Wednesday, October 8, 2008

self-centered Americans: dangerously typical

This article, about a woman who was raped in plain sight of workers at a subway platform in New York in 2005 who is now suing the shit out of MTA (via Feministing), reminds me a lot of the story a few months back about the woman who died in a hospital waiting room while patients, nurses, and doctors stood by.

Obviously, this sickens me, but it makes me wonder on a more serious level just how far the culture of self-centered ignorance (oh, it's not about me, so I'm not going to bother with it) has gone in American society? Are we so concerned with only ourselves that even watching a woman getting raped, will not prompt a shout of "Hey!" or "Stop!" or even a phone call to proper authorities, god forbid, if confrontation really isn't your cup of tea? There is a "difference between minding your own business" (which has become quite the mantra between American strangers, never mind how this idea applies to every aspect of the lives of celebrities and controversial figures) and just doing what is right.

I realize that having a sort of moral compass in today's society has been taken over with implications from the religious right, not to mention how loaded the term "morality" is right now. And the sense of what may or may not make a "good person"--whatever that might mean--is equally loaded. But do you really have to be moral to say hey, that woman on the floor that has been having seizures for the past 45 minutes in the waiting room might not be doing too well, maybe I should tell someone, or hey, that chick looks like she is getting raped, what's up with that?

I also understand that there are a ton of other factors involved with both of these specific scenarios (and I recognize these are just two extremes of many, many such incidents), such as the state of the American healthcare system, that makes it so that someone would have to sit in a waiting room for 24+ hours before recieving care. And victim blaming when it comes to women who are raped. And deep seated racism and sexism when it comes to both of these situations. But really, what I'm really wondering, is what has to happen for people to get their heads out of their asses? When will we stop reassuring ourselves that, if we don't do anything, "someone else will" or, even better, "if no one else is doing anything, why should I?" Or, the particularly entitled American response, "that's not part of my job."

Of course lawsuits are great, after the fact. Suing someone for essentially just being irresponsible to a fellow human does not prevent rape or change the fact that people die without anyone taking a second glance. And I know it's idealistic to think that people should help other people; that's certainly not all there is to it. But people are getting raped and dying and there is something that can be done--in this case, something that anyone could have done without any training, just a voice.

1 comment:

Sarah said...

Great post! (I wish I had something to add, but you covered it)