The things we complain about- food being to salty or too spicy; too hot or too cold; a smudge or a scratch on our phone; the whining crying baby siting next to us; or the kid playing his drums or whatever instrument until 2 in the morning on a weeknight.
Everybody seems to be annoyed about something enough to complain about it to the person doing the thing, or we complain to around around us about the thing having happened. But what about those moments where its a bit awkward, where we feel uncomfortable about complaining about something.
By now we’ve probably all seen John Quinones from ABC Primetime in his show “What would you do?”- in particular: the racist Texas convenient store owner yelling bigoted remarks at a Muslim girl; or the Jewish girl being told that she “wants to control the banks”; or the child being savagely yelled at by a “Tiger Mom” while in a restaurant and people look on; or in that instance where the parents of a child with physically limited capabilities is told they shouldn’t live in that neighborhood by a well-meaning (read hateful) neighbor (or a child with Autism at a restaurant).
We all know that these are atrociously bad things. They are unacceptable but the question is why do so few of us actually do something about it? Quinones asks a really important question- how mad do you get when you see something wrong? Is it mad enough to get you to do something about it? When I hear someone DJ’ing late into the night and kids running around the front yard of my neighbors house, i get mad enough to call the police so they can break up the party. But are there instances where I fake myself into thinking that nothing was happening?
The question underlies the important issue that we miss, we know what is right and what is wrong, yet we choose not to act. Its like watching the Nazi’s, the question is how could so many “good people” sit by and allow the horrible actions of the Holocaust take place. I guess its really about people being confident and motivated by their morals (values) to act upon them. Would you act on your good conscience if you find yourself in the situation below?
I admit that I recently drove past a group of young teenage boys beating up another teenage boy. I won’t deny what was going on, even though I played it in my head a few times and tried to justify that something other then a beating was taking place. I have felt guilty for not pulling over and doing something. I saw it, I knew what it was, I had an obligation to ensure the safety of the kid, but I didn’t.
In two other instances I remember how nerve wrecking it was to hear a domestic violence and child abuse situation in the apartment complex I lived in. In both circumstances I was walking from the parking garage to my apartment, past the other buildings of apartments and I could hear the yelling, crying, screeching, throwing of objects from inside the apartment where I was walking outside. In both of those situation I had to move in closer to confirm that what I was hearing was real and not a movie. I waited tensely, straining to hear any signals that said “HELP ME, SOMEONE PLEASE HELP ME!” Failing to hear anything like that, but knowing full well that what I heard was wrong, I called the police. (In the case of domestic violence, I knocked on the door to break up the stream of craziness and a few minutes later the woman came out to use my phone to call the police.)
Those are not easy moments. For me I kept thinking what if I was wrong about the situation and it was a misunderstanding that has caused for wasted police time, but I put those thoughts away. Better safe then sorry is how I reconciled the situation.
But there are people who do stand up, they are the ones we have to learn from. Those are the warrior and kingly spirits we need to channel. That is what we need to do and we need to do it at every point in our life, so that we are vigilant sentinels to history not repeating itself, thats what our democracy is all about, vigilance. We need to be like this Marine that stepped in to protect a kid from bullies, even though the bullies beat the crap out of him and hospitalized him. This is putting the American in citizen.