firing 19 shots, one of which penetrated a window, interior wall, and imbedded itself in the back wall of a home. Moreover, Dix’s final shot wounded the 13-year-old victim, grazing her face at the junction of where her ear meets her head – literally millimeters separated her from death or grievous permanent injury.

“If you must hold yourself up to your children as an object lesson, hold yourself up as a warning and not as an example.” – George Bernard Shaw
“You have a lifetime to work, but children are only young once.” – Polish Proverb

March 17, 2010 in Deerfield, Florida, after an exchange of text messages with 15-year-old Josie Lou Ratley, Wayne Treacy, also 15, traveled with his former girlfriend and supposed “best friend” of Josie’s, 13-year-old- Kayla Manson, to Josie’s school whereupon after Manson identified Josie for Treacy, Treacy commenced to attack and brutally batter Josie. Treacy sought Josie with the intention of killing her and Manson was fully aware of his plan. Treacy attacked Josie from behind, repeatedly punching her in the head until she fell down; and once she was on the ground Treacy kicked the girl, stomped and smashed her head on the pavement. Treacy did not stop his unrepentant, murderous assault until a teacher pulled him off the girl. In the after math of his actions, Treacy who has plead not guilty to the charges against him, sent a text message to his friends bragging that he thought he was “going to prison” and he thought he “just killed someone.” After many weeks in a chemically induced coma and multiple surgeries, Josie is out of the hospital and in therapy (update). Some have constructed a Facebook group to show support and the family's legal counsel hosts an official webpage with the most current information on Josie. The above article references the attempted murder of 15-year-old Michael Brewer, a few months prior, by a group of five teenage boys ranging from 13 to 15-years-old. The cadre surrounded Michael, doused him with alcohol, and set him on fire over the $40 Michael owed the ringleader, 15-year-old Matthew Bent, for the purchase of a video game. Authorities described, all but one of the attackers as “laughing” about what they had done and showing no-remorse.

“The guys who fear becoming fathers don't understand that fathering is not something perfect men do, but something that perfects the man. The end product of child raising is not the child but the parent.” – Frank Pittman, Man Enough

In the next account, who was the aggressor or who was to blame are both murky. What is clear is that on March 11, 2010, three teenagers were stabbed at the Laguna Beach home of a fourth, 16-year-old Michael Jason Wilson, who now possibly faces a lengthy term in an adult prison. The eldest victim, 17-year-old Julian C., went to Wilson’s home, along with three other teenagers, to confront Wilson over, you guessed it, a Facebook argument. The confrontation turned sour and allegedly, Wilson stabbed Julian C., at which point two of Julian C.’s accomplices came to his aid and were subsequently stabbed themselves, before subduing Wilson and escaping. Somehow, I do not think when the pioneers of telecommunication, digital computing, and the internet were toiling away in their laboratories and workshops that they ever conceived one day anyone would use their noble inventions as a venue to spread hatred and vitriol or to incite violence and murder.

“If our American way of life fails the child, it fails us all.” – Pearl S. Buck
“It is easier to build strong children than to repair broken men.” – Frederick Douglass

This is the story that inspired this post and it is a truly heart-rending and baffling one that proves that the so-called fairer sex is just as capable when it comes to acts of cruelty and inhumanity. On Thursday April 8, 2010 Audreanna Zimmerman succumbed to the injuries she suffered when on March 24, 2010, her former best friend 16-year-old Britnee Miller, Miller’s mother 39-year-old Tina Brown, and 27-year-old Heather Lee abducted, brutally beat with a crowbar, assaulted with a stun gun, doused with an accelerant, and set her ablaze. After two weeks in a coma, the 19-year old mother of two small children finally passed away. What could cause such savagery and callousness, and from individuals who knew firsthand the beauty of life and motherhood no less? There are two Facebook groups, here and here, where you can show support; I have not ascertained any information about helping her family and children.

“Your children need your presence more than your presents.” – Jesse Jackson
“Don't worry that children never listen to you; worry that they are always watching you.” – Robert Fulghum

The final tale gives credence to the argument that little monsters sometimes do grow up to be big monsters. On April 4, 2010, 28-year-old Angela Bradley-Crockett of Cleveland was en route to spend an evening with friends, when she was involved in a minor accident with a van driven by Stephen Davis, accompanied by his girlfriend, Latesha Santos. The pair convinced Angela to follow them to a secluded area where they accosted her, beat her severely, and strangled her to death. After stripping her of her clothes and valuables, they dumped her body by the side of the interstate as if she were garbage or an animal, rather than someone’s daughter, wife, mother, and sister. Davis and Santos are far from children, being 30 and 33-years-old respectively; and Santos’ criminal history as reported is relatively light. Davis, on the other hand, has a long, serious criminal history dating back to a juvenile murder conviction for killing his aunt’s boyfriend. Some would say considering the pair faces the death penalty if convicted, the state has an opportunity to correct with finality a wrong that has festered too long. However, it is truly tragic that three lives may wind up lost and three families destroyed over a condition that never should have existed in the first place.

“Fathers, do not embitter your children, or they will become discouraged.” – Colossians 3:21, NIV
“Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord.” – Ephesians 6:4, NIV

Although, isolated mass murders perpetrated by gun-wielding minors such as Jonesboro and Columbine, capture and hold American attention, these tragic incidences are but the tip of a very broad, very deep iceberg; and society’s ship careens toward that iceberg with frightening speed. Deadly violence among minors is not new and is far from isolated. The problem is growing worse and more frequent. We as a society can debate who is to blame for these crimes or what moved the perpetrators to commit such horrible acts. Certainly, in no small number of these cases, the offender acted with forethought and malice; and many of these offenders were close enough to adulthood to know “better.” However, I believe the presence, love, attention, engagement, support, and diligence of parents could have saved the life of some of these victims and prevented the suffering of numerous others – including the offender, who must now live or die with those gruesome actions upon his or her conscience. Without a doubt the acceptance, guidance, and nurturing of one’s parents is crucial. Of course we cannot excuse personal responsibility, but neither can we ignore the vital importance of a positive male and female role model in the development of a child into a mentally, emotionally, socially, and spiritually healthy adult. Indeed, where and when will a young adult learn personal responsibility if it is not first taught to them through the example of present, responsible parents?

Who should know your child better than you should? After all, they are half you and ideally the other half of them should be standing with you as you face the challenges of parenting. You are not only uniquely able to notice the warning signs that your child might be developing into an unstable, morally bankrupt monster, but also you are uniquely positioned to do something about that fact. We cannot watch our children grow into aberrant adults and remain passive; otherwise, stories like these will only become more frequent and more tragic. Instead, we must treat children with equity and dignity, respecting their unrefined and undeveloped, but nonetheless massive potential to accomplish great things – for both the good and the bad.

The generation before mine has reached its sunset years and my generation is reaching its peak years of affect. Sooner than I would like to admit, but a mere mayfly’s life in the universal time continuum, my generation would reach its sunset and the next generation will pick up the torch. We have serious issues on the table, granted issues that have always plague humanity but nonetheless serious and more so pressing with advancing time. Humanity faces a worsening energy crisis, an unsustainable population growth rate, depletion of key natural resources, a thinning ozone, a warming planet, nuclear proliferation, worldwide poverty and disease, and impending socioeconomic collapse just to name a few. How can you motivate someone to care that a critical species of Peruvian mountain fern is in danger of extinction or that children on the other side of the world die of curable diseases, when that person is incapable of mustering an iota of human compassion for the lives of even close friends and family? To believe you can is illogical. However, we have the power to avoid this future because the solution is closer than you think – it is in our hands.

"I for one am glad I received punishment for breaking rules; this way I learned not to do things that were bad. If it were not for the correction [...] I would not have turned out like I did. If you love your child [...] look for them with correction in mind [...] make sure they know the family rules and they should be rewarded from time to time [...] They will grow up having a deep respect for you." -- Daniel Hawk With Seven Eyes Hoffman

Quotes © 2010 and/or their respective authors

1 comment:

  1. thank you for caring, for sharing and for being there....are you ready to jump in and take responsibility in shaping a child? in making this a better world by raising a child with those ideas you shared? its easier said that done... you know that... xxx