Friday, June 6, 2008

Hartford, What Happened?

This morning, my wife and I were watching the Today Show. There was a news segment that showed an elderly man in Hartford Connecticut, captured on a traffic camera, being run over by a car. There were three vehicles in close proximity, and not one stopped to help the poor guy. One pulled over to the side, but never got out. He or she just gawked and then drove off.

Even more disturbing than this, was that there were pedestrians who just walked by. One gentleman crossed the road, and walked right by the body without even a hesitation.

We were stunned.

The story had the “legs”, as they say in the news business, of as long as it took to go to break. The live concert of a rapper was coming up and the anchors were giddy at the prospect of dancing with the crowd.

My wife and I hit the mute button and had a lengthy discussion about what we just experienced. Now I am here at my desk, and I tend to able to collocate my thoughts when writing, so here’s my two cents-

These bystanders are what we would define as citizens, and not just that, but citizens living in a democracy. Now by definition, citizenship in a democracy is more than nationality. One could say that it is an office that carries with it certain powers and responsibilities. And for democracy to succeed, citizens must be active and not passive in the public life of their community and nation. You can say that it is a way of living and working together. It requires cooperation.

We gain a strong sense of personal identity through our participation, which ultimately enables us to connect with the world. The communal benefit that we receive involves individuals sacrificing some of their immediate interests.

Of course getting involved in an accident will result in some type of sacrifice on your part. Imagine what was going through the mind of that elderly man, as all those people just strolled on by, as he lay there helplessly.

Think about it: in an authoritarian system, the state demands loyalty and service from its people. Here in the US, we have freedom. But this freedom means responsibility, not freedom from responsibility.

Now we have to ask: why?

My wife’s first response was that we are desensitized to violence. So let’s look at that. This is a cheeseparing of emotionally related physiological refluence to real violence. In short, there was no reaction. A body being hit by a car and ending up splayed on the concrete elicited absolutely no reaction from over twenty or thirty people who witnessed it.

There is no doubt that blood and gore have worked their way into video games and other forms of entertainment. And has this replaced the heartbreak and emotional suffering that a real crisis entails, to the point that we can’t make the distinction?

So my hope and prayer for this day, is that an evolutionary shift in consciousness occurs in our roles as citizens of a democracy that will help create meaningful and healing relationships with each other that empowers us to dialogue with who we are and what we want from each other.


Anonymous said...

I saw this video on Fox News this morning, while I was working a crossword puzzle.

The first time: Heads up.
Second time: Watched closely, with alarm, confusion, and sadness.
The third time: The on-air
Fox people remarked that the video had been edited to remove the shot of a person on a bicycle--trying to get a better view, I suppose--circling the injured man.

I flashed back to the video of Reginald Denny, beaten by a mob following the O.J. Simpson trial. In a search, I found this interesting text:

"Carla Hall, Los Angeles Times:

'Johnnie L. Cochran Jr., the masterful attorney who gained prominence as an early advocate for victims of police abuse, then achieved worldwide fame for successfully defending football star O.J. Simpson on murder charges, died this afternoon. He was 67.'

"Hall's L.A. Times obituary went on to make clear that, "His clients weren't always black -- he unsuccessfully represented Reginald Denny, the white trucker beaten by a mob during the 1991 riots that followed the verdicts of not guilty in the trial of police officers charged with assaulting Rodney King."

Janice Phelps Williams said...

I think, too, this must happen because we see anyone outside of ourself and our immediate family as "others." There isn't a sense of collectivism, a sense of "us" or "we." Others are over there, beyond our responsibility... "We have our own problems" "It's not my responsibility..." This is in some aspects of our culture. The hopeful message though, is that it is not in all aspects of our culture. We are outraged enough to post blogs about this incident, have it on our TV is outrageous and we know it. That gives me hope. And makes me wonder: how far is the collective consciousness from the individual consciousness? And how do we sensitize them both, yet retain our individuality? I don't want to be so sensitive to the needs of others that I become incapacitated with grief over problems I can do nothing about. But, I want to be compassionate enough to reach out when others might benefit from what I can offer...and do it at a moment's notice.

I have to believe these bystanders in Hartford are sorry for their indifference; but they may be justifying their behavior. It would be interesting to know why they acted, or non-acted, as they did.

I feel for the family of this man who was injured.