A little over a week ago I found myself leaving the local grocery store and stumbled into a heartbreaking situation. There was a developmentally disabled young adult being wrestled to the ground by store security. The gentleman was non-verbal (at least in this moment), and putting up one hell of a fight. I do not know the infraction that sparked this melee, but I do know two large gentleman were struggling to detain this man. There were several raw steaks strewn across the floor, perhaps he was stealing them. The struggle had knocked over some straws and plastic forks from the Panda Express counter. Perhaps it started there.
I never like to see anyone being detained forcefully. The disability advocate in me wanted to free this man. Spring him and fight the cops. Stand up against "The Man".
But I came in half way through the movie, and I don't know how it started. I also could see that, for whatever reason, this guy was fighting back. The security guys weren't being cruel or excessive. They weren't yelling at or mocking him. They were struggling.
They got the man down. They started to cuff him (I was surprised to see actual handcuffs on grocery store loss prevention officers, too).
The man fought on. Screaming and grunting. Unable to find any words that might ease his situation, tell his story, plead his case, or even say "I'm sorry".
I took a step to them. The situation was under control. I wasn't there to defend anyone's actions. But I am not frightened or uncomfortable speaking to the developmentally disabled. Perhaps I could help.
But something stopped me.
There was a group of five 13/14 year-old boys standing next to me. They had just received their Starbucks coffee. They were watching the melee. They were laughing. One was filming on his phone. There were no parents around, but these guys were old enough to be hanging out by themselves.
And they were laughing.
I said the only thing I could think to say.
And the ringleader (at least the one filming) said to me:
"No, Bro. This retard keeps trying to fight back. It's hilarious"
And the curtain of sadness and hatred closed in front of my eyes.
"That man has dignity. That man has shame. That man is not here for your entertainment. Stop."
And I was ignored. I reached out to grab this phone. Somewhere in the back of my mind a voice told me to stop. These are children. You don't want to get bailed out because you fought children in a grocery store. Somewhere, very deep down, that old ABA therapy voice whispered "Jaye, model the proper behavior". It distracted me long enough for the kid to put the phone down.
The loss prevention officers were now escorting the man away, he had ceased resisting. The show was over.
"Next time, you offer to help, or you walk away. Your first instinct was to pull out your phone and film a person in their most embarrassing moment. No."
"Fuck you!" and the kids stumbled away.
"No, young man. Fuck you."
I paid for my groceries and went to my car. The kids were gone. Security had taken the man to some back office somewhere. A panicked woman in her fifties had just run by me and didn't grab a shopping cart. I bet it was his mother. She had the completely devastated look of someone who had just heard that her son, her baby, the one she might have given her life up for, had been arrested.
And I cried for a few minutes.
For all of us.
I'm sad where our world has come. We've become so unapologetically mean, and voyeuristic, and self-righteous, and distant from each other.
Please. Don't be an asshole.
I have been scanning youtube for the last week. The framing and set-up and details and sounds of this melee would certainly be released sooner or later.
I am certain that this kid will simply cut out the part of the video when that big Irish-brawler/kind a biker looking dude came over and lectured him.
But it is not there.
Perhaps modelling the proper behavior worked.
Perhaps there is hope.