Saturday, April 29, 2006

A Few Questions about that Unspeakable Crime

Long ago we learned that the quickest route to humility, or humiliation, is a leap to facile judgments about other people’s children, or other people’s parenting skills. There but for the grace of God, etc. Yet the story of the two white teens arrested in the Houston suburb of Spring for beating and sodomizing a Hispanic teen with a length of plastic pipe screams the obvious questions: Where were the parents? More to the point, where were the fathers?

At least from what can be gleaned from Saturday’s story in the Houston Chronicle, the father isn’t around in the home of David Tuck, the 18-year-old who authorities suggest was the leader of the two-main pack (Tuck’s mother answered the door “timidly” and broke into tears after a reporter knocked on Friday, the Chronicle reported … hey, that timidly really wasn’t necessary, was it?). Nor does it appear that a father is present at the house where the beating took place, where the waitress mom slept through the backyard attack that her two kids witnessed but reportedly were too afraid to bring to anyone’s attention, leaving the wounded boy in the yard until well into the morning. And not to blame the 16-year-old (or 17-year-old) victim, but where were his parents during the hours between 5 a.m. and 8 a.m. on Sunday, when investigators believe the attack occurred, according to Channel 13?

Then what about this, from Friday’s Chronicle: A neighbor said he saw Nazi swastikas painted on the fence at Tuck’s house (which his mother seemed to deny in Saturday’s story), while two other teenagers say the boy paraded around his subdivision “with the flag of a swastika” on Martin Luther King Day.

If that’s true, nobody said … anything? Nobody did … anything? Where’s the adult supervision?

Not to say that the mere presence of a father or a stronger parental force in these households would have leveled off whatever slippery slope brought Tuck and his 17-year-old friend to that party in Spring last Saturday night---that indeed would be a facile conclusion---and although highly unlikely, it may turn out that both come from stable, two-parent homes. But hanging all over this sad story is the stifling, familiar air of suburban anomie and lower-middle-class aimlessness and desperation---yet another reminder to those prone to facile judgments that the problems and pathologies of untended and misdirected youth aren’t exclusive to any race or ethnicity.

We’ve got to credit the Chronicle and other media for not stinting on the description of the stomach-turning crime; if you’re going to call something “horrifying” or “horrific” (correctly, in this case), then the reader or viewer needs to know why.

On the other hand: This is the same daily newspaper that reported on Friday, near the end of a thumbsucker on United 93 that gnawed on the already hackneyed question of whether the movie is “too soon” after the tragedy, that
The first major film treatment of the Vietnam War, The Deer Hunter, was released in 1978, more than a decade after the U.S. withdrawal [emphasis added].
So the guys we knew who went to Vietnam after the Tet Offensive were just having a bad dream, and there was no need for us to worry at all about the draft lottery … Christ a’mighty. And what of The Green Berets with John Wayne, which we believe came out in 1966, a full decade before The Deer Hunter, and, while nothing but a stale slab of hokum was indeed a major film treatment (and no more of a piece of phony propaganda than The Deer Hunter was, in its way).

The paper cautiously corrected itself Saturday by noting that a “Vietnam peace agreement was reached in 1973 and U.S. troops withdrew in 1975,” although technically the U.S. closed out its participation in ’73, and anyone who was extant then dates the cessation of U.S. involvement to ’72 or ’73---a mere half-decade at most before The Deer Hunter made its turgid way to major film treatment-dom. But who’s counting? (Obviously no one at the Chronicle!)

Kids today.

No comments: