Thursday, May 09, 2013

Monster in the neighborhood

In 2012 and 2013 we’ve had several outrages. We’ve had the shootings in Aurora; we’ve had the Newtown shootings. We were upset when the dictator of North Korea was telling the world he was going to shoot off a nuclear missile. We’ve also had the Boston Marathon bombings, and now we are witnessing a horror story with a man named Ariel Castro.

Poor Kim Jong Un, North Korea’s outrageous autocrat. He had America’s attention, and was satisfied  especially because he’s a fan of American NBA basketball  that the ball was in his court. He was controlling the tempo of the game. He thought he had a slam dunk with his threats of launching a nuclear missile. Then Boston happened and the crowds who had been watching him dribble down the court suddenly left the arena before the buzzer went off. How could he know that in America we have such short attention spans? The nuke threat was a nine-day wonder, something Kim Jong Un had no experience with in his own country of total news control and no competitive cable channels. We turned our attention away from Kim, and worse for him, we ignored him. We followed the story of the Boston bombings with rapt fascination. We had the satisfaction of seeing the case wrapped up in less than a week. It was like the script of an action movie. Kim was probably left sputtering with frustration at the sudden turn of events.

But in the meantime three women and a child were living out the script of a real life horror movie. Ariel Castro, far from being a showboat and belligerent like Kim, went about his dreadful business without so much as raising an official eyebrow. In this country if you mind your own business you are assumed to have a right to privacy. I don’t disagree with that, but you don’t have a right to keep captives in your house to make subject to your sadistic depredations. Outside the house Castro’s profile was too low for him to come to anyone’s attention. By keeping that profile and being allowed his privacy he committed real life acts that would be at home in the worst horror film you have ever seen.

Something about monsters. They don’t look like they do in movies, or even in the editorial cartoon above. If you were to encounter either Kim or Castro in a crowd you wouldn’t look twice.

When you think about it, the worst monster is whom? The North Korean dictator, despite his rotund and clownish appearance, is actually monstrous on a grand scale. His government runs a system of labor camps much like the Nazi or Soviet gulags, where slave laborers and their families live and die. The citizens of North Korea, starved and beaten down by their lifestyle, look as if they have been lobotomized, turned into robots.

On the other hand, as far as monsters go, Ariel Castro is right up there with those people we most fear moving in next door, the quiet and totally deranged. Who knows how long this could have gone on before he was eventually discovered, or would he have died of a heart attack or cancer and then had his secrets exposed? We are used to people like Kim, and we let the U.S. government handle the situation. There’s nothing we can do but sit in front of our televisions and hope things turn out all right. But someone like Castro is much scarier. We work alongside him, we chat with him over the hedge, we sit in a restaurant and have a meal right next to his table. There is nothing on his face, in his demeanor, or in his voice that leads us to believe he is capable of maintaining such a chamber of horrors as the house on Seymour Avenue in Cleveland.

Give me Kim Jong Un as the bad guy anytime. We know how to deal with the Kim Jong Uns of the world. It’s the Ariel Castros against whom we have no defense.

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