Cross-posted from Democratic Convention Watch
A friend recently signed me up for a subscription to Philadelphia Magazine (thanks Doug!) I opened the issue and on the first page was a letter from the Chairman (who knew magazines had chairs?) about an incident on a Philadelphia trolley. The basic story is that there were about 20 people riding a trolley, and a mother started hitting her 2 and 4 year old children. All but one person said nothing. One person said “If you hit that child one more time, I will call the police and follow you home and make sure they arrest you.”
I put the magazine and asked myself what I would do in that situation. Take a moment and ask yourself what you would do….
Back to the Chair's letter, which went on to talk about the aftereffects of violence on young children. About how we, as a society, tend to look the other way.
Magazine went down again…how many things do we see every day and do nothing about? The SOPA and Komen uprisings of the past few weeks took very little for people to do: Facebook and Twitter posts, a few phone calls, some checks. One-time deals, for a lot of us, and in a lot of ways an abstraction. There was no immediate threat to our internet access, no woman with a breast lump asking us what to do since Planned Parenthood was her sole option for a mammogram. How many of us stand up and really rail at what the right is doing on their march to take America back to the 1850's? How many would say something when a parent is beating a child?
There are a few other things in the story. The original post from the person who stood up is here. Turns out that the mother, and all the other riders, were black and the author was white. You can use the links in the post to see that a lot of people thought the author did the wrong thing: that he is a racist, and that had the parent hitting the child was white, the situation would have been different.
EEWWW….Is this really a racist thing? I read the comments and wondered if people thought it was somehow okay to hit black children but not white children. I read about the “kindness cure” and wondered…had the author picked up the girl, how many people would have accused him of kidnapping, or pedophilia, or something in that vein?
The whole societal, and political, issue to me has to do with standing up. If you're a long time reader, you know that I believe it is incumbent on decent people to stand up. Both in individual direct situations, and in the overall political realm. The sole time I was in a situation where there was a child in immediate danger I saw a father punch his boy in the face and send him into the canned goods on the supermarket shelf. Without thinking, I attached the boy to my leg (he came up to my knee), covered him with my coat, and told the father (who was twice my size) that he would have to hit me before he hit the boy again. The mother, who was pushing the cart with another child in the seat, started screaming that I was trying to kidnap her son. Things got loud, people came, police came, and then they watched the films from the security cameras. They were white people, but I live in an integrated neighborhood, and we all shop in the same supermarkets. I would have done the same thing had that child been black, or purple, or anything – to me, he was just a little boy with a fist impression on his face.
But I fear there is truth in the idea that as a society, most of us are holed up in our houses, interacting through social media, and less involved in “the neighborhood” than we were a generation ago. I heard a pundit refer to Americans as “the silenced majority” as opposed to the silent majority – the idea being that even if we do things, media has so much power that our actions are kept silent from our fellow Americans. I don't know whether we are silent or silenced, but I'm leaning toward “both of the above” and we need to start thinking about changing that. But maybe you feel differently….