The Tragedy Of Kim Pham: What A Desensitized Generation Can Learn From A Senseless Loss

by Greg Dybec

On January 18, during the early hours of Saturday morning, Kim Pham, a 23-year-old recent graduate and aspiring writer and talk show host, was brutally beaten outside of a nightclub in California. Following an attack by a group that allegedly consisted of three women and two men, Kim was declared brain dead. On Tuesday, she was removed from life support and was pronounced dead at 12:36 pm. The most recent reports claim that the initial argument may have been sparked due to a photobomb.

Kim was a valued contributor to Elite Daily and we are all shocked and deeply saddened to learn that she is no longer with us. Like any writer capable of providing a voice for their generation, Kim understood her peers, and she possessed the keen ability to eloquently pass along advice and inspiration that resonated with countless readers.

In her article “These Are The 7 Biggest Fears That You Need To Avoid Having In Your Twenties,” she explores the need for her fellow 20-somethings to abandon the small fears that they encounter on a daily basis, and to take each day as an opportunity to live and love fearlessly and with renewed passion. Kim explains that fear such as the “fear of missing out on a party” or the “fear of rejection” are empty fears that only stifle personal progress.

She writes,“…living in constant fear of leaving our comfort zones, to only chase swift relief without paying attention to possibilities for growth in other avenues is becoming a serious epidemic to the most able of us all.”

Kim understood her generation of fast-paced, social-media-hungry minds that are in a constant battle with how others perceive them and how to find the most meaningful sense of fulfillment in their everyday lives.

“Our generation is at odds with a war that is seemingly more powerful than us, she notes. “Not only are we prone to needing instant gratification, we are also stuck in a generation where we recognize the conflict of demand for immediate fulfillment as real.”

While we are lucky to at least be left with Kim’s inspirational words, the unspeakable tragedy that claimed her life leaves us evaluating another aspect of our generation entirely. Unnecessary violence takes the lives of many around the world, but we find ourselves in a time when atrocities that are being filmed, but not stopped are rising at an alarming rate.

This trend of diffusing responsibility and simply “not getting involved” is not new. Perhaps the most well known case of the psychological phenomenon known as the bystander effect is the murder of Kitty Genovese. In 1964, Kitty, a 28-year-old woman at the time, was stabbed by an attacker in front of her home in a residential Queens neighborhood. Her cry for help was heard by a number of residents, which forced the attacker to flee the scene. Though when nobody stepped forward to help Genovese, the attacker returned and raped her before killing her. A witness finally called the police after the final attack.

The bystander effect is an inherent trend among people, however, in recent years and with the aid of technology, an entirely new social phenomenon has been born. One that takes the bystander effect a step further. With desensitization that has become a natural byproduct of the Internet and the media, as well as the social media craze that has enticed a generation to capture everything they see, the notion to pull out a camera in the most inappropriate of times has become as monotonous and predictable as the workings of an assembly line.

In the case of Kim, she was knocked unconscious before her attackers continued to beat her. Not surprisingly, there is video footage of the event, with bystanders crowded around, cell phones in hand.

Bystanders are not just avoiding involvement as in the case of Kitty, they are, in fact, directly involving themselves in the incident, but not doing anything to stop it. Yes, film has helped authorities make arrests, but it doesn’t save lives.

It’s discouraging to think that we have become a culture that is more likely to record an incident, such as the beating of Kim Pham, rather than make any effort to prevent the worst possible outcome. But after all, we are a generation that chooses to stare emotionlessly through a screen. If the person next to you started dancing, you would probably instinctively reach for your phone.

If you turned around to notice a beautiful sunset, your hand would probably find it’s way to your pocket while you fumbled for the camera icon. And if a 23-year-old were being mercilessly beaten on the street, too many of us would once again reach for our phones, perhaps excited by the thought of uploading it online later on, or texting it to a friend.

As for Kim, she may have fallen victim to a major flaw of the same generation that she was so interested in helping, guiding and being a part of. It almost seems too coincidental that her last post for Elite Daily, previously unpublished, profiled Kelly Thomas, a homeless schizophrenic man living in California that was beaten to death by cops, sparking a national uproar.

Every now and then people come along that can help reshape a generation's ills and change the way we look at both ourselves and society as a whole. The term martyr tends to feel outdated, but Kim has undoubtedly left us with her greatest piece of inspiration yet, and with her unfortunate passing it’s imperative that we reflect on what our actions really say when we don't act at all.

You can support Kim’s family in their time of need by clicking here.

You can read her full previously unpublished article below:

Kelly Thomas, You Are Remembered. Was This Just?

The beating of Kelly Thomas, a homeless and schizophrenic man living on the streets of Fullerton, California, has led to a legal trial decision finding two Fullerton city police officers, Manuel Ramos and Jay Cicinelli, innocent of involuntary manslaughter and excessive force.

To back up, about a half an hour past eight o'clock on July 5, 2011, Kelly Thomas encountered police when there was a call from management at Slidebar, a small bar in Fullerton, requesting lookout because there had been vandalism nearby reported. Upon investigation, police approached an unarmed Kelly Thomas to search him. Though police had reported in statements that Thomas was defiant in search, which led to a call for further backup, video footage showed otherwise.

Surveillance cameras, as well as footage from camera phones nearby shows a surrendering Thomas, in all of his adrenaline and unkempt state, screaming words of submission to the officers' testified commands for him to secure his hands behind his back as he responds, "I'm sorry! I'm trying!" Thomas was also calling for his father, "Dad! Dad!" Despite this, officers continued to find the use of a taser necessary, and furthermore, to beat mercilessly. Fullerton Transportation center's pole camera, among other device cameras, yielded footage of a latex-gloved Officer Ramos heeding caution for Thomas, "Now, see my fists? They are getting ready to f*ck you up."

The physical aftermath was minorly-injured officers and a brutally beat Kelly Thomas, who was found unconscious in a pool of blood. Yet, the testimony from an on-site paramedic reports that he was instructed to look into the minor police injuries first. Official coroner reports show multiple sites of fractured bones in Kelly's face and a crushed thorax that limited his breathing; it was determined that the final cause of death was asphyxiation from his own blood. Post-incident reports from six officers on site who were called to deal with the submission of Thomas, stated that he was found suffering "severe" injuries to his face, neck and head.

Though police reported initially that they'd suffered broken bones as a result of Kelly Thomas' absolute lack of cooperation, it was later found that Fullerton police department could not confirm the medical records for any broken bones suffered by their officers.

In light of all of this, I want to begin by saying I understand the nature of schizophrenia, having been a student of medical psychology. True, mental illness wards exhibit conditions of unpredictability.

My first reaction to this leads me to wonder if police officers are sufficiently trained to understand conditions of a schizophrenic person and how to deal with this properly. I'm inclined to believe not, as severe aggression, threats and savagely violent battery are completely uncalled for.

However, that question becomes quickly irrelevant as facts lead us to understand that it is understood: This was a case of police brutality.

In our humanistic logic, I ask that we see the harsh truth in this. While police are trained to physically overcome difficulty, Kelly Thomas was unarmed. Although his conditions of schizophrenia were discovered later, we ask ourselves: What warning signs of being armed could this man have shown as he was screaming words of submission?

As he was pumped up on adrenaline in state of panic, acting to save his own life over schemed retaliation as police attempted to pin him? What threat could this man have posed that justified beating him into a comatose state and ultimately leading him to his death a brief five days later?

Six police officers, who are trained and should be in rational states of mind when approaching a situation with only a single civilian who was simply being questioned without any evidence of vandalism, which the initial call was made for. Police are meant to protect our people and serve justice.

I ask, where is the justice and protection in this?

Our nation preaches a right to be. Regardless, Kelly Thomas had the right to live as he chose. Ultimately, as he did live wandering the streets as it seemed, facts show he also chose to live unarmed and submissive, words reaching out for his father escaping him as he was slowly beaten to death. We are no one to criticize the way a person chooses to deal with his reality, so long as he did not harm anyone or any institution -- in which situational factors had showed he did none of the above.

Kelly Thomas, I hope you truly rest in peace and your family finds solace in all of this. Karma may not have a dollar sign attached to it, or a legal verdict to be typed officially under its title, but I believe, wholeheartedly, in its relativity to this reality. May you have found serenity in every single way possible, wherever you are now. We think of you.

RIP Kim Pham from the entire Elite Daily family. You will be missed.