Like most Americans who witnessed the video of the Central Park mob
that harassed, and physically assaulted women, I was annoyed and
offended. However, despite the reprehensible behavior of the punks who
willingly embraced the persona of a mob with all the attendant
psychological babble rationalizations, I was more annoyed, offended, and
embarrassed that no one attempted to help the victims.
My frustration was recently exacerbated when I brought the topic up
on my radio talk show. I asked caller after caller who announced they
wouldn’t intervene for a long variety of reasons the same questions.
“What if you were there and your mother, wife, girlfriend or daughter
was assaulted?” Most claimed in such a case they would do “something,”
maybe. I was amazed — and disappointed in my fellow man.
I know a little about mobs having once taught riot control long ago
and far away. Mobs develop a persona. An element called “contagion”
spreads like a rash and normally rational people that individually would
never participate in such conduct abandon individual responsibility for
actions and embrace the attitude and objectives of the group. I can
accept that this is a real, albeit regrettable, psychological
phenomenon. Mob participants assume the false perception of
“anonymity.” The contemporary reality of video tape can abrogate that
but the perception remains, “I’m not me … I’m us.”
Callers and e-mailers listed off a litany of reasons people did not
intervene, and rationalized why they would not step in:
- None of MY business
- Today you never know who has a knife or a gun
- What were those women doing in the park?
- Maybe they were wearing suggestive clothing
- Suggesting perversely they somehow deserved it
When did the home of the free and land of the brave become the
pen of sheeple? What happened to doing what’s right? Where is the
Robert Humphrey was an Iwo Jima Marine who once wrote something some
of us still embrace as “The Warrior’s Creed”:
- Wherever I go, everyone is a little bit safer because I am there.
Wherever I am, anyone in need has a friend.
Whenever I return home, everyone is happy I am there.
Maybe I AM a dinosaur, a middle aged anachronism that has become
a social oddity. I could not have allowed myself to become a passive
participant in such a tragedy as the Central Park event. This isn’t
speculative macho BS. I HAVE stepped in in the past. My wife bemoans
the fact I still step in today. However, it is not a function of more
brass than brains, but rather an understanding of mobs, bullies,
contagion and anonymity.
The Central Park situation did not require a righteous mob of equal
or superior numbers to assault the water-wielding rowdies. It only
required one man or woman to be the first to demand they “stop it.”
Just as the offensive rowdies grew in size and intensity through the
passive acceptance of spectators, likewise that first person to do the
right thing, would have been joined by others, who would have been
joined by others, who in turn would have been joined by others. See,
that mob mentality thing that is a function of subordinating
individualism and becoming not one, but part of the whole, grows with
acceptance of others. The anonymity increases as more and more people
join the mob.
The Central Park disaster could have been averted or transformed if
someone — anyone — refused to accept the grossly inappropriate
behavior of the jerks groping women.
Some callers said, “Yeah, but what if you got hurt?” Maybe we have
become too comfortable to even understand that in order to do what is
right you may and can get hurt. It is one thing to say the words that
sound good: “I’d rather die on my feet than live on my knees.” However,
it is an annoying reality check to acknowledge you might break a nail or
suffer a bruise. We are quick to vilify legislators who because they
don’t stand for anything will fall for anything. Look in a mirror!
Any cyberspace keyboard warrior can talk the talk, but what happens
when circumstance requires you to walk the walk?
If we are unwilling to do what is right, to come to the aid of those
in need when they are unable to defend themselves, how in the world can
we logically expect anyone to come to OUR aid when we need assistance?
I used to carry a quote in my wallet as a reminder. It was from
something called “In the Arena” and is attributed to Teddy Roosevelt.
It reads, “It is not the critic who counts, not the one who points out
how the strong man stumbled or how the doer of deeds might have done
better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena,
whose face is marred with sweat and dust and blood; who strives
valiantly; who errs and comes short again and again; who knows the great
enthusiasms, the great devotions, and spends himself in a worthy cause;
who, if he wins, knows the triumph of high achievement; and who, if he
fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall
never be with those cold and timid souls who know neither victory or
All those passive participants who stood or sat by and witnessed the
Central Park episode, arguably more concerned with their own safety than
that of someone else’s mother or daughter were in that dank gray place
of “cold and timid souls who know neither victory or defeat.”
To those who feel they would have done something if their mother,
daughter, wife or girlfriend had been harassed and assaulted I have two
closing points: The victims were the mothers, daughters, wives and
girlfriends of someone; and if YOU were not present if or when one of
your loved ones was being victimized who would you expect to come to
Remember the words of Rev. Neimoeller who in recounting the inaction
of Germans to the abuses of Hitler concluded, “And when they came for me
there was no one left to say anything. …”