CBS Philadelphia - September 7, 2014
I never know how to approach these kinds of incidents.
I am usually a “systems" kind of person. I’m generally more interested in the beliefs, practices, and social structures that lead to stuff like this than I am in the moral depravity of the perpetrators. However, sometimes it’s hard to avoid the conclusion that they’re just evil … or that they have momentarily given in to evil, whatever that might mean. Or, maybe this is one of those unspeakably sad instances where one group of people used to being abused and reviled by a hostile society gets a momentary jolt of rough power out of abusing and reviling another person who is powerless in society for other reasons.
Also, I can’t help thinking that neither the man’s physical and emotional pain, nor the kids' disgusting glee at beating him, is the worst thing about this. The worst thing may be how it reinforces the belief by some people … especially families of disabled people … that inclusion and community integration are dangerous, idealistic dreams, and that the best thing for intellectually disabled people is to be sheltered, protected, and supervised at all times.
It gets harder to argue “the dignity of risk” when this kind of thing continues to happen. Sheltering isn’t the answer, but the path to greater freedom and inclusion is not smooth.
Meanwhile, what's to be done with the teens who did this? What's to be done with anyone who does anything like this to an intellectually disabled person? In situations like this, finding the right balance between punishment and education is much harder than usual. I want desperately to do both to the full.