Cowardice is Eternal

Glenn posts about an interesting case.

Two subway workers in New York called the police when they witnessed a rape in progress, but didn’t do anything to physically stop the crime. A case brought against them was thrown out of court, the judge saying that calling the cops is all that is required of witnesses.

Glenn isn’t any too happy about the ruling. He says….

“In a previous day, in a different culture, such men would have been afraid of being called cowards for failing to help a woman under such circumstances.”

I don’t think Glenn remembers Kitty Genovese. That particular incident might not have occurred in another culture, but it certainly happened in a previous day.

Look at it this way. At least the New York residents who saw the crime called police this time around. That is certainly an improvement over past performance. Maybe, after another four or five decades, people who live in New York will even become as brave as those of us who hail from flyover country.

Those who follow the links above will no doubt note that two of the three examples are where people who were legally carrying concealed weapons confronted a crazed killer. Since New York effectively bans that sort of thing, we really can’t expect them to have the same level of civic concern. This is, I think, one of the points that Glenn was trying to make.

But also note that the last link leads to the story of two unarmed vacationers who tackled a rifle wielding gunman who was shooting at the White House. Neither of them were from New York.

9 thoughts on “Cowardice is Eternal”

  1. I think this is partly due to the excessive belief in specialization, education/training, and credentialism…too many people believe that you can’t do *anything* unless: (a)you have been specifically and formally trained for it, and (b)you have been specifically assigned to do it. Thus, subway employees do subway work, policemen do police work, firefighters deal with fires, and never the twain shall meet.

    This attitude was very much a favor in the negative reaction to the arming of airline pilots (to deal with terrorists) when this idea was first proposed. See my post here for further thoughts.

  2. I decided long ago to try to do the right thing when confronted with situations such as this. I can’t say for sure, but odds are pretty strong that I would have tried to help the woman to the best of my ability. I might get sued by someone for something, but I couln’t sleep at night knowing I didn’t try to help. I would rather risk a monetary fine than betray my inner self, and the moral code ingrained in my brain. The guilt would literally kill me.

  3. “I can’t say for sure, but odds are pretty strong that I would have tried to help the woman to the best of my ability.”

    That just shows you are from Flyover Country. Next thing you know, you’re going to start blogging about self defense issues.

    No! Wait!


  4. Before I would step in and use violence, or the threat of violence, to stop a crime, I would have to consult my lawyer to see if taking action could possibly subject me to criminal or civil actions. Does anybody know – does New York law protect good Samaritans?

  5. My first reaction, James, was to protest on behalf of my beloved city.
    Then I remembered something that happened to me when I was a milky-green immigrant, working a $5.00/hr job at a 2-person florist shop in Brooklyn, 15 years ago.
    I had just raised the front grille and was bringing out the flowerpots, when I saw an old woman, slowly falling down on the sidewalk. I ran to pick her up – and heard my boss desperately crying behind me: “Back! Go back now!”
    Passerbies surrounded the woman on a sidewalk and I didn’t see what happened to her, but here’s what my boss told me. The woman is known in the neighborhood; she stages street accidents and then sues. She sued the City when she fell in front of the firehouse and was not helped immediately. She sued the private ambulance Co that delivered her to the hospital of their own preference, not her choice. And once she sued a man who tried to revive her and helped her on her feet because he wasn’t a licensed professional, authorized to give first aid.

    I don’t know how true all of this was. It made an impression on me, though.

  6. So New York stinks because of a problem with their suers?

    Not just NY, I’m afraid. Where that lawsuit originated, about the coffee cup (or was it a cup of soup?) being too hot? Not in NY. And neither the tobacco Co bruhaha.

    Filing cases against everyone and everything is not just an expensive national hobby anymore: some people figured out how to get their living out of it – and quite buttered living, too. Makes sense: why all the money have to go to lawyers?

    Decline in basic public decency and civility: that’s the result of overdeveloped so called “justice system”…

  7. It is not just cities like New York that are a problem anymore the lawsuit happy culture is in fly over country too. While I was working as a security gaurd at a hospital a man had a heart attack in one of our parking garages. While I and a retired fire fighter preformed cpr on the man the staff from the ER called the local fire departement because they were afraid of violating hospital policy and losing there jobs because the hospital was afraid of a lawsuit.

  8. As a licensed unarmed security guard, I was explicitly forbidden from performing first aid or CPR (even though I WAS trained and licensed) and from confronting violent people of any sort.

    I protested, saying I would gladly perform first aid or confront a thug as a civilian, but was told I could not in order to comply with our lawsuit insurance.

    my own superior had been promoted when he had let his friend and neighbor die from a heart attack, right in front of him, as ordered, even though he knew CPR. he would have been fired if he had saved his life.

    One day we had a shooting at the plant, and the shooter’s location was unknown. In the manual (the manual!) my orders on a shooting situation were to radio to my superior, then hide under my desk! “DO NOT INTERVENE!” The moral dilemma raged in my head. If I did nothing, I would be safe and commended for my non-action. If I actually protected the people we were PRETENDING to protect (“security” ha! “guard” ha!) i could lose EVERYTHING. i’m not talking about risking my life. i’m talking about being sued, charged with a crime, losing my job; now those are problems and an impressive heap of them. i could be bankrupt and in jail all for doing the right thing.

    i said to heck with it all. i might be bankrupt and in jail, but that would be better than knowing i had let someone die. i went to my car and stuck a gun down my boot.

    It’s gotten to the point that we, due to fear of lawsuits, have pushed ALL civic responsibilities onto professionals.

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