A monster’s face.

An expression of evil, a callous twist, a grimace of anger: That’s what I expected.

Perhaps, you also expected a monster’s face when you read that an arrest had been made in the Brooks County case of three burned cats. The story received a lot of attention when The Times reported it late last year. Two of the cats died. A third was treated for horrible burns and injuries.

Brooks County Sheriff’s Office made an arrest during the past weekend.

I expected a brute’s face to match the brutality of the incident.

Instead, we are faced with the picture of a kid charged in this case. Not a monster, but a kid. A boy’s face plunked down on a man’s body. I saw a kid who looks younger than his 17 years.

We cannot judge a person’s innocence or guilt based on facial features, one way or the other. The face can be a mask to what lies beneath. Some scribes claim Lucifer as the most beautiful of the angels.

This column advocates neither the innocence nor the guilt of the young man in that picture. The courts must decide innocence or guilt.

Instead, this is merely a reflection on what we expect and what we discover, and how, quite often, one does not match the other.

The twinge of sympathy found in a situation where none is expected. An innocent face does not mirror a soul. Adults do not have sole dominion over cruelty. Cruelty starts as early as the playground.

Cruelty can be a vicious circle perpetrated on innocence, perpetrated by those who appear innocent. Cruelty plays a game of cat and mouse, but one where the mouse can strike back.

A monster’s game where cats are horribly burned and men who look like children stand accused.

A game where one must ask: In the realm of angels and demons, who tortures whom?

Dean Poling is The Valdosta Daily Times assistant managing editor.

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