I shied away from writing about this story last week, since it just seemed too awful for words. But now the mother of the teenage burn victim has come forward with her own powerful words that deserve to be shared widely.
15-year-old Michael Brewer is still in critical condition after his peers poured rubbing alcohol on him and flicked a lighter, setting him on fire. After a neighbor came to Michael’s aid with a fire extinguisher, he was flown to a hospital, in so much pain that doctors put him in a medically induced coma. Although we can all be grateful that Michael survived the attack, he now faces months of treatment for inflammation, organ failure, and infection.
Five boys between the ages of 13 and 15 have been charged in the attack, one with attempted murder and four with aggravated battery. According to police, Michael owed a boy named Matthew Bent $40 for a video game. Angry that Michael hadn’t paid him, Bent tried to steal Michael’s father’s bicycle. Michael called the police to report the attempted theft, and Bent decided to get revenge by lighting him on fire with the help of other boys.
I am moved by the courage of Michael’s mother, who appeared on The Early Show and, in the midst of her agony, spoke out powerfully against the culture of violence in which such a horrific crime took place. “Our country, our world, needs to wake up and see what is going on with our children,” she said. “They need to do something. This has got to stop. It’s not just my son. It’s everybody’s children. This could happen to somebody else and God forbid — I don’t wish this agony and torture on anybody. We have got to do something to make this violence stop today.”
I would love to believe that this horrific crime was the work of a few abnormally disturbed boys and is in now way representative of the violence among youth, but it was not too long ago that a young girl battling cancer almost met the same fate as Michael. (Fortunately, neighbors came to her aid before her attackers could strike the match.)
It’s past time that anti-bullying education was a made a core part of the curriculum in every school across the country. It wouldn’t solve the problem of every child who is, for whatever reason, as amoral as Matthew Bent, but it might make it less likely that other kids would go along with such hateful schemes.
Photo: CBS News