Here’s my real post for today.
This evening I walked out onto the street after dance practice and headed for the parking lot. This meant walking through a crowd of people outside the church, which I think has a drop-in centre associated with it.
The crowd had been there, just hanging out, when I’d arrived, but right now they were arranged in a focused bubble with two guys at one side, fighting. Well, strictly speaking, one of them was definitely winning, pummelling the other one.
When I see people in a fist fight, and it’s not often, it makes me feel panicky inside. I never play-wrestled as a kid, nestled as I was between two sisters, all three of us girly-girls. It’s no surprise I’ve never been in a physical fight. But when I see one, I feel like a heel, because I want to do something about it and yet I can’t.
The people forming this bubble were numerous, and every single one was standing there motionless. I’m pretty darn sure they weren’t all strangers to each other, but no-one was doing anything but watching. Actually that’s not true; there was one guy who was using a loud voice to tell the guys to lay off, which was something… but apparently not very convincing to the parties involved.
Maybe this was a fight that was a long time coming, and maybe there were compelling reasons behind it. Still, as a non-violent person and a teacher, I have very strong instincts saying this should not be happening, especially not out on the street. People are great at ignoring things that make them uncomfortable, never stepping into clearly abusive situations because, well, it’s just not our business.
But that’s scary. How much violence might we witness and ignore with that excuse? Permanent damage could be done right in front of our eyes and we would just hurry on our way.
We teach our students that if you stand by and watch bullying occur and do nothing, you’re part of the problem. We tell them to report to someone they trust.
In these few seconds that I was a participant in the situation, I wondered what to do. Obviously I’m not going to step in physically – that would be stupid. I don’t know either of these guys and they’re not listening even if I could think of something to say. Here’s what I did instead: I walked right through the middle of the bubble, and with a purposeful frown, conspicuously flipped open my phone. By the time I reach the opposite edge and looked back, the fight had stopped. (I didn’t actually phone anyone – what would I have said?)
I don’t know if my actions had anything to do with that – my guess is probably not. But I wanted to show anyone who happened to notice that this situation was not invisible to the public. Just in case that made a difference to a guy who was pounding another guy’s face.
What would you have done? Seriously, I’d be very interested to know.