In northern Italy, a tragedy happened at a train station. A Canadian woman was struck and badly hurt by a train. Rescuers and station personnel went to help her, and ultimately the injured woman was taken to a hospital, where her leg was amputated.
But while the helpless, injured woman lay prostrate on the track bed and rescue workers assisted her, a guy in white shorts and a white shirt positioned himself on the adjacent platform so that the woman and the workers appeared in the background behind him, flashed a hand gesture and no doubt a facial expression . . . and then used his cell phone to take a “selfie” of himself and the tragic scene. The man’s act of cold-hearted callousness was captured by a news photographer in the photograph published above. Police noticed the man in white shorts, too, and briefly detained him. Although he was found to have committed no crime, they required him to delete the selfie — so we’ll never see the photo that he thought was so important to take.
The above photograph of the heartless selfie-taker has caused shock and outrage in Italy. The photographer said the scene caused him to think that “we have completely lost a sense of ethics.” A commentary in a popular newspaper spoke of a “cancer that corrodes the internet” and said that the man in white shorts had lost his soul and his personality; a popular radio said the scene showed that the human race is “galloping towards extinction.”
But should anyone really be surprised by the man in white shorts who thought a scene of personal tragedy would be an interesting and fitting backdrop for yet another photo of his face? We’ve seen stories of people risking life and limb — and sometimes losing the bet — to take selfies, and we all know people whose first thought, wherever they may be, apparently is to take a selfie and publish it to their friends. The selfie zealots have allowed their narcissism to overwhelm their common sense, and the guy in white shorts has allowed his basic sense of decency to be overwhelmed, too.
For the selfistas, the real world is just an abstraction, and nothing more than background for their self-absorbed grins and gestures. For the sake of the guy in white shorts, let’s hope that if he ever is injured or needs help, there are people nearby whose first reaction will be to help him — rather than step back and take a selfie.
The app will be called Wingman. On planes that have wifi, the app would allow people to enter their airline and flight number, find out if there are other Wingman participants on their flight, and then enter their seat number and destination so they can set up a sordid tryst in the airplane bathroom, under the scratchy blue blanket, or in a no-tell motel when they arrive.
It’s another reason to bemoan the race-to-the-bottom morality of our era, and to wonder about how much of our technological creativity is focused on finding new ways to get lonely men to spend money on testosterone boosters, hair implants, singles clubs, and other things that supposedly will allow them to increase their chances of having sex. They say that a huge portion of internet capacity is devoted to porn. How much of the app world focuses on trying to hook people up?
Wingman also should remind us all of the need to avoid use of airplane bathrooms to the maximum extent permitted by kidney and intestinal function. Now we don’t have to worry only about the sketchy characters with questionable personal hygiene who are sprinting back to the bathroom with urgent looks on their faces, or the unsteady octogenarians who’ve been in the can for half the flight. Now we also have to be concerned that lonely, desperate people might be swapping bodily fluids back there, too. If you’re planning on using the bathroom on your next flight, you might as well board in a hazmat suit.
Michelle Knight, who was held captive by Castro for 11 years, read an emotional statement at the hearing. She said she had spent 11 years in hell, and now Castro’s hell would be just beginning. She also vowed not to let her terrible experience define her, or affect who she is, and instead to live on despite the ordeal. Those are noble, life-affirming sentiments from someone who has had to endure the unendurable.
Castro also spoke. He blamed his behavior on an “addiction” to sex and porn that made him “impulsive.” He said he was not a “monster” or a “violent predator,” but just a “normal person” whose addiction made him not understand that what he was doing is wrong. “I’m a happy person inside,” he said.
Castro later said he was “truly sorry” for his acts, but of course that “apology” rings awfully hollow. It’s obvious that Castro has rationalized away taking responsibility for his heinous acts, blaming a phony “addiction” rather than accepting blame himself.
One thousand years is a long time, but mere physical incarceration is not the same as experiencing true moral guilt for your criminal conduct. Castro obviously doesn’t, and that makes even a 1,000-year sentence seem inadequate. It’s a sad day for our society when a man who kidnapped and enslaved three women, raped them repeatedly, beat them until they miscarried, and kept them in chains, can deny his obvious status as a “violent predator” and publicly claim to be a “normal person” who is “happy inside.”
Although Sandusky and Monsignor William Lynn have been brought to justice, the overriding theme of their stories is of institutions and adults that failed to stand up for children. It’s bad enough that there are sexual predators and abusers lurking in the dark corners of society, but it is inexcusable when people who could stop the criminal acts of those twisted individuals do not do so.
Children are among the most vulnerable people in society. Parents know this, and also know that they must trust adults who interact with those children on any given day to protect and help them. When those adults abdicate that responsibility — and instead seem to look the other way, or even worse, actively enable the sick abuser — it is frightening and infuriating.
We need to figure out how the Sandusky and Catholic priest horror stories happened, and how to stop them from ever happening again. We have to determine how to restore the basic notions of right and wrong that should have caused the adults who failed to act to instead fulfill their obligations as members of a civilized society.