Malissa Durkee holds a photo of her brother Michael Brewer on October 14. Five teens have been charged with aggravated battery for dousing Brewer with rubbing alcohol and setting him on fire.
If you don't think there is something wrong in America today, you haven't seen the story of fifteen-year-old Michael Brewer.
According to Broward County, Florida, police, Michael was set on fire by five of his peers, all aged 13 to 15. He now struggles to stay alive with burns over 65 percent of his body. Dr. Nicholas Namias, Michael's doctor and the director of the Burn Center at Jackson Memorial Hospital, emphasized that the road ahead for the young victim will not be easy. Michael is "doing as well as we could hope someone could do with this condition," Dr. Namias said according to CBS News. "But don't mistake that for good," he continued. "This is obviously a very bad thing, a serious thing. People said yesterday he was out of the woods, but that's only half the sentence…. Burn patients only really start to get sick four, five, six days into it."
The attack on Michael came four days ago. According to police, Michael owed suspect Matthew Bent $40 for a video game. When Bent didn't get the money, he attempted to steal a custom bicycle, valued at $500, from Michael's father. When the attempted theft was reported to police, Bent allegedly wanted revenge.
That led to five boys, including Bent, attacking Michael, dousing him with rubbing alcohol, and setting him ablaze. The Miami Herald describes what happened:
According to witnesses and [suspect Jesus] Mendez's confession, Bent ordered them to pour rubbing alcohol over Brewer after surrounding him at an apartment complex in the 400 block of SE 13th Court. Denver Colorado Jarvis, 15, then doused him with the fluid. Shortly thereafter, Mendez took a lighter to him and Brewer went up in flames.
Two other boys, Jarvis' brother, Jeremy, and Steven Shelton, 15, stood by saying nothing, according to BSO.
Brewer ran to a swimming pool and jumped in -- a move that doctors said may have saved his life.
This atrocity committed by kids against another kid is one of a line of such atrocities stretching back to the massacre at Columbine. Every time one of these horrible crimes occurs, the question is asked why they continue to happen.
There is no single answer, but there are a constellation of related changes that have occurred in American culture and society over the last several decades, since at least the 1960s, that working in concert create conditions that are not only conducive to these crimes, but also explain the substantial problems in our political system.
The first is the culture of relativism that has become one of the major philosophical tenet's underlying the professional education establishment. Up and coming teachers, for instance, are strongly indoctrinated with one species of relativism in the form of multiculturalism. All cultures, teacher education programs at universities around the nation emphasize, are equal and valuable. There isn't any one that is better than the other. Specifically, Western civilization is not superior to any other civilization and, ergo, the United States and its heritage of limited government under a written constitution based on the natural law, is not any better than other nations lacking that heritage.
Similarly, the idea that morality is relative has even more strongly influenced culture in the last several decades. We now hear about "personal" morality as opposed to mere morality in general. The first is determined by and limited to each individual while the latter is applicable to all regardless of time or place. Personal morality is relative to person and circumstance, while general morality is grounded in self-evident, natural truth.
But, because relativism holds sway, especially in academia and our schools, the basic moral truths, and the natural law from which they stem, have been banished to the dust bin of history.
This puts the ailments of our nation into focus. Summarizing the natural law, Jefferson wrote in the Declaration of Independence that certain truths about the rights of the people were self-evident. The rights to life, liberty, and property, or happiness as the Declaration terms it, are not created by personal whim of man or government, but stem from the Creator, or from ultimate Truth.
What Jefferson summarized of the natural law is nothing but the central tenet of basic morality. "Thou shalt not steal," is a moral precept applicable in all times and places, because to commit the crime of theft is to infringe on the natural right of property and happiness. "Thou shalt not kill," similarly is a moral precept always and everywhere because to kill is to infringe on the natural right to life.
We are beset by children committing unspeakable crimes because they have no understanding of general morality. It is no longer taught, either to our teachers or to children in our schools. If it is taught, that teaching is accompanied all to often with the admonition that the concept of natural law, self-evident truth, and general morality was developed by a patriarchal society as a means of oppressing women and minorities.
Nothing could be further from the truth, of course. It was an understanding of the natural law that animated America's founders and that informed the construction and operation of a free society with a limited government applicable to all people regardless of race, ethnicity or gender that is unique in all human history.
One of those Founding Fathers, John Adams, warned: “Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.”
Unless we heed that warning, it seems likely that we will continue to witness unspeakable crimes, including those committed by children, as well as the further erosion of limited government.