Like every year before it, 2012 brought out the good and evil in human nature. The theme never changes, just the particulars.
The generosity of strangers sometimes seems boundless. After Jacoby Miles, a 15-year-old gymnast, was paralyzed in a practice accident, supporters raised more than $150,000 on her behalf and began an overhaul of her South Hill home to accommodate her disability.
An elderly bus monitor, Karen Klein, experienced a similar shower of generosity last summer after several boys on her bus were caught on video viciously tormenting her for more than 10 minutes.
When the video went viral, more than $700,000 in donations poured in. The bullying couldn’t be undone, but roughly 32,000 Americans wanted at least monetary justice. In a corresponding display of generosity, Klein has since been donating the money to an anti-bullying initiative.
If only bullying were the worst 2012 had to offer.
The year has been marked by shocking attacks on helpless children. In Pierce County, the worst came 11 months ago, when Josh Powell set himself and his 5-year-old and 7-year-old sons ablaze in a Graham-area house. That completed the destruction of an entire family; the boys’ mother had disappeared earlier. There was no one left to console with gifts or other assistance.
Two weeks ago, in an even less comprehensible crime, a mentally disturbed 20-year-old gunned down 20 children and six adults at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Conn.
Why the children?
Last March, a U.S. soldier reportedly perpetuated a similar massacre in Afghanistan, killing 16 Afghan villagers, at least nine of them children. That distant atrocity struck painfully close to home: A Bonney Lake man, Sgt. Robert Bales, was charged with the murders. The criminal proceedings at Joint Base Lewis-McChord are being followed throughout the world.
Such war crimes, thank heavens, are extreme rarities in the U.S. military – you have to go back 40-plus years, to the Vietnam era, to find a deliberate slaughter of that magnitude.
The same can’t be said for the Taliban, an organization in which depravity is institutionalized. In October, one of its gunmen walked on to a school bus and shot a 14-year-old Pakistani girl, Malala Yousafzei, in the head. Her crime: advocating education for girls.
While condemning the Taliban, though, let’s not lose sight of Malala, whose courage and concern for others speak so well of the human spirit.
We remain convinced that good folk far outnumber the bad on this planet – that the kind of people who would help rebuild a home for a paralyzed girl far outnumber the indifferent, the calloused and the cruel. May the better angels win more victories in the coming year.