Murdering the Homeless: Teens Obey Conservative Message

For 30 years, conservatives have been advocating Class Warfare, pitting one group against another for political advantage – whites against minorities, the poor against the middle-class, and the rich against everybody who isn’t. They have fueled their divisiveness with violent, eliminationist rhetoric and a relentless “blame the victim” ideology aimed at promoting guilt-free greed and self-supporting selfishness. They have succeeded beyond their wildest dreams.

The AP is reporting that five teenagers in Orlando, Florida, killed a homeless man for kicks.

It was a balmy night, the sort that brings the homeless out from the shelters, when the police were summoned to America Street. On the driveway of a condo, just a few paces from the gutter, lay a man. A dying man.

He looked to be 50-ish, and a resident of Orlando’s streets, judging by the moldy jacket. And he’d been bludgeoned — so badly bludgeoned that he could hardly move.

Before being rushed to the hospital, where he died of his head injuries, the man, August Felix, described his attackers. Young fellows did it, he whispered to the officers who got to him first. Kids.

Within three months, two 16-year-olds and three 15-year-olds had been charged with second-degree homicide in the March 26, 2006, attack. The motive? “I don’t think there was a motive,” Sgt. Barbara Jones, a police spokeswoman, said, “other than, ‘Let’s beat someone up.'”

An isolated incident we can safely ignore? Not really.

That high-schoolers had turned — allegedly on a whim — into executioners brought pause to city officials and advocates for the homeless, not just because the killing was unprovoked, but because it fit into a trend larger than Orlando: a nationwide surge in violence largely by teenagers and young adults against some of America’s most vulnerable citizens.

A 2006 report by the National Coalition for the Homeless found 142 attacks last year against homeless people, 20 of which resulted in death — a 65 percent increase from 2005, when 86 were violently assaulted, including 13 homicides.

By comparison, 60 such attacks were reported in 1999, the year the coalition — the only entity to gather such data — began to study the problem.

And these numbers are likely low because they only reflect the most egregious attacks reported in newspapers or by agencies that serve the homeless and some victims themselves, according to Michael Stoops, acting executive director of the Washington-based coalition.

Adolescents are a culture’s coal mine canaries – whatever we do to our society, good, bad, or indifferent, shows up in them first. Most people – especially parents – think teenagers respond to limited and very individual stimuli because they seem on the surface to live in a world restricted by their neighborhoods and their schools. The rap on teens is that they’re naturally selfish, congenitally myopic, and firmly stuck inside a very small box that revolves around them and not much else.

In fact, after working with teens for 20 years, I can state categorically that the opposite is true.

Adolescents are finding their way out of childhood and at the same time trying to find a way into the adult world. They are peculiarly vulnerable to the dominant strains prevalent in the culture at the time of this passage, though without the skills to communicate what they see or what they know, and up against a society that would refuse to listen even if they did have such skills. Like children, they react instinctively, thoughtlessly. Like adults, they learn to restrain what needs to be restrained. They do both by gauging what the culture wants, not by transcending it. They are slaves to it, which is why they understand its flaws far more accurately than adults, who have found some measure of freedom by clinging to the illusion that they can control the world around them.

Teenagers know better. The over-riding truth in adolescence is that it’s all about picking which dominant cultural strain you’re going to go with. They know in their bones if not their heads that they can’t beat the system. The best they can do is join that part of it which seems to offer them the most power. That’s why gang members join when they’re teenagers rather than young adults, and why they explain when asked that they did it because they needed somewhere to “belong”. A group identity seems to provide protection against the forces trying to destroy them. They travel in packs, like wagons in a wagon train, ready to circle at the first sign of danger to the group or any individual in it.

While there are always variations and oddballs dancing to a different drummer for their own reasons, when trends appear in adolescents what it means is that they’ve picked up on a dominant cultural strain and joined it. Consumerism, computer geek-ism, street gangs, drugs, violence – all these are types of strings the society uses to define itself and its actual motivations and beliefs as opposed to what it says it believes. Even if they can’t verbalize it – and some can, quite dramatically and with panache – teenagers know very well what the difference is. No sector of society has as delicate a nose for “the smell of mendacity” and hypocrisy. They ignore what we say and are hypersensitive to what we do.

So when a trend like murdering the homeless sticks its ugly nose outside the tent of repression and teenagers are the ones pushing it, it’s because some of them have figured out that what an important segment of the dominant society really wants is to get rid of the bums who make it uncomfortable. They can smell the fear, feel the hate on their skins like acne, and some of them are going to run with it. You can’t fool a teen with mere words. S/he won’t react unless there’s reality in the words – real emotion.

So what’s happening – in Orlando and elsewhere – is that our coal mine canaries are screaming. Conservative fear and hatred of the poor has successfully communicated itself to the point where it’s being acted on by the people most aware of it. Listening to the “Take Care of #1”-ers and the Social Darwinists who have been controlling the communal message for three decades, these kids are simply acting out what they’ve heard over and over all their lives.

Our canaries are doing their job: it’s a warning, and we ignore it at our peril, not just theirs.

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3 Responses

  1. Speaking as a conservative, I can only ask:
    Do you believe your own words? My husband and I have told our teenage boys that to pick on the weak is disgusting, to stand by and watch a bully is worse than being a bully. Furthermore, we have domonstrated this by actually helping the less fortunate. Because of this, my sons have worked in homeless shelters, soup kitchens, shelters for abused women and children, have raised money for hurricane victims, cancer research, Aides in Africa…. The problem is not teenagers taking the cue from ‘conservatives’ and beating a man to death… it’s probably more like a result of the situational morality they are being taught in school and at home. Do they have someone in their homes teaching them what it means to be a real man? (and by ‘real man’ I mean wage earning, tax paying, law abiding and socially responsible) Probably not. Do they have a mother who is strong enough to realize that her son(s) need an older man to model themselves after? These were thugs. These were brutes. These are older boys who don’t know how to be young men. Have you looked into being a mentor? A Big Brother? Do you have a nephew or young cousin who could use some time and attention and guidance… That is what will prevent these things from happening.

  2. Good for you, good for your kids. But you’re clearly not a Movement Conservative. You’re an old-style moderate conservative, and the GOP – your party, I presume, since you’ve swallowed the “situational ethics” distortion Movement Conservatives have been harping on since Reagan – has denounced you, your beliefs, and your relevance. It calls you people RINOs – Republicans In Name Only – because you cling to non-market-based values. You know, like “It’s a dog-eat-dog world” and Look out for #1″ and “The poor are poor because they’re too lazy to work”. You clearly don’t support the second of those at least, yet you’ve supported a political group that has made a secular religion out of greed and self-interest, and deliberately destroyed the whole concept of community responsibility.

    I don’t have any animus toward moderates except one: you’ve kept your mouths shut while radicals and extremists turned the GOP into a rabid dog, an authoritarian nightmare that thinks the Constitution is a “quaint” document, spying on citizens is perfectly acceptable, torture isn’t torture if we do it, the “free market” is the answer to all questions, “trickle-down” is the only tax policy necessary, and taking the road to militant imperialism and away from democracy is the way for America to go.

    Do you really believe that kids don’t pick up on any of that? Respond to it? Act it out? Do you honestly believe that parents can put out the time and energy it takes to do what you suggest when they both have to work full-time jobs to keep a roof over their heads in an economy where wages have been stagnant for a quarter-century while the cost-of-living keeps going up? Can you look me in the eye and tell me it isn’t going to affect kids to know that ordinary workers are getting shafted while top execs take home 3000% of what average, scraping-by employees make?

    So let me ask you: are you both working? Or does one of you stay home? Is your household income more than $50K? Because that’s roughly the average. If so, has it occurred to you that you’ve experienced a certain amount of luck to be where you are? Because most people aren’t.

    I’m proud of your kids’ working in the areas they’ve worked, and that’s great, but do they ever tell you what they see? And do you listen? The problems they’re working on are communal problems – AIDS can’t be solved by pushing abstinence, homelessness can’t be solved with shelters, hunger can’t be erased by soup kitchens. Those are stop-gap measures. Band-aids. Temporary relief of problems, not solutions. If your kids are working in these areas, they know that even if you don’t. They see the results every day.

    Have they told you that the majority of homeless aren’t drunks or drug addicts but people who lost their homes because somebody in the family lost their job or got sick? Are you aware that the Pub Congress – filled with conservatives – has cut funding for housing programs every single year and that HUD Sec Jackson has refused to disperse what little money they did appropriate?

    What I’m saying is that a lot of teenagers are aware of the cruelty coming down from the top, and they’re reacting to it. Ten years ago, kids weren’t killing homeless men for the hell of it. We had thugs, but they were stealing, not killing. Today they are surrounded by a media full of people like Rush Limbaugh and Bill O’Reilly who say liberals ought to be put against a wall and shot and then tell lies to justify their hatred, a govt that brags about letting people starve, and radical conservatives who think homeless people are the scum of the earth. You think that doesn’t have an effect? All that hate-talk? All those hateful, selfish acts? All that denigration of community and sacrifice for other people? When was the last time you heard Pat Robertson urge his followers to help out in NO? Never. What you heard him say was that NO was a modern Sodom and Katrina was God’s punishment for its sins.

    You obviously don’t believe that, but you’re supporting people who do, and that sends a message to the culture: “It’s OK to hate. These sinners don’t deserve any better.”

    If you think kids don’t hear that message, or that they wouldn’t react to it if they just had a decent role-model, you’re living in a fantasy.

    The radical conservative message has gotten through loud and clear: “Those people don’t matter. Kill ’em if you want to.”

  3. In this day of information and media driven by capitalism, children, teenagers and young adults have access to content and actions that stir their intrigue.

    Teenagers and children are in fact myopic, selfish and live in a bit of a bubble. Especially in this age. Because of the demands in the American culture and parenting being put on a back stage to chasing revenue to stay alive… Kids look to be entertained to smile… We do not live in a culture (U.S.A) that children are inspired to give and create outside of themselves… (80%) There are exceptions. I’ve seen the nicest adults with children being absolute monsters and vice versa. Overall, the crap and unguided freedom that is filled into the minds of kids today is destined to set many up for failure.

    They are responsible for their actions NO MATTER WHAT AGE!!!!!! A parent is responsible for the allowing the child access to the trigger, visualization and thought process.

    KIDS DO NOT REASON!!! Please do not be naive.

    I personally today would recommend a firing squad for the parents of these kids along with the kids and then make the claim for the media to broadcast across the streets.

    IF YOU SEEM SO FIT TO VIOLATE THE RIGHTS, FREEDOMS AND LIFE OF ANOTHER HUMAN BEING IN A COMPLETELY INHUMANE MANNER. YOU ACCEPT THAT YOU NO LONGER ARE OF VALUE TO THE HUMAN RACE. STARTING AGE 10 YEARS OLD AND WILL BE DISPOSED OF WITHOUT TRIAL OR SACRIFICE OF SOCIAL CARE.
    QUICKLY, EFFICIENTLY AND WITHOUT REMORSE.

    Although this is extreme… It would clearly get the message out and a think twice to value consequence… Which is the main element forgotten today in a child’s mind.

    Thousands of people died in horrific natural disasters such as tsunami’s, earthquakes and even plague. Entire generations wiped out… And yet we try to logically apply reasoning or social justification to the catastrophic acts brought on by the hands of a… teenager?????? Are you kidding me????

    My heart aches for a man that is on his last resort living in the streets that at some point had family, friends and possibly children and his life was taken for kicks.

    FYI I have kids also!

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