Kids Laughed As He Drowned: Why Are We Shocked?

My hometown newspaper recently ran a story about two teenagers, Trevor Deen and Thomas Pope. They saved a friend who was drowning at a pool party, and were honored by the community and congratulated by the mayor of our fine city.

“Just do it,” is what Pope said when asked what others in the same situation should do. “If you see something wrong, just see if you can help,” added Deen.

That’s how I was raised, and how those two boys were raised. You don’t let people suffer and perish if you can do something about it.

Not everyone is raised that way. But you’d think something as basic as human decency would be a no-brainer for everyone. It’s one thing to risk your life in going above and beyond to help a stranger. It’s another thing to pull a drowning person from a pool or a pond where you are unlikely to expose yourself to peril.

It’s nothing to call 9-1-1 if you have a phone (everyone does these days) and see someone drowning. A group of teens, 14 to 16-year-olds, in Brevard County, Florida had phones with them while 32-year-old Jamel Dunn—a disabled man—drowned in a retention pond.

They could have called 9-1-1. Instead, they videoed him dying. (Some advice: Don’t watch the video, even out of curiosity. I didn’t watch it. Just don’t. You can’t unsee someone dying before your eyes.) They joked about it. They mocked him as he screamed for help.

“Get out the water, you gonna die,” one yelled. Another added, “ain’t nobody fixing to help you, you dumb (expletive),” Florida Today reported.

It’s hard to imagine a more calloused, inhuman reaction to another’s suffering.

None of the boys were arrested by detectives. It’s not a crime because we have no legal obligation to help our fellow human beings avoid death. The boys didn’t cause Dunn’s death. They didn’t drown him or push him into the pond.

Then Dunn’s head disappeared beneath the water. “Oh, he just died,” said another teen. And they all laughed.

They laughed.

I think they should be locked up, personally. I think there should be consequences for moral turpitude and wickedness of this scale. But our legal system wasn’t set up to deal with monsters whose only transgression is a lack of human decency or an ounce of compassion.

My greater concern is with our society and our culture. Certainly, most teens would have at least called 9-1-1 and reported a drowning man. Many would have gone to help Dunn. Some would have risked their lives to help him.

A society that produces not one, but a group of young people who could not muster the humanity to save a drowning disabled man is a sick society. A society that produces a group who record the man’s drowning while staying to watch the grisly scene is beyond just sick, it’s dying.

In America, we have raised generations of kids on violence, video games, reality shows, and pornography. Many don’t know how to act right because they’ve never seen civilized behavior. They’ve never opened a Bible. They’ve never had an adult tell them they have value. They’ve never seen a true act of compassion.

They know nothing of virtue.

C.S. Lewis wrote in his 1943 book “The Abolition of Man,” that “no justification of virtue will enable a man to be virtuous.”

I had sooner play cards against a man who was quite skeptical about ethics, but bred to believe that ‘a gentleman does not cheat,’ than against an irreproachable moral philosopher who had been brought up among sharpers.

America has educated our kids in the forms of virtue, but not the substance. We’ve given our kids anti-violence, anti-bullying, anti-discrimination, anti-homophobia, anti-Islamophobia, anti-sexism, anti-everything training in school, but we’ve raised them steeped in wretched depravity.

What should we expect? Why are we shocked?

We’ve banished God from the classroom. We’ve taken down every fence and guardrail against perversity and obscenity. But we demand “humanity” and are shocked when our youngsters turn out to be savages.

And all the time—such is the tragi-comedy of our situation—we continue to clamour for those very qualities we are rendering impossible. You can hardly open a periodical without coming across the statement that what our civilization needs is more ‘drive’, or dynamism, or self-sacrifice, or ‘creativity’. In a sort of ghastly simplicity we remove the organ and demand the function. We make men without chests and expect of them virtue and enterprise. We laugh at honour and are shocked to find traitors in our midst. We castrate and bid the geldings be fruitful.

Without some radical, God-inspired change, we are truly doomed.

About the author

Steve Berman

The old Steve cared about money, prestige, and power. Then Christ found me. All at once things changed. But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against these things!

I spent 30 years in business. Now I write and edit. But mostly I love. I have a wife and 2 kids and a dog and we live in a little house in central Georgia.

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