I am not one to succumb to the delusion that I am a hero.
I have no tolerance for the kind of self-aggrandizing fantasies that many people engage in when they hear of a shocking public accident or act of violence. Please. You wouldn’t take down the shooter. Even with the purest will, even with the bravest heart, the average person is far too paralyzed by horror to take effective action in the moment. I mean, good God, people write me every day because they didn’t know how to respond appropriately to a racist joke or a financially intrusive question. It’s a good bet if you’re standing there gobsmacked because your sister-in-law used “jew” as a verb, you won’t suddenly morph into Liz Salander and break the fingers of a subway groper.
Most people are not heroes. I know I’m not. I am often paralyzed in the moment. And I would not risk my own safety for the sake of a person I didn’t know.
But I have been searching every corner of my soul, and being as harsh on myself as I can be, and I still cannot conceive that I could witness a man raping a child and not act. Immediately. Whatever I did would be graceless and loud and possibly dangerous to myself and others. But I know I would do something, that every part of me would instantly turn to the imperative stop this now.
And I cannot imagine how anyone could do otherwise.
Open thread on Penn State, readers. I can’t get my mind around this. I feel as though I’m looking into the face of evil.
Talk to me.
(cross-posted at “Miss Conduct”)
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