I am an acter. I am and no, that is not a typo (unless you count made up words as typos... which they aren't, they are purposeful inventions). I am not an actor. I don't do plays or commercials and I don't get paid millions of dollars to appear on the big screen. I am an ACTER and by that I mean that I act. I take lost dogs home and I take lost children to police officers. I call the police when cars are broken into and I step in when stepping in is needed. I've called police and I've called CPS and I act. I am an acter. I've never given my propensity for action much thought until yesterday when I realized that an entire community of people were not acters. They were watchers, and they watched.
My friend Homa called me and lured me out from under the rock from which I was hiding under to escape the world of news and current events. I haven't watched the news in 100 years, or so it felt (wait...who is the president of the United States? When did someone land on the moon?), and I learned that a 15 year old girl was gang raped in a public place and in front of a crowd of onlookers who did just that... they looked on. I'm sorry, what? Surely I misheard and really the story is that a crowd people were battling each other to be the first to either step in to save the girl or dial 911 to get police on the scene thus saving the girl. Surely I heard wrong and someone thought about saving the girl. But, no. I didn't hear wrong. People watched a girl raped, tortured, sodomized, penetrated with foreign objects, and not just by one person. By a group of boys taking turns in the torture. And a group of people watched. They watched and they twittered about it. And they did nothing.
Everyone I have heard from, be it friends of mine or famous people on The View, have been rightfully appalled by the situation... so how could a massive crowd of people decide that watching such a evil act is ok? I don't get it. Is it our fear of repercussions from getting involved? For example, recently there was a boy in Chicago caught between two rival gangs and he was beaten to death while witnesses did nothing. One bystander was quoted as too afraid to step in for fear of suffering the same beating that was given to (and eventually killed) the young boy. I get that. I can honestly say that as an acter, I would be hard pressed to step into a gang war fearing for myself. But I can damn well say that I would have been dialing 911 so fast that my cell phone numbers would catch fire. And in both situations, the witnesses had phones. In Chicago, the cell phones were used to record this child's death on video and in California, they were used to twitter and text people about the atrocity being witnessed. In neither situation were those phones used to call 911 and alert the police to the crimes without alerting the criminals.
Is it that we are such a self centered society that we no longer care about the fate of our fellow man? Do we get so wrapped up in our own worlds that the screams and pain of another person don't even register anymore? I don't think so, because we rally around breast cancer victims and the families of military men and women killed in battle. We cry for the kids on Extreme Home Makeover for moldy homes and cramped living spaces. Our hearts go out to these people and rightfully so, but when a group of boys are seen torturing a teenage girl... why is that not every bit as heartbreaking and appalling? We are called to action for fundraising walks for everything from Hemophilia to Save the Spotted Owl, but there's no moral obligation to stop the sodomy of a child when you are seeing it IN PERSON? Sure you may not know that girl, but she is someone's daughter. She is someone's sister and someone's classmate and someone's friend. She is someone sharing this planet with you and yet there's no desire to stop her suffering when it takes place right in front of your eyes? And if you are a woman, know a woman, or have a daughter... the next time... you could know the victim of this hateful crime, or, you could BE the victim of this detestable crime... and what if a stranger stood by and let you or your loved one suffer?
Is it that we are we too desensitized to the violence? Is that what causes us to ignore the graphic images of someone being beaten on your very street? Our movies, video games and tv shows show us rape for extra points on certain games and Law and Order: SVU (a show I watch faithfully) gives us images of tortured women on a weekly basis. Does seeing that on tv take away the impact of seeing it in person? Are we that warped that we cannot tell right from wrong anymore because we play the bad guy for fun in video games? We applaud Tony Soprano for his wrong doing because he's charming and has nervous breakdowns, and suddenly our version of hero versus villain has become so distorted that in person, we can't even judge it correctly anymore. Did tv do that to us or is our distortion doing that to tv? Have we become such a violent society that we no longer become entertained by things that don't involve blood bathes and assaults?
I don't know what could cause a group of intelligent people to stand by and do nothing while a person is tortured, defiled and raped, but I think as a country, we need to figure out why this happened. We need to step back and determine what we are doing wrong to make this behavior deemed acceptable. It shouldn't take a bystander law to motivate us to stand up and say that treating people this way is wrong. As a human being, it should be crystal clear what we will tolerate and what we won't. I am ashamed of those people in California and Chicago, and anywhere else where someone watched another person be harmed.... and I am sad to share this world with them. I am an acter... and you should be to.