Years ago, high on the list of best-selling books was one by Dr. Bill Bennett entitled "The Death of Outrage." Bennett writes that nothing of moral misconduct seems to outrage us in our society today. I fully agree with him. We see words on bumper stickers and on the internet, and hear words on television and the radio that a few years ago were not even seen on bathroom walls. Yet, most people seem to feel "they're just words." From my perspective, that's like saying, "It's just dynamite."
When a child is raped and murdered, after an initial burst of anger and indignation, we ponder the question, "What can I do?" and then helplessly shrug it off. Recently, something came to my attention that bothers me as much as anything has ever bothered me, so here's my question: What would you have done if someone confessed to you and 200 other people that he had murdered his 5-year-old daughter by setting his home on fire? I hope you would have revealed the incident to the police, regardless of how you obtained the information. Surely, that is the right thing to do.
An editorial published in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch stated that Larry Froisted revealed this horrifying bit of information to some 200 people in his online chat room support group. The thought of a child being burned to death is horrible, and it is made even more abominable for me because my own granddaughter is named Amanda, as was his child. It is beyond belief that of the 200 people involved in the confidence, only three notified police that a murder apparently had been committed. Two of those who turned him in were subsequently "flamed" by those outraged at the betrayal of a cyber confidence. Apparently, an unspoken rule of confidentiality girds the culture of internet support groups and chat sessions.
Strangely enough, there is a remarkably strong bond tying together people who know each other only as faceless screen names. This very anonymity functions as a kind of universal disclaimer. If anyone is free to say anything to anyone, what can be believed? Who can be accountable? Who would care anyway?
Has our society reached the point where all we do is blame somebody else for what we do? The old refrains ring out, "It's not my fault, I was abused as a child." "I'm innocent because of insanity," and so on.
We must all recognize that somebody else's crime or wrongdoing does not excuse us from accepting our own responsibility for acting as good citizens. To do otherwise would mean anarchy, and no one would be safe in our society.
Question: Is an online confession admissible in court? Some lawyers say yes and some say no. Should Froisted have had any expectation of privacy? Even the rankest amateur surfer knows that privacy online is fiction at it's finest.
Chances are good these same people who refused to support those who turned Froisted in would have been horror-stricken had one of those 200 revealed on the internet that he or she had burned down their own child. Would their loyalty have been to the internet chatroom, or would their outrage have demanded justice? Surely we need to examine our consciences and start thinking in terms of the sanctity of human life and giving criminals their just due when they take the life of another. Surely a rebirth of the value of life would give all of us cause to rejoice.
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