No two situations or people are exactly the same. It is also impossible for one to know exactly what happened and what other people were thinking in situations they were not a part of. Finally, it is hard to know how one would act in situations they were not actually in. All of these complexities make it a challenge to both create overarching rules that should guide behavior and to judge others actions. However, as humans living in a common society, certain standards of how people should act based on morals must be established for everyone’s best interest. In the case of David Cash, Jeremy Strohmeyer, and Sherrice Iverson undoubtedly this was a difficult situation that must be thought about carefully. But based on our societies commonly understood values, David Cash’s decision to be a bystander in the murder of Sherrice Iverson was wrong.
One important, common value that most humans share is empathy. For David Cash, this was clearly lacking when he decided to leave the casino bathroom where he last saw his friend restraining a young girl while muffling her screams. I believe that empathy, and even a more general value of caring for another human being should have governed his actions. As BlueWhale24 noted, it is important to put yourself in Sherrice Iverson’s shoes and ask whether you would have wanted somebody to help. This answer is clearly yes, but Cash failed to consider that he or someone he loves could be in a situation similar to the one Sherrice found herself in and he would want someone to help. In this case, Cash had the opportunity to help, but did not. Furthermore, based on the course of Cash’s actions, I think it is fair to assume that he did not care at all about Iverson let alone have empathy. Cash made the conscious decision to leave Iverson alone with Strohmeyer. It could be argued that Cash did not know that Strohmeyer would go to the extent of raping and murdering Iverson, and that therefore his inaction was less reprehensible. However, it is clear Cash knew Strohmeyer was doing something wrong, because he said he gave Strohmeyer a disapproving look. He could have stayed in the bathroom to figure out exactly what Strohmeyer was going to do, but instead he left not waiting to find out, showing how little he cared. Normally, I think people would have the necessary feelings of empathy and care to govern taking action and helping Iverson, but this was not the case for Cash.
At the very least, I believe everyone can agree that when someone witnesses a wrong as severe as Cash did, their duty is to report it to officials. For example, in the article, “Nightmare on the 36 Bus” Auclair at least reported the incident in an attempt to help the boy, although I would argue he and others on the bus could and should have done more. Cash, even after he knew that Iverson was a victim of murder, failed to complete this easy and low risk duty. However, I do believe that the nature of the wrong as well as other specific circumstances changes the rules about what a witness must do. If the wrong is far more innocent than rape or murder, for example cheating on a test, I do not see it as an obligation for someone who witnesses this to even report it. In a case such as this, I believe an excuse like, “it is not my business” is valid as nobody is being directly harmed by the wrongdoing. Also, in a case where a witness is outnumbered or outmatched by the wrongdoer(s) and would be putting themselves at risk, I do not think it should be expected that they actively intervene, but rather reporting it to officials, if possible would be enough. For example, in Erez Yoeli and David Rand’s article, although the American and British men bravely subdued the gunman, I do not think it was an obligation to do so considering the risk they put themselves in. Specific circumstances, in my opinion, determine the obligation a person has when they witness a wrong.
Rules that could apply regarding whether one must act or simply witness I think again depend on the circumstances. Building off of User1234’s comment that, “There should be laws put in place that state that you could be prosecuted if you witnessed a crime being committed and didn’t physically intervene, call the police, or ask for someone else’s help,” I believe that the severity of the crime should also dictate whether such a law would apply. If the crime involves the potential for physical harm, I agree. However, if it was a more minor crime such as public urination, this seems unnecessary to me. More importantly than legal laws, I think that societal “rules” of accepted behavior based on values such as kindness, empathy, and more should kick in to govern our actions. Again, depending on specific scenarios, these rules would undoubtedly change. I think it is impossible to simply say what is right and what is wrong or what should happen in general, as these situations vary greatly. Finally, I do think that it is our decision to always act, whatever that may mean based on given circumstances. This is definitely not easy, as it could be friends or family that you must take action against, you may feel uncomfortable doing so, or you could simply be having a bad day. However, as members of a common society guided by common values, it is our obligation to act, as we would want the same done for us.