I watched a quite disturbing movie last week that left me pondering on a lot of things about life. The reason why the movie is disturbing is because it is based on a true story and it shockingly reveals how cruel and uncaring people can be. Unlike most of the true stories with inspiring theme, this one does not have a happy ending; and the good does not always triumph over the evil.
The movie is called “An American Crime”. It is about an innocent teenage girl, named Sylvia Likens, who was tortured violently to death by a group of abusers. The abuse, triggered by a struggling woman with health problem and huge stress of taking care of seven children with virtually no money, eventually joined by her children and a whole neighborhood of youngsters.
Though Ginia said in her very excellent review on the movie, that the victim had the bad luck to grow up in a time and a place where “ignorance was understood as its own brand of wisdom”; somehow I feel, ironically, that statement still applies today. Thus, the title of this post is "Human Crime Today".
With a close examination, we can see the same things happening in societies today, although largely with less severity than brutally torturing a girl.
IGNORANT. AFRAID TO DO WHAT OTHERS CONSIDERED AS UNCONVENTIONAL OR NOT COURTEOUS.
The neighbors did not take any actions when they heard heart-wrenching screams on many occasions. They choose to ignore so they do not have any troubles.
Sylvia’s father did not bother to check out the condition of house where he was going to put his two daughters to live there. He was afraid to be prying even though this will concern his daughters’ safety and comfort! If he had, he would have found that the household had no stove, only three spoons in the kitchen drawers and there were fewer beds than were needed for those already living there. And, how he could completely trust a woman he had just known for a day to take care of his daughters is beyond understanding.
FOLLOW THE CROWD. FOLLOW THE AUTHORITY.
The children followed what their parent do or ask them to do without thinking whether the actions are right.
The neighborhood youngsters joined the crowd to torture Sylvia and decided since everyone was torturing and hating her, she must have done something really bad to deserve this. No one question what Sylvia had really done; whether she deserved these; whether the accusations upon her were all true.
Even Sylvia’s sister was forced to follow the crowd so that she would not be receiving the same condemnation or injustice done to Sylvia.
WAIT AND SEE. DON’T RESPOND TO THE SITUATIONS UNTIL IT BECOMES CRITICAL.
Sylvia and her sister had not done enough to stop the abuse, for e.g. by making police report.
In fact, when probing into the inaction on Sylvia’s part, investigators were wondering whether Sylvia is masochist. But they arrived at the conclusion that Sylvia was too young to know what was done to her was incorrect. After all, how could an adult and bunch of kids be so wrong?
Maybe Sylvia and her sister were waiting for the time when the abusers would have mercy and stop the torturing. In fact, in many occasions, it seemed the torture would end and Sylvia was given back the normal treatment. But very soon, the Sylvia would somehow engage the wrath of her’s abusers and the tortures started again. Some evil people just would not change.
DON’T THINK OF THE CONSEQUENCES OF OUR ACTIONS.
It seems like the abusers never anticipated Sylvia would die from all the tortures and inhuman treatment done to her.
Neither did they think they would go to jail for that and that would all change their life enormously.
IT IS NOT URGENT TO SOLVE THE PROBLEMS (ACTIVE). MAYBE IF WE DO NOTHING, IT WILL GO AWAY (PASSIVE).
Somehow, until the Sylvia’s death, no one had done anything to help her in time; else; fate would be reversed. In one part of the scenes in “An American Crime” (WARNING, some spoiler here.), the director wanted us to believe there would be a happy ending if someone would have done the right thing then. We hope very much that was what happened.
But the neighbors, the children or the youngsters, the parents of the youngsters, Sylvia’s family and even the reverend, and more countless people; all failed to do the right things on time to save her. When they found Sylvia was dead, then only the youngsters tried to resuscitate her, called the police and the sister finally revealed the whole story to the police.
A lot of people mourn Sylvia after so long, especially when "An American Crime" shows the world, some parts of how it happened.
I guess the compassion and sadness are also due to the fact that most of us experience or see something similar in the world where we live in (most probably in smaller scale); not just the injustice, but also the rest of the people that do nothing to help. Indeed, human crime today in that part is very abundant.
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