Common Decency

So I saw a story today about a guy who got punched in the face half a dozen times, after going out of his way to do the right thing. Why, you ask? I don’t want to rehash the entire story, so instead, here are a few links detailing out how things went down. I’m including multiple articles, because I found it interesting to compare the portrayal provided in each one, and you might too:

http://www.foxnews.com/us/2017/06/27/accused-florida-kidnapper-was-actually-helping-lost-child-police-say.html

http://www.abcactionnews.com/news/region-polk/lakeland-father-beats-up-good-samaritan

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-4643834/Good-Samaritan-falsely-dubbed-child-predator-flees-town.html

http://www.theledger.com/news/20170626/lpd-lakeland-man-helping-lost-2-year-old-find-her-parents-attacked-by-girls-father-2-others

(FYI, if you want to check out just one version of the story, the Daily Mail link has the most complete information.)

So! This is a blog, right? With that in mind, here are my two cents on this story:

About Mr. Strickland:

Strickland is twenty-two years old, and has proven himself to be more immature than most people are at that age. Mr. Strickland is pretending as if, because the man with his daughter *might* have been up to no good, he was completely within his rights to repeatdly punch him in the face. But wait a second…let’s take a closer look, because it’s even worse than that. First up, Mr. Strickland had two friends with him, so that makes it three full grown men against one. Second, they came up to Mr. Patel from behind, snatched the toddler away from him, then, without pausing to communicate, attacked Mr. Patel.

Yikes.

Let’s assume the worst case scenario, and that it was a child molester making off with Mr. Strickland’s kid. So, he and his two friends get the child away from him quickly, coming up from behind. Fine, I can see things that far along. But then, they start attacking the “offender”. At that point, they’re taking the law into their own hands.

Isn’t one of the best things about the USA the concept that we *don’t* sink to the level of our enemies? Mr. Strickland, even if he had been correct in his assumption, still had no right, under the law, to take it upon himself to beat Mr. Patel black and blue. If there hadn’t been a crowd there, which made these three men back off, who knows how far things would have gone? What we do know is that Mr. Patel took at least six punches straight to the face. Even assuming his worst fears were correct, Mr. Strickland would still have been in the wrong to violently attack Mr. Patel.

Mr. Strickland found out, pretty quickly, that his assumptions were completely off base. Mr. Patel had come there with a friend who (thank his lucky stars!) was in the police force. Also, at least one eye witness reported seeing Mr. Patel escorting the toddler while asking around in order to find her parents. Ultimately, the local police also took it upon themselves to post a no nonsense statement on their own Facebook page, making clear that Mr. Patel was acting as a good samaritan.

After all the facts were laid out, however, what did Mr. Strickland have to say for himself? He declared he was in the right to have attacked Mr. Patel, and would do it again. His rational? He blames Mr. Patel for, essentially, walking around with his daughter in his arms.

Most rational people would have admitted they were wrong when faced with the truth, and apologized to (as well as thanked) the person who has gone out of their way to keep their child safe. Perhaps, deep down, Strickland feels guilty for letting his daughter wander off (and perhaps is worried that child protective services might take notice), so he’s pre-emptively (and protectively) deflecting attention away from his own failure as a parent. If Mr. Strickland were to admit he was wrong to attack, that might segue into other areas of improvement. Leaving it as he has, he probably thinks that he has shown the world how protective of his daughter he is, above all else.

I wouldn’t be surprised if this is his first child. Most parents learn at some point that toddlers, despite their size and clumsiness, can really move fast sometimes. I doubt anybody would declare child endangerment over this situation, but perhaps Mr. Strickland thinks it’s a legitimate possibility.

Whatever the case, hopefully Mr. Strickland will grow up a bit, before his daughter is old enough to start picking up his immature habits. As he is now, I’d hate to have this guy as a neighbor. Who knows what other false, judgemental assumptions he makes on a regular basis? And how often, based on those false assumptions, does he act? People can justify all sorts of ugly things, in much the same way Mr. Strickland has done, by presuming that Mr. Patel *might* have been a bad guy.

About Mr. Patel:

Imagine back to those films and shows from the 1950s, just for a minute. Imagine that you don’t have child predators, and people thoughtlessly spreading lies on Facebook. There were jerks in the 1950s, too, but I’m talking about the way modern Americans (modern for the 1950s) were portrayed in television and film. Heck, skip forward to the 1970s, and picture Mr. Rogers from Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood, or keep going to the present day and picture, say…one of the Avengers. Captain America seems especially fitting. Let’s say that Captain America sees a toddler wandering on their own, going toward a city street (which was the case when Mr. Patel spotted the little girl). What does Captain America do? Why, he’d go over, kneel down, and ask the kid where their parents are. If they don’t know, he’d probably take them by the hand, and help them find their parents. He might even pick the toddler up, and carry them as he looked. Visually, that would be a winning move; in fact, it feels like a scene waiting to be written.

That’s exactly what Mr. Patel did. Most of the articles linked above have pointed out that he held her hand, and walked around asking people if they were her parents. Eventually, he picked the toddler up as he continued to look. Given her age, I don’t count picking her up as anything inappropriate to do – in fact, it was safer for her, given that there was a moderate crowd. (On a side note, this seems to indicate the little girl was missing for at least several minutes, if not longer.)

Interestingly, some people, in the comment sections of some of these articles, have jumped to saying that Mr. Patel wasn’t being “smart”. They say he should have sought out a public address system, or called 911, or child protection services. Some have said he shouldn’t have touched the little girl at all.

Really? I think it says more about the degradation of our own society that, after reading this story, the initial reaction of some is to crtique Mr. Patel. But one thing’s clear: he wasn’t thinking “how can I protect myself?” Instead, he was thinking “There’s a toddler wandering around on her own! I’d better help her find her parents.”

I suppose Mr. Patel could have thought about seeking someone with a microphone to make an announcement about the missing toddler (and the same could be said for Mr. Strickland), but can you really blame him for not thinking that far ahead? And the people suggesting he should have kept his distance probably don’t have much experience with kids. The child was hardly a rabid dog, for goodness sake – she was a little toddler. It’s the most natural thing in the world to go up to a kid who looks lost. And the most efficient way to find out what’s going on is to ask them! Once you know they’re lost, naturally you’d stick with them. Frankly, Mr. Strickland should be grateful someone nice stayed with his daughter, because his little girl might have gotten into *serious* trouble, otherwise.

My solution:

At this point, Mr. Strickland is clearly in the wrong, and if he had a shred of decency, he’d reach out to Mr. Patel, treat him to dinner, take photos with him, make posts on Facebook stating he’s a great guy, and generally take steps to do everything he can to undo the damage perpetrated by thoughtless “do gooders” on the rumor mill known as Facebook. The only person to be physically assaulted here was Mr. Patel, and it was three full grown men against one. They came up from behind, snatched the little girl away, and then started pummeling him. Essentially, they decided to become judge, jury, and executioner, foregoing a conversation in favor of jumping to conclusions, after the father knew full well he’d failed to pay attention and lost track of his own child. It’s incredible when you think of the fact that Mr. Patel has declined to press charges; perhaps he’s Christian and beleives in turning the other cheek. Perhaps he’s Hindu and believes that it was karmic, and accepting it gracefully and empathetically is best. Or perhaps he’s just a very, very kind person who can empathise with someone even after being wrongfully harmed by them.

Whatever the case, Mr. Patel felt compelled to leave the city with his wife and two children for a while, for their safety, after their information and location was shared online via Facebook, with the smear of “child molester” falling on Mr. Patel’s shoulders.

Think about that for a minute. What if you were in Mr. Patel’s shoes?

Mr. Strickland, after making that over-the-top comment about how he doesn’t regret punching Mr. Patel in the face, might at *least* find it within himself to realize he’s helped to put another man’s children in danger. Perhaps that, given his recent experience, is something he can empathize with?

Given Mr. Patel’s situation, Mr. Strickland should offer a thoughtful, heartfelt apology, showcasing his gratitude, in both written and video format. He can post it to Facebook. It should include something like this:

“This has taught me to be more vigilant with my daughter, who is the most precious thing in the world to me. I’m grateful to Mr. Patel, and want to post this to undo any damage I have done through jumping to conclusions about him. I think the world is better for the good samaritans in it, and that includes Mr. Patel. I would hate for my actions to discourage other good doers from stepping up when the situation calls for it. Thank you, Mr. Patel! Everybody, please share this around.”

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