An Open Letter to Youths Playing the 'Knockout Game'

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    NEWSLETTERS

    Videos released by SEPTA of two attacks. (Published Thursday, Nov 21, 2013)

    Dear young brothers:

    I've heard about the Knockout Game, in which you walk up to an unsuspecting person and sucker punch them, hoping to render them unconscious with a single blow.

    I get it

    While I understand the revulsion that many have shown toward this particular source of entertainment, I also understand the allure it has for you.

    Here you are, in the throes of adolescence, testosterone coursing through your body at rates you'll never see again, and there is no outlet whatsoever for the resultant aggression.

    Just like other teens, your brains have not matured to the point where you will reason beyond the moment.

    You are, like any adolescent, more apt to take risks, to be impulsive, and to give in to your most base instincts.

    The instinct of a young man is to be a warrior. That instinct is intrinsic. It is what allowed civilizations to survive — at least initially.

    When societies formed and resources were scarce, the strong would take from the weak, and strength was defined by the brutality and bravery of warriors.

    They were the heroes and the protectors, the fighters who became legends. They were also among the first to die, because warriors don't grow old through sheer brutality. They grow old when they combine their aggression with cunning, with reason, and with wisdom.

    No code of honor

    There's nothing wise about using your God-given warrior instinct so aimlessly. Doing so is a plea for early death.

    Perhaps that death would be honorable if it came on a field of battle, in the throes of a war to protect your families and your property, your country and your freedom.

    But there is nothing honorable about striking an unsuspecting person with whom you have no quarrel.

    There's nothing honorable about terrorizing the very community your warrior instincts should protect.

    There's nothing honorable about fighting a war against your own.

    Legitimate targets

    Young brothers, if you want to be men, there are far more worthy targets for you to knock out.

    Knock out the foolishness that would make you turn your rage on someone who has done you no direct harm.

    Knock out the hopelessness that would convince you that you have nothing better to do.

    Knock out the blindness that would shield you from the boundless potential you carry within.

    If you want to know the truth, young brothers, the only one you knock out when you throw that punch is yourself.

    You knock out your opportunity to advance in life, because throwing that punch can get you charged with aggravated assault. That's a felony. Pennsylvania law says that one commits aggravated assault when he "attempts to cause serious bodily injury to another, or causes such injury intentionally, knowingly or recklessly under circumstances manifesting extreme indifference to the value of human life."

    Knocking yourself out

    That's what you're doing when you throw that punch. You're showing extreme indifference to human life. In fact, you're showing indifference to two human lives — the victim's life, and your own.

    If you cared about your own life, you would know that you are so much more than what someone writes about you on a piece of paper. But once you commit that felony, that piece of paper will follow you, define you, and relegate you to the bottom rungs of society's ladder.

    Even if you change — and you will, with age and experience — that felony will hang around your neck like an albatross, telling every potential employer that you are violent, untrustworthy, impulsive and immature.

    For those who want to believe such things about you due to their own prejudice, that felony will give them a convenient excuse to sweep you aside, to deny you opportunities and to use you as the poster boy for their racist beliefs.

    If you want to knock something out, young brothers, knock out the nonsense. We need you to be warriors in the fight for our community, not warriors in the fight against it. In order to for you to do that effectively, you'll have to move beyond sheer brutality, and learn to fight with your minds.

    True warriors fight for their wives and their children, their land and their country. And when they're done fighting, they grow into the heroes of legend. Not because they could deliver a knockout with one punch, but because they could encourage a child with one word, make their woman blush with one look and make the world a better place in one lifetime.

    We need our warriors to grow old, young brothers. We don't want to see you carted off the battlefield for nothing.

    So do me a favor: Knock it out, and start fighting for something that really matters.