Randy Weeks

Published on February 8th, 2023 | by Randy Weeks


The View From The Balcony: “Epidemic of Hard Hearts”

When I was in elementary school—third or fourth grade as I recall—a group of us boys became a pack of wolves. We scouted the playground and selected a fellow student, J.D., as our prey. J.D. was tall and lanky and, judging by the old, out-of-style clothes he wore, poor. His hair was greasy, as if he were a holdover from the 1950s street gangs—Lords of Flatbush style. He also made bad grades. When J.D. was called on to read in class, he read haltingly and fearfully, stuttering and sputtering like a dying motor. J.D. didn’t have many friends. He wasn’t like the rest of us, middle-class baby boomers from homes where education was a priority, with parents who were community leaders and highly respected.

The wolf pack had a plan. We stealthily encircled J.D. Ever so slowly we tightened the circle until we saw that J.D. realized he was trapped. We immediately and mercilessly pounced on him. Each of us grabbed our assigned arm or leg and we pinned J.D. to the ground. We sat on J.D. and his limbs and torso. One classmate even sat on his head. Eventually we heard and felt a sigh of resignation from J.D. as he went limp. The bell rang to signal the end of recess. We all got up—the bullies and the bullied—and went back to class.

A couple of hours later J.D. got up from his desk to run to the bathroom but threw up before he could make it. It was disgusting and we couldn’t continue class until Mr. Rosenberry, the school janitor, could clean up the mess. J.D. went home via his doctor’s office where he was diagnosed with a concussion. I don’t know if any of us ever apologized to J.D. I didn’t, but deep in my heart I knew that I should have.

In the wake of the Tyre Nichols’ recent murder by five (now at least seven) Memphis police officers, the dissection of the event and its aftermath proliferates in the media and in conversations. Many commentators and elected officials have called this incident one that is predominately about the lack of humanity. Scott Jennings, CNN Senior Political Correspondent and former Special Assistant to President George W. Bush, said, “We have an epidemic of hard hearts in this country.”

The murder of Tyre Nichols has also been called a result of group think. I believe that is white washing it. While there are many characteristics of group think on display here, what really happened was born of a mob mentality. Mob mentality eschews differences in opinions, pressuring everyone in the group to adopt the values of one or more strong leaders, causing some to abandon their own personal values in favor of those of the leading group members, doing and saying things they never would as individuals. Mob mentality is particularly susceptible to violence and prejudice of all kinds.

In the vicious, unprovoked, compassionless beating death of Tyre Nichols, seven or more police officers who had sworn to serve and protect became an Old West style lynching mob. They elevated themselves to be judge, jury, and executioner. And execute they did.

Memphis Police Chief, Cerelyn “CJ” Davis took swift and decisive action to fire the initially identified five officers. Shelby County District Attorney, Steve Mulrow, charged “The Memphis Five” with second-degree murder and several other crimes. All were arrested. At this writing four of the five are out on bail. Their hard heartedness and the hard heartedness of other officers and EMTs perpetrated and allowed this atrocity.

Few of us think we’d ever succumb to mob mentality or heard heartedness. But aren’t we being hard hearted when we’re mean to someone? When we judge another? When we treat someone as less-than? When we engage in character assassination, sometimes called “gossip”? Are we any better than “The Memphis Five”? The prospect exists that each of us could be one conversation, one moment of passion, one second of thoughtlessness from being caught up in a mob mentality.

We must be vigilant lest we fall prey to heinous thoughts and actions. We must soften, not harden our hearts to anyone who is journeying this path called “humanity.” We must, lest…

“Worse than a bloody hand is a hardened heart.” (Percy Bysshe Shelley)

…and that’s the view from The Balcony.

Randy Weeks is a Licensed Professional Counselor, a Certified Shamanic Life Coach, an ordained minister, a singer-songwriter, and an actor. He believes deeply in compassion, kindness, and love. Randy may be reached at randallsweeks@gmail.com

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About the Author

Randy Weeks is a Licensed Professional Counselor, a Certified Shamanic Life Coach, an ordained minister, a singer-songwriter, and an actor, who lives in Oxford, Mississippi. He may be reached at randallsweeks@gmail.com.

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