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‎"And that is why I swore never to be silent whenever and wherever human beings endure suffering and humiliation. We must always take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented. Sometimes we must interfere." - Elie Wiesel accepting his Nobel Peace Prize in 1986.

When I was six or seven, my parents took my sister and I to see Sesame Street Live!. I don't recall at one point during this show this occurred, but I vividly recall the events. My mother spotted a guy pulling out a knife and holding it against his child's neck. She pointed it out to my dad and while he ran over to grab the guy, she went to find a police officer. The guy was arrested and I know my parents sat there with two very freaked out children while someone came for them. This whole time my sister (who was two or three) sat and watched the show. But I remember them jumping into action and it impacted my life more than one would think.

Because for me, not speaking up is not an option. I pester, I call the cops, I casually place myself between people arguing on the Metro, I've mastered the art of the glare and the "you've got to be kidding" stare. It's almost amusing how just staring at someone as they act like an asshole can stop them. But I am a coward. I've seen a knife pulled and you bet I ran the other way. I also called the cops, but I ran away. I admit if I thought my own personal physical safety was at risk, I would not stick around.

Yet I am heartsick and furious at two recent cases of people who did not speak up. The first occurred in DC when a woman was brutally murdered by her co-worker at a Lululemon Store. For those who have not heard about, a quick search should bring you the details, but in sum, for no discernible reason, one woman brutally tortured and killed her boss at the yoga store. She then roughed herself up and passed it off that they were attacked in a robbery, but the story fell apart rather quickly. During the trial two very disturbing facts emerged: the victim sustained over 350 wounds from five different instruments and it took her hours to die. And the most disturbing of all: Employees of the Apple Store next door heard this and did nothing. They listened at the walls as the victim cried for help and begged for her life and did nothing. They did not bang on the wall, they did not shot back, they did not call the cops.

How do you live with yourself after that? How do live with yourself in the moment? I call the cops if I notice a strange dude watching kids at the park and Enza starts barking at him - because if my dog doesn't like you, well then.

The second is the case of child rape and molestation at PSU and who knew what and when. There is universal outrage that so many people seem to have known something and did nothing beyond the legal limit. Yet that legal limit does not include calling the police after witnessing or hearing about the rape of a 10 year old boy. I cannot fathom this. I cannot fathom walking in on anything so horrific and not reacting, not screaming, not hitting, not crying, not wanting to murder with my bare hands. I cannot fathom not following up to ensure something - anything - was done to provide that child any modicum of comfort.

But we always protect those who throw balls around, don't we? We've all read the stories of golden boys who get away with raping college girls because they improve an defensive line or having a sliding fast ball. It always angers me, but this...how can anyone, anyone, even explain away the non action? It gladdens me that so many people are calling for their heads as the stories unfold.

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Date: 2011-11-09 01:08 am (UTC)
sixbeforelunch: a stylized woman's profile with the enterprise and a star field overlaid (Default)
From: [personal profile] sixbeforelunch
I remember learning about the psych/sociology research on this sort of thing in college. I can't remember all of it, but I remember that people are much more likely to intervene if they're the only person who can. If a bunch of people are standing around and someone is getting the crap beat out of them, everyone is going to assume that someone else is more qualified to step in and that they'll just make the situation worse. But, if it's just you, you will be more likely to act because there is no one else around who will do it for you.

Also, I think everyone is afraid of looking foolish. About a week ago, I was walking the dog and I went past this guy who was sitting on a step, slumped over, looking pretty rough. I was too afraid (being alone, and a woman, I was still afraid of him because he was male, and it was dark, and the street was deserted--and that gets into a lot of gendered stuff and the way women are socialized to be afraid of strange men, but I digress) to ask him if he was okay but I went home and called 911. I was thinking they'd send a cop car to ride past the intersection or something, but instead they sent an ambulance, lights flashing and everything. By that time, the guy had gotten up and gone, and I had to go out and tell the paramedic that he'd gone and everything was fine apparently. And so I felt like an idiot for wasting the paramedic's time.

And...I have no idea if I did the right thing, or what I could have done differently. I guess I should have spoken up and asked the guy if he was okay, but it seemed easier and smarter to turn it over to the authorities. So, I don't know.

Plus, so many times things happen and you think maybe they could be something that you need to pay attention to, but you just aren't sure. People scream in my neighborhood all the time. Kids, drunk college students, they'll scream bloody murder sometimes. So I no longer respond to screams that I hear outside. And, so much media is so violent and sounds so horrible that sometimes if you hear someone screaming, you assume that it's a movie or something. If no one else reacts to something, you don't want to be the person to stand up and make a big deal out of it.

I'm not saying that either of the examples you cited are right by any means, but I do see where non-action comes from. Desperation to conform, fear of making things worse, fear of looking foolish, desensitization that comes from being exposed to certain stimuli over and over until it has no meaning for you anymore. Evil non-action comes from the same place that evil actions come from.

Which is not to say that it isn't still evil.

IMHO. YMMV.

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