This will not be a memorable post. Cathartic, maybe. You see something and you can’t stop seeing it, and everything you try to write is tainted by it. I posted a video yesterday on my personal page, of my little girl, when she was five, singing “I’ve Got A Shiny Hiney” because I missed her while she was at a sleepover. She is everything a five year-old should be in that clip and she makes my heart ache the way it’s supposed to – both of my children do. I was not always like this. Historically, I am not someone who has prompted people to say “She will make a great mother some day.” I can be selfish, irresponsible, prone to both under and overreaction. I am not perfect.
But I can’t bear to watch them be hurt. Two years ago, the nurse who gave my son seventeen stitches, and prior to that, a nearly equal number of shots of pain killer into his open wound, acquired when he stumbled over a bicycle in a dark room, had no idea how close she was to being killed and eaten right there in that room because I could not stand to watch him cry like that. The blood-red maternal rage that wells up inside you does not see clearly.
I saw another video yesterday. It was only about thirty seconds long.
The first view was unintentional – I try not to open clickbait of this nature, but it was a friend from whom I don’t normally see this kind of thing, and I just wasn’t paying attention.
I’m sure many of you have seen it – I am loathe to admit that I had to force myself to watch it twice, so that I knew what I was writing about, what I was forming opinions on, before I began. I will not post it here. It would serve nothing.
In this video, taken outdoors, a small child violently shoves a smaller child from the top of an air conditioning unit, sends her flying to the ground. There are adults, and a preteen child – and obviously, someone behind a camera, watching. Somehow we know that the first child is eight, the second, five. They both are so very small.
The five year-old girl – five! – cowers, and hugs herself, looking lost and fragile – and I’m going to lose it very quickly here – no adult intervenes, they do, in fact seem oblivious if not entertained when the older, bigger girl approaches – the small one is crying, and she screams “leave me alone” at the other child. An adult seems to be egging the older child on. The smaller girl is obviously frightened, near hysterical, looking around for help. There is none. No one cares.
The older girl grabs the younger by the hair, throws her to the ground and begins to hit her over the head, very hard, repeatedly. The person holding the camera, calmly recording it, is joined by at least one other woman recording on a cell phone while the small girl screams in terror as her hair is pulled and she is beaten. Finally, a woman steps in, pushes the older child away with her legs, showing no emotion, no reprimand, and as near as I can tell no one behaves in any way like a parent should under these circumstances. I don’t even know that there was a parent present.
I watched it again, with anxiety and disgust. Were we being punked? I googled the headline. I found several other articles, most of them about viral videos of teenagers violently attacking other people, unprovoked. The similarity between the attacks in these videos and the behavior of the children in the first one is eerie and sad. It’s a time-tested strategy: drag your victim by the hair and you will have the upper hand. She will be too scared and busy trying to keep her scalp attached to defend herself and you will have several minutes to beat her mercilessly without fear of being hit yourself. It is perfect in it’s disgusting, calculating, sociopathic cowardice.
I understand that this generation, or those before it, did not invent violence. Or gawking. Or child neglect and abuse. I hate it that people of any age are behaving like this. I hate it that people are recording it, commenting on it, sharing it for entertainment or to incite moral outrage. It’s disheartening to see that anyone would think this is the right thing to be known for. I’m sure it makes them fearsome. I’m sure it gains them notoriety with whoever they seek to impress.
I hate it that this is what it takes for them to feel like they matter.
Maternal instinct is a very deep, intense, primal force. I can’t explain it’s absence here. I don’t know how anyone could stand there and do nothing, especially not if you were her mother. All I could see was the helpless, stricken look on that baby’s face, waiting for someone to save her. She won’t forget that moment, when no one came. Next time, she will attack first, and who could blame her? Was that the point? Was this a lesson in self-reliance? At that moment, had I been promised a video where I could observe any adult in that clip being pushed in front of a train, I would have watched it.
What does that say about me?
It should come as no surprise that reading the comments gave me no peace. Racial and misogynistic slurs, threats of further violence – I suppose I should be glad someone cared about that child, even as an extension of their own hatred, prejudice and misguided beliefs. You know you are being manipulated by a site that wants to create just that kind of storm to boost it’s stats – but then, the video is real, so how do you not react? And if the answer is not to watch it, it still happened. How are you supposed to feel? I want it to not have happened in the first place, so it’s not there for someone to post and for people to see and react. But that brand of idealism is rarely productive.
According to a source at Mediatakeout, the trash/clickbait site that posted the video, it was sent to them by a “concerned family member of the child.” They forwarded it to police. Presumably after they made it viral.
Have we reached a point where a viral video is the best way to create pressure on authorities? I don’t know.
In a few days, just as we have after the other videos, we may read about how the police tracked down the adults involved, and the situation has been resolved. Maybe we will find the mother was not there, and is guilty only of a very poor child-care decision, or maybe she is the one who was instigating the violence and that little girl will wind up in the foster care system, a solution that does not comfort.
I tell myself that little girl is beyond my reach, and that maybe she will be okay. That the emotionless adults undoubtedly endured something that stole their humanity, and I try to care about that. I spent several hours this morning looking for stories of hope in an effort to lift the fog.
There are far worse incidents of abuse happening right this minute, and I can do nothing about them, either.
I am sure if I sat here long enough, I could come up with something more eloquent than what you have read here. Maybe I could find some light, create a movement, try to bravely lead a force for change.
Of course I understand that the attacker is a victim, too. I know I’m supposed to want to save them both. And I do. I want to save them all. I can’t save any of them.
Just a little girl, hugging herself and looking for help from the people who are supposed to be protecting her. I saw her frightened face, and heard her terrified voice. Right now I just want to find that tiny little girl and hold her and promise her that I will never let anything like that happen to her again.