There were no smart phones, not even a television allowed in our dining room as a child growing up. Dinner was a time to discuss history, literature, ideas, news, and listen carefully to the wisdom of our parents. Politics were rarely the topic since my parents stood at opposite poles on this debate. One evening my father brought a news article to the table and asked us to discuss both the story and it’s morality. It was a story that later became a rallying cry around the value of women and interpersonal violence. It wasn’t until years later that understood the immense gravity of the violent death of Kitty Genovese on the crowded streets of New York city; surrounded by the hundreds of households who heard her screams, but closed their windows.
Although the idea of violence frightened me as we listened to this story, I knew it was far away in an urban environment that seemed foreign and like a parallel universe compared to the neighborhood my family lived in. I told myself that it would never happen here because we would have been the people who would have called. Would have helped. This of course, was the same excuse given by most who witnessed the violence; the situation didn’t seem to involve them and they did not want to get involved in a domestic situation.
This weekend placed a new meaning on observed, fatal violence, that can occur openly in the streets of our cities without serious comment or action by those charged with our protection and the application of morality and fairness in the lives of every single human being; regardless of gender, race, religion or orientation.
Perhaps it was “cheap grace” or moral indifference that led to the loss of Kitty’s life. These being the notion that it takes too much to make this violence a personal matter. The notion that yes something unjust is occurring, but it isn’t my responsibility, someone will do it, I do not need to get involved. Silence is compliance.
Although we too may be tempted to look away and trust that others will take care of things, we must learn from our mistakes. Whether it is in Chicago, New York or Charlottesville, we need to step up. This violence is not going away because we wish it away; it is not going away because we believe that some moral bureaucratic process is going to step up. It is up to each and every one of us to take action.
What I write is not political— it is personal. We are responsible for stopping this violence—violence against any group. It is our responsibility to stop this. We are all created equal. If we yet again look away and say nothing we are responsible for what is to come. It is in the doing nothing that true evil resides.