I was still on the tail end of a March vacation, but there was no avoiding the news out of Auburn. 

“Horrific scene from Bonney Park!’ one writer chose to call it.  

I took a look at the video and what do you know. It was no exaggeration. The footage coming out of Bonney Park in Auburn was indeed horrific. 

Every time teenagers make the news for one criminal act or another, I always ask myself the question: Is this something I would have done when I was a young rapscallion? 

Breaking out windows in an old abandoned house? Sure. I did some of that. 

Snowballing cars? Keg party shenanigans? Brawl after the high school football game? 

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Yes, yes and yes. I was no angel. What kids are? 

Most teenagers have a bit of the “Lord of the Flies” wildness about them and I was no exception. 

Lately, though, there’s no need to ask yourself that question, unless you happened to grow up without a soul. 

When you see savagery like we saw last weekend in Bonney Park, for most of us, it’s not relatable. Not even a little bit. 

I sure as hell never attacked a pair of seemingly harmless homeless people and, in fact, could never have conceived of such a thing. 

The worst people I know from my own youth — and we’re talking about the kind of kids who would pluck the wings off a fly just to see it suffer — would never have done such a thing. Wouldn’t even have considered it. 

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Even for young hooligans of a certain age, there were lines that must never be crossed. 

The video out of Bonney Park shows a pair of girls stomping, kicking, punching, kneeing, slapping and generally pummeling a man and a woman who are seated on the ground, offering no threat and putting up no defense. 

It’s stomach-churning stuff, and I hated to watch it. That kind of unrestrained — and likely misdirected — rage is an unsettling thing, and it’s even worse, somehow, seeing it from kids. 

What has gone so wrong in our world that this kind of cruelty isn’t just present, it’s becoming commonplace? I mean, who is really surprised by this kind of thing anymore? 

In New Orleans last week, three teenage girls and one 17-year-old boy attacked a 73-year-old woman in order to take her car. The white-haired lady is dragged from her car, stomped while she’s on the ground and then, entangled in her seat belt, dragged for several blocks. Her arm was completely ripped off during the ordeal and she died on the pavement soon after. 

Another group of teens, another sickening video. In this one, we’re forced to confront the idea that this poor older lady had spent her final moments on earth in absolute pain and terror. This because a group of hideously deranged kids wanted her little Nissan and nothing was going to stop them. 

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You think of the woman’s children and how they must now live with the knowledge that the mother who raised them died in such a terrifying and humiliating way. You think about her grandkids, some of whom may be the very age of the creatures who killed her. 

Those kids wanted that Nissan and they were willing to kill to get it, and my, how I wish that lady had been carrying a little Glock or Ruger for her own defense. 

In Bonney Park, there was apparently no motive for the beatings. No robbery, no theft, no nothing. All we can conclude is that two girls, 14 and 16 years old, just felt like hurting someone that day and their young friend was happy to film the savagery for kicks. 

Watching that video is a revolting, infuriating affair, but hundreds and possibly thousands of us suffered through it over the past couple days because ignoring it would be even worse. 

Now even more videos are surfacing: videos of other teens abusing the vulnerable in and around Bonney Park. In one such clip, a group of kids who look barely 10 years old are seen attacking a homeless couple with sticks and rocks, fists and feet. 

In another, a group of kids swarms a lone figure in the park. They kick, they punch they throw this person around until finally, the defenseless victim retreats to the relative safety of the street. 

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Some say teen violence has never been this bad. Others say, come now. It only SEEMS to be this bad because the ease of recording has turned every nasty affair into a viral video. 

These days, kids are egged on by things like TikTok challenges, in which they are encouraged to commit any number of atrocities just for the dubious honor of getting clicks from online strangers.  

But teen violence of the cruelest kind isn’t brand new, not even here in our little villages along the Androscoggin River. 

Back in 1995, a trio of teens — two boys and a girl just 15 years old — robbed a cab driver, slit the man’s throat and then left him to die choking on his own blood in a parking lot. 

By that point, the notion of teens gone wild in the Lewiston area was becoming old hat. Teenagers were all over the news, for vicious attacks like the cabbie slashing and for home invasions in which sobbing elderly folks were tied up in their homes, beaten and robbed. 

It happened then, it’s happening now. 

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And when you hear of these attacks, or see them in high definition videos scattered across Facebook, the natural inclination for some is to wonder: What kind of horrible parents did these kids have that they turned out this way? 

It might be a natural line of thought, but it’s not always a fair one. 

In New Orleans, the band of kids who attacked and killed the 73-year-old were captured in large part because their parents turned them in. 

And bless them for doing so. 

In Auburn, too, the children who preyed on the homeless were quickly found and arrested with the help of parents and siblings who were as repulsed by their behavior as the rest of us. 

That’s one sliver of hope in this whole, ugly mess. Here’s another: In reaction to the attacks in Bonney Park, many have doubled down on their efforts to help the homeless.  

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Food drives are planned and related gatherings in and around the park. Online funding has been organized to help the victims of the most recent assault and some have taken to prowling the park just to protect the vulnerable, if protection should be needed. 

It’s something, right?  

At the end of “Lord of the Flies,” all those kids-gone-wild are transformed from murderous savages into sane and frightened children almost immediately once a boat arrives and reasonable adults start taking over again. 

In real life, though, there is no boat. There will be no instant transformation, and guess who will need to fill the role of reasonable adults in this scenario?

That’s right, all of us.

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