Although one might just attribute this to the peculiarities of small town life, for it was a microcosm of how ordinarily decent people can be prompted to do indecent things to outsiders and the other, and then turn and demonize them to justify their unjust persecution.
These sort of injustices were routinely displayed during my childhood, when local fiefdoms pled 'States Rights' and 'local rule' in order to continue to carry out the persecution of outsiders. And the perennial outsiders in America had been African-Americans, Catholics, and Jews, oftentimes as proxies for immigrants. If you read the link to the history of the Ku Klux Klan in the 1920's you know this.
People forget what it was like. Times change, and so do the targets, but the hatred and abusiveness remain the same. This is not to say that this is a uniquely American problem, not at all.
In the US there was greater popular support for this sort of hateful behaviour towards minorities than one might imagine. George C. Wallace ran on a platform of States Rights and the status quo in segregation and the routine oppression of minorities and 'outsiders' and was able to garner 27% of the vote.
This type of 'might makes right' attitude never really goes away. It comes back under various names and with different rationalizations, too often falsely cloaked in familiar symbols like the flag and cross, or in some hypocritical theme of the individual freedom to act, horrendously. But we also see this on the far left where ideological rigidity makes inhumanity just as defensible, merely with different targets. It is a weakness of human nature and a common characteristic of fanaticism.
People may be decent overall, but there are a small minority of people who are to easily given over to anti-social actions, for whatever reason. Ordinarily decent people can be led to do and say remarkably indecent things, especially if they enjoy the approval of the powerful and some measure of anonymity, as afforded by the crowd.
The Kansas City Star
Nightmare in Maryville: Teens’ sexual encounter ignites a firestorm against family
By DUGAN ARNETT
MARYVILLE, Mo. — There wasn’t much left by the time she arrived, just a burnt-out structure and the haze of smoke that lingered around it.
The siding and gutters had melted. The roof was gone. Inside, piles of ash filled the rooms that had once bustled with the pleasant sounds of a family.
That morning last April when Melinda Coleman received word that emergency vehicles were gathering around her Maryville house, she had hoped for the best.
But if the events of the past year and a half had taught her anything, it was that when the town of Maryville was involved, that seemed unlikely.
Since the morning her daughter had been left nearly unconscious in the frost of the home’s front lawn, this northwest Missouri community had come to mean little besides heartache.
Few dispute the basic facts of what happened in the early morning hours of Jan. 8, 2012: A high school senior had sex with Coleman’s 14-year-old daughter, another boy did the same with her daughter’s 13-year-old friend, and a third student video-recorded one of the bedding scenes. Interviews and evidence initially supported the felony and misdemeanor charges that followed.
Yet, two months later, the Nodaway County prosecutor dropped the felony cases against the youths, one the grandson of a longtime area political figure.
The incident sparked outrage in the community, though the worst of it was directed not at the accused perpetrators but at a victim and her family. In the months that followed, Coleman lost her job, and her children were routinely harassed. When it became too much, they left, retreating east to Albany...
Read the entire story here.