When belligerents ask for forgiveness

Assailants of the elderly and children of St. Paul are brought to justice.

Maureen Landsverk

There are two sides to every story. That is what weâÄôre told, anyway. Our government is founded on the basis of equality, on the impartial representation of everyone and anyone who may lay claim to American citizenry. There is, however, a point at which objectivity is impossible âÄî a point where the capacity to forgive and forget becomes unacceptable. The question is, how often are we willing to look the other way âÄî and should we? As Americans, we live in a particularly forgiving society. Second chances are found on every corner, in each smile and passive shrug of the shoulders that characterize our nation. Recently, this tendency has not been to anyoneâÄôs benefit but those who least deserve it. This past Tuesday, Fox9 News Twin Cities broke the story of eight Somali youths who as recently as Sunday committed numerous attacks on unsuspecting pedestrians and bicyclists as they passed by âÄî then taped, edited and posted the content on YouTube. To further demonstrate their complete and utter lack of common sense, the assailants began the video with close-up shots of their faces, matched with their supposed actual names, underscored by âÄústreet names,âÄù extending an unintentional invitation to police for immediate arrest. As of late, five members of the video production team have been arrested, including Mohamed Abdi, 19, a current student at the University of Minnesota. Abdi was already on probation for a prior conviction of second-degree aggravated robbery in 2008, in which he acted as a gunman with what turned out to be a BB gun. Others implicated in the video are Abdullahi Ali, an attendee of Minnesota State University-Mankato, and Guled Abdirahman, both 19. The identified culprits ranged in age from 16 to 19. Ramsey County Jail booking records reveal that charges have been filed on Abdi and Ali as felony and gross misdemeanor indictments, respectively. Ali and Abdirahman refused to comment, though the latter posted the following statement on Facebook late Friday afternoon: âÄúFirst and [foremost], I [want to] apologize to the victims we attack in that video âĦ it started out [as] a joke and turned into something real serious âĦ I [want to] say sorry for everybody that watched this âĦ Please forgive us for our mistakes; we are truly sorry for our actions.âÄù The public reaction to the actions showcased in the video has been one of cumulative disgust and outrage. Seeing a group of young men spinelessly attack societyâÄôs weakest members is described as âÄúdifficult to watchâÄù and âÄúextremely saddeningâÄù by University students. As of Friday, three victims have come forward and identified themselves being harassed in the video. Dr. Paul Dickinson, 71, initially had reservations about reporting his own attack. As he describes it, he was strolling down Grand Avenue on Saturday evening as has been his ritual for 15 years, when he was attacked from behind, resulting in a split lip with âÄúa lot of bloodâÄù and a scraped face. His recommendation in the way of punishment would not be jail time but community service. âÄúIt seems they feel, in a sense, that theyâÄôre untouchable âÄî to videotape it and put it out in the public domain for everybody to see,âÄù says Dickinson. âÄúAside from the fact that itâÄôs really stupid, thereâÄôs a disconnect that they would somehow think this is a prideful act that theyâÄôre doing when, in fact, itâÄôs shameful.âÄù Ironically, multiple members of the group featured in the video are members of a coalition called the Somali Youth Development Organization (SYDO). The organizationâÄôs main objective is to âÄúpromote building a strong, young Somali/American generation.âÄù After so much disappointment and repulsion at the gutless aggravation by this select pool of students âÄî some of whom are high school-aged âÄî will the community be able to find in itself the ability to forgive their actions? This will depend entirely on the post-crisis conduct of the assailants. Fox9 quotes Abdi Bihi, a reputable Somali leader and outreach worker, on the subject: âÄúItâÄôs disgusting. ItâÄôs unacceptable. It shows that the youth dollars are failing our community; that nobodyâÄôs been [held] accountable.âÄù The video, created to inspire laughter and enjoyment at the expense of the weak and vulnerable, has prompted nothing but public enragement. Times like these test us; they challenge our core beliefs of justice and our principles in equality. Should we immediately surrender to our initial anger and discount these hostile attackers of peace, or should we pity them their ignorance and obvious lack of integrity? It may be true that in the grand scheme of things, everyone is liable to make the occasional mistake. That said, some mistakes are simply too reprehensible to forgive.