In the Pipeline: Where's the common decency?

The letter is dated 5:40 a.m. Jan. 22, 2014.

It is addressed to "Cowards!!"

And then it begins.

"This letter is for all the cowards, weasels gutless human beings who stood around and watched this beautiful, defenseless girl get beat down. You cowards had enough time to use your cell phone to record, not enough time to step in and help her?"

It goes on.

"I never had the privilege of meeting this girl (angel), but I can guarantee if I was here when this happened I would have risked my life to help her from these animals! How can you be so selfish and do nothing?

"This beautiful girl was somebody's daughter. She had a whole life ahead of her. I hope you people remember that Friday night for the rest of your lives. I know you did nothing to help her!"

That poignant text is from a letter posted on a pole right by where Huntington Beach resident Kim Pham was kicked and beaten unconscious Jan. 18 outside of a Santa Ana nightclub. She died a short while later.

On a recent quiet morning there were so many candles burning that I could feel warmth as I passed the site. The air was thick with sweet cinnamon, lavender and other scents.

I'm guessing you've heard by now. Pham, just 23 years old, following some sort of altercation, was kicked and beaten near death while waiting in line at the club with some friends. She died later at the hospital.

At this point, two women are under arrest.

Certainly there will be more arrests. Or will there be?

Why is it taking so long? There were plenty of people there, in addition to the stark and brutal nine-second cell phone video clip that's been released. There will no doubt be more footage.

So many witnesses, so little information made public.

Where is the national discussion? How many times do we see politicians all the way up to the president taking to the airwaves following a brutal crime with calls for change, understanding and action?

I understand the fact that certain events rise to a different level, but isn't this one of them?

I think it is.

For me, this may be the ultimate example of the soulless barbarism that exists in this country today. The stark reality is that people will just as soon videotape a catastrophe as they will try to prevent it.

The recording of allegedly criminal events is useful when it comes time for police to solve what happened. Were it not for video during the riots this past summer in Huntington Beach, the alleged culprits may not have been arrested.

But stopping to record an event cannot be the priority over stopping an event when someone is getting killed. Too often that happens.

So where are our elected leaders talking about this case today? After all, it seems to all but epitomize how certain people in society, perhaps numb after years of celebrated violence — glamorized and glorified through video games, movies and the like — do not care about human life.

You take this gross lack of morality and decency and fuse it with hair-trigger tempers and an inability to accept being "disrespected," and you have what happened in Santa Ana. It happens all over the country.

We live in a society where if you, me or our children were drowning, having a heart attack or were in any sort of peril, certain people would have recorded and posted it on YouTube before calling for help.

Is this not worthy of some sort of national debate? This sadistic and self-absorbed pattern of chilling violence followed by irresponsible silence? This increasingly voyeuristic society that loves to watch but refuses to get involved?

Do leaders not want to talk about this because it would involve actual discussions of morality and ethics, the basics of right and wrong? Maybe it's just easier to talk about gun laws following a crisis because it fits an agenda.

But is there no agenda for decency, morality, common sense and proper parenting?

We don't know precisely what happened to set off the chain of events in Santa Ana, and unless some of the several dozen people out there come forward, we never will.

Perhaps the only surprising thing from that horrific night was that nobody stopped to pose for a selfie with the dying victim.

CHRIS EPTING is the author of 19 books, including the new "Baseball in Orange County," from Arcadia Publishing. You can chat with him on Twitter @chrisepting or follow his column at

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