There is no way to make sense of the story: Amanda Berry, Michelle Knight, and Gina DeJesus were kidnapped and held against their wills for years in a boarded-up house in Cleveland. Ms. Knight is 32; she disappeared in 2002. Ms. Berry is 27, and was taken in 2003. Ms. DeJesus is 23, and was kidnapped in 2004.
All these years, they were held in that house and apparently used as slaves, sexual and otherwise. Ms. Berry bore a child, Jocelyn, who is now 6 years old.
The owner of the house, Ariel Castro, has been charged. It wasn’t the Cleveland police but two neighbors who rescued the women this week.
Many questions flood the mind: Can these human beings ever recover from the trauma they have suffered? We can only hope so. Is there enough punishment in this world for the men who allegedly did this? No.
Did police do enough to find these women over the past decade? Demonstrably, no: They visited the house several times but never inspected it.
Should the heroes be rewarded with fame and fortune? And does their heroism cheer us when we consider such evil? Yes, but not enough.
What’s wrong with the human race? The news is full of man’s inhumanity to man, and of humans at their worst — barbaric, brainwashed, conniving, feckless, weak. It’s natural to call for the heads of the kidnappers or to denounce the cops. If this tragedy does not enrage and depress you, you’re not alive.
But we need to dig deeper. Something in this culture is feeding the sickos. Some need more treatment, while others we simply need to lock up and throw away the key. But what happens to these women and their families now? What lessons can society take away from this outrage, if any?
These women will never really be whole; they will need unending love and support. One of their heroic rescuers, Charles Ramsey, made a good suggestion: Any money made from this tragedy — from television producers, publishers, or other commercial ventures — should go to the victims and the people who are taking care of them.
Some will say we need more religion. If they mean “true religion” as St. James defines it — “to visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction” — they are right. Many people seem to have no moral compass and no sense of right or wrong. Many more talk the talk but walk only the “me” walk. Many of us have forgotten how to be neighbors.
Others will say that cities need community to flourish. Two neighbors saved these girls. If the house had not been boarded up and people in the area had known one another better, the rescue might have happened sooner. That does not take the cops off the hook, of course.
The isolation in our cities today, and the destruction of so many neighborhoods, including many in Toledo, make it easier for criminals and crazies to do their worst. Three forces — community policing, urban churches, and engaged neighbors — must support each other.
The watchwords must be: Give a damn, and get involved.
Meanwhile, the thoughts and prayers of many are with three women and a child in Cleveland, we hang onto the decency of two ordinary heroes, and we watch this horrific story unfold.