But in America, we let any nut with a chip on his or her shoulder wield weapons.
Okay, so maybe this is an oversimplification of things. However, I couldn’t help but take notice when I read a news story about YouTuber ReSet (otherwise known as Kanghua Ren) who made over 2000 euros on a video he made in 2017. Mr. Ren, who was 19 years old in 2017, filmed himself offering an Oreo cookie filled with toothpaste and a 20 euro bill to a homeless man sitting outside of a supermarket in Barcelona, Spain. The man, who was probably really hungry, ate the cookie and vomited.
Chinese born Ren, who acknowledged that maybe he went a bit too far in carrying out this prank, then quipped, “This will help clean his teeth– I don’t think he has cleaned them since he became poor.”
The video got plenty of views, which helped Ren make some money. He had made the video, in part, as a response to challenges set forth by his followers, who evidently wanted him to raise the bar on being an asshole and taking advantage of vulnerable people. However, a lot of people found his dirty trick completely reprehensible.
The homeless man, in his early 50s and identified as Gheorge L., was born in Romania and was once a shepherd before he wound up in Barcelona. He has a daughter. Mr. Ren offered her 300 euros not to file a lawsuit after having filmed himself visiting her father again, offering him another 20 euro bill.
Clearly, Gheorge’s daughter was not moved by the offer of 300 euros. Mr. Ren was forced to answer for his callous behavior in a Spanish courtroom. Noting that Ren had done other videos depicting himself being cruel to vulnerable people, Judge Rosa Aragonés found Ren guilty of violating the moral integrity of the homeless man. She sentenced Mr. Ren to fifteen months in prison and handed down a 20,000 euro fine, which is to be paid to the homeless man.
Because this is Mr. Ren’s first offense, and the sentence is less than two years, he is unlikely to go to prison. However, he has also been ordered to shut down all of his social media channels, including YouTube, for the next five years. I guess this means Mr. Ren will have to find another way to make some cash.
It’s interesting to read about this case, especially in the wake of the most recent shooting in the United States. On Friday afternoon, in Virginia Beach, Virginia, 40 year old DeWayne Craddock, who had just resigned his position as a city engineer that morning, brought a weapon into his former workplace and started firing indiscriminately, killing 12 people and injuring others. Craddock, who died in the shootout, was reportedly a “nice guy” who had quit his job for “personal reasons”. And yet, there he was with a gun on Friday, ending the lives of 12 people, including Keith Cox, who led seven people to safety before he was killed. Before he went on his rampage, my guess is that most people didn’t think of Craddock as an “asshole”.
In Europe, a person can wind up in trouble with the law simply for being an asshole. Granted, what Kanghua Ren did could have been dangerous. It’s not recommended to eat toothpaste and his victim did vomit after eating the Oreo cookie. But ultimately, what he did was mean spirited and cruel, and that was what he was punished for. He wasn’t punished for potentially poisoning someone.
In the United States, it takes a whole lot to deprive people of certain rights. One right far too many Americans enjoy is the right to bear arms. Lately, the shootings have become so common that I no longer really feel shocked when I hear or read about them. Something is causing ordinary people to simply snap and start murdering people.
Christi Dewar, who was employed at the Virginia Beach utilities office and had worked there for thirteen years, said that Mr. Craddock was well dressed and soft spoken. She had no reason to fear him. She said he was a bit introverted, but gave no signs of being the type or person who would go on a shooting rampage. But on his last day living, Mr. Craddock came armed with handguns, high capacity magazines, and a silencer device. He cracked off at least fifty rounds at his former co-workers before he was finally taken out himself. Dewar says that she thinks all of the government buildings need metal detectors and security guards. She says she would happily tolerate daily searches if it means never having to go through another shooting. I would rather not give up more of my personal liberty in the name of stopping gun violence. I don’t think metal detectors and security guards will necessarily protect anyone. Security guards are people too, and if someone is that determined to kill, they’ll still kill… even if it means killing someone else who has a gun.
Seems to me a better solution is to stop making guns so accessible to everyone, make it easier for people to access and afford mental health care, and make eliminating classism and racism a priority. Also, I think there should be more emphasis on not being an asshole. Here in Germany, a person can be fined for flipping someone off, particularly if that person is in a position of respect, such as a police officer or government official. Of course, that doesn’t mean people don’t shoot the bird on the Autobahn. I have seen it happen. But there is an emphasis on not harming other people here– and not being uncivilized to others.
It’s been nice to live in Europe for the past few years, even though I’ve been watching my country disintegrate from afar. It makes me heartsick, and worried about what it will be like when we do move back home. I mean, yes… you can have neighbor disputes in Germany. You can have issues with your co-workers, your landlords, and other people. You can even end up being murdered in a particularly passive aggressive way in Europe. However, random acts of violence against perfect strangers is a lot rarer here than it is in the United States. There are a lot of pissed off, fed up, angry people there who are on the verge of snapping and have lost their senses of decency and humanity.
Anyway… while I’m not sure I think sending a prankster like Mr. Ren to prison is all that constructive, I do think it’s commendable that he’s been held accountable for being mean spirited. Maybe Americans can learn something from Mr. Ren’s case. It’s entirely possible that Europeans have simply had more time to become civilized than Americans have. Maybe, if the Earth is still around in 1000 years, America will be more like Europe is now. Or maybe Europe will be more like America is now. Glad I won’t be around to find out for sure.