• SFPD message to 2010 suicide baiting crowd: Your target deserves to be hurt

    If lucid dreaming means watching yourself dream, then lucid living – if such a term existed – would describe me, for I have been watching myself survive for nearly four years now as I await the resolution of  Yount v City and County of San Francisco. Even in pain, we grow (some say especially), and like Walt Whitman’s protagonist in “There was a child went forth,” I have grown with every “part” of my experience.  And cruelty has been in my face 24/7.

    I am hardly alone in terms of human exposure to violence.  A daily barrage of extreme cruelty is constant like no other time, and while cruelty can be both random and systematic, it is usually the random cruelty of individuals – the unprovoked savagery – that amazes us most, that dizzies our brains with dark images we can barely fathom. Four new images embedded themselves in my lucid dreaming and living last week.

    Two became mainstream news after surveillance video recorded the incidents in the Bay area this November: A homophobic teen setting fire to an “agender” teen asleep on a bus and a man stomping on a woman’s head seven times as she lay sleeping on the street.  Such unprovoked violence astounds.  The defenses disgust.  Setting the teen on fire was a “prank;” the woman had “smelled bad.”

    Two hideous images from my Facebook feed joined those: A smiling man brandishing the pelt of a cat he had just skinned alive and a smiling girl with a bucketful of helpless pups she catapulted one by one into a rushing river. The eyes of the dying cat and the mewling of the puppies became part of me.  Both nighttime and daytime me. Audio and visual me.

    To be clear, I do not criticize either the journalists or the Keyboard Warriors who work each day to report the news or to prevent cruelty.  Most of us want to stay informed and many of us sign every petition the Crusaders bring to us and try to put the horrific images into perspective afterwards.  What should surprise us is this:  If cruelty of this magnitude has become so common, why does it feel so unnatural when we encounter it?  The answer is simple:  Cruelty is still unnatural for most of us.

    Edgar Allan Poe said cruelty was predicated on the “spirit of perverseness,” the attempt to “vex” the soul itself, the desire to do wrong because one recognizes it as such.  His story “The Black Cat” reminds us that the path from animal abuser to human abuser is direct and short, a theory psychologists have long corroborated. We all know cruelty is never accidental.

    I did not start out to become a student of cruelty.  In better times, I was able to keep such horror in perspective. Yet, in not quite four years I have become an expert in a very specialized area of human cruelty.  It is the loathsome topic I now know best; its prevention is my raison d’etre.  I am fluent in suicide baiting.  This is how my only child Dylan Yount died, as a victim of a suicide baiting in Hallidie Plaza, San Francisco, on Shrove Tuesday, 2010.

    Since that time, I have regrettably relinquished any luxury of selecting topics for either my lucid dreaming or living.  Instead, images of horror arise unbidden to tutor me as I watch my nighttime and daytime self assimilating cruelty through the brutal filter of Dylan’s death.  On several alarming occasions, I have awakened myself with my own screaming, so I readily admit it is the perspective of my experience I cannot change.

    Even so, as far as I am concerned, the psychologists can study the subtle differences between psychopaths and sociopaths all they like.  For me, it is enough to understand that the individual who would set fire to a sleeping human being, stomp on a sleeping woman, or torture a helpless animal would also goad a confused man to jump 100 feet to a gory death.  Such behavior is chilling.  Such callousness is horrifying.  These sadists are not ordinary people – yet.

    The truth is, the cruelty that actually sealed Dylan’s fate was more insidious and harder to explain.  This cruelty is also heinously deliberate and more difficult to fight since society can always lock up a solitary madman.  Cruelty that is inflicted in an official capacity is what should terrify us most.  This cruelty is a calculated and methodical evil that empowers deviants and rewards victimizers.  It is systematic cruelty.

    The greatest horror of Dylan’s suicide baiting is that the SFPD showed an official willingness to support cruelty. By doing nothing to stop the braying crowd, the SFPD proved to the crowd that their target deserved to be hurt.

    This situation was evident to everyone there, including Dylan.  By not intervening, the SFPD showed that whatever random violence they would tolerate for any one victim, they might just as well tolerate for any other substitute.   The hopelessness of this knowledge tapped into everyone’s fear.  It intensified the barbarity in the plaza.

    Equally significant was that the SFPD never issued a single word of censure to the victimizers.  While the pragmatic would respond that such a condemnation would expose the police to legal risk, it was still a deliberate choice not to officially condemn the behavior of the crowd.   No condemnation was ever issued by the San Francisco city and county government, either.   This official silence – both then and now – constitutes an endorsement, a sincere form of indirect approval for Dylan’s death.

    The good continue to hope that systematic cruelty will not become acceptable. Already, systematic cruelty explains how 90 cities in our nation have made feeding the homeless a crime, how the powerful try to legitimatize the idea that some lives are worth less than others.  Often, it seems we have forgotten how the Holocaust started.

    From my perspective, humanity reached a new low on February 16, 2010, in San Francisco.  Dylan’s death will be the litmus test.

    • Kathie, Hugs to you across the miles. I read your articles & know that I can not begin to understand your pain since Feb.16, 2010. I can see it is a vast,& deep abyss that no one would chose to experience. Just when I think I can grasp a piece of your journey, you write another article that shows me I am just a bystander,watching,listening,hoping for justice for Dylan.
      San Francisco disappoints in many ways they handle certain aspects like letting park police horses patrol designated dog areas. When accidents happen,they don’t take responsibility. So it does not surprise me that 24 SF police officers stood by & let the crowd taunt & cheer your son to a horrible end & still to this day say they would not do anything differently.
      Because of meeting you,I have looked into what my own local police dept would do in a case of baiting suicide. The police dept in charge of the local Mississippi River Bridge said they would arrest anyone interfering in police investigation,after warning them first.

      Thank you for your never ending stand.

      • Thanks, lidine. I am most grateful for your understanding. I still have so much trouble when I think of the San Francisco police. My title for this piece is shocking, but it is exactly what happened. I may never be able to change a single thing, but Dylan was worth every sad effort I have made. The longer I wait for justice, the more heinous their behavior is. Everyone can see this. They SFPD’s cruelty is more shocking than the people who yelled jump. YOU typify WHY it is still worth the effort to fight even as I “watch” myself living through this ridiculous lawsuit. It is ludicrous that I should have to point out how the SFPD should behave. They dishonor themselves with each passing day. Much gratitude for your support.

      • Maya North

      • November 28, 2013 at 3:41 pm
      • Reply

      This is one of your best so far — I love how you turn this horror around and examine it from many angles. There is so much we must learn in order to effectively MAKE IT STOP. I also loved hearing that a crowd in the same part of the country called out to a young woman NOT to jump — and a man literally ran up and caught her. They both survived. Your eloquent voice is making a difference, love. <3

      • Thank you, Maya. I just keep “circling” the event, nighttime me and daytime me still sees it as white-hot horror. Each column seems to capture it–but then it doesn’t; I have no idea if I could ever explain it adequately. The parts that will affect society most are the dishonor of the police and, most especially, the courts if there are no consequences. Dylan always told me that I was naive. Maybe that is all it is. I have trouble coming to a realization that this is the “way it is” for our society. Dylan, himself, though, was an optimist as well. I absolutely cannot imagine what he “saw” at the end. I keep wondering if it is what I am “seeing” in this LONG process.

      • Terri Connett

      • December 5, 2013 at 1:39 pm
      • Reply

      My dear Kathie. Your pain comes out in your words so clearly. You write so beautifully. Your description of how you are watching yourself survive makes us all understand, just a little, what your life is like now.
      I have been so shocked to learn the police were not only there, but didn’t stop it. I mean, they are supposed to “Protect and Serve.” It’s printed on their fucking police cars!
      Law enforcement failed Dylan and you and all of us. I’m proud of you for taking them to court even though this forces you to relive this over and over, not only in your head, but in public as well. I saw statistics on Rachel Maddow last night that talked about how news media is sensitive when reporting suicide details — hoping to prevent copycat suicides. I believe your life’s work absolutely will shed a light on this sadness and will save lives.
      All I can say is bless your heart and bless sweet Dylan’s soul.

      • Thanks, Terri. As I work through the darkness, the people who extend encouragement keep me going! The news media might be doing us all a great disservice. What if suicide baiting happens more frequently than we know? There is absolutely NO DOUBT in my mind that raising awareness is what should be done. I also think the courts will need to weigh in on baiting/bullying soon. Mental illness is real. One in four Americans will have some form of mental illness within their lifetime. I saw a Facebook post today that seems relevant: “The conservative says, ‘If it hasn’t happened to me, I don’t care.’ The liberal says, ‘This should never happen to anyone. That’s why I care.'” Bless YOU for helping me.

    • I agree with Maya. I think this is your best so far (if “best” is the appropriate term for such a horrific situation and battle.) I don’t know if we’ll ever be able to change laws, per se, but I think the more we protest and speak out against this, we can turn people one by one into better human beings, to encourage kindness over power, and in the end, I think if we change even a few from being cruel to others and possibly inflicting this kind of irreversible harm, then our protests and work will not have been in vain.

      I remember being in your class one time and we were talking about a movie, Clockwork Orange, maybe, where the kids were singing “Singing in the Rain” and killing an old man–and I remember how shocked and horrified you were with this scene–which was in a movie, a FICTION, in which a happy ending probably eventually came–and you refused to ever watch that movie again…and I’m not sure you were real big about that song any longer because it’d bring up that scene. But I think in our classes, you did make a point of showing the villainy of villains–and that it’s the people who take a stand, no matter how remote of making a change of the whole world or perhaps even the situation, are the real heroes. You are a real hero, Ms. Yount. You always have been. You’ve always challenged injustice and you’ve always worked to make the people you can influence better people. Thank you. I hope we will do our part to help you with this fight.

    • Well, Hellion, you were a listener. Sometimes I believe I am thinking more clearly and can articulate better. Sometimes, not. The “situation” is so disturbing, like the violence in Clockwork Orange. WHO DOES THAT? When did hatred become so pedestrian? Even winning the lawsuit would not make me feel like a “hero.” Dylan’s death damaged me on so many levels. The writing has been like peeling an onion, layer by layer. I am still not to the “core” yet. The process has been exhausting. For every column I expose to others, there have been an average three more that I have never shown. I cannot believe this darkness. Thanks, you are doing your part by listening.

    • Our trial is scheduled to begin August 25, 2014, in San Francisco’s Civic Center Courthouse with the Honorable Judge Cynthia Ming-mei Lee presiding.

    • I can’t remember when you first told me about Dylan and the court case. I don’t remember reading this so it must have been published before I learned. It is another fine example of the clarity and directness with which you write and message/challenge us your readers. Thank you. Blessings!

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