Everyone likes the idea of a “good Samaritan”, a person who steps in when someone else needs help, whether it be small, such as helping a person who is lost find where they are going, or bigger, like saving someone from potentially being murdered.
Everyone wants to be a good Samaritan, at least at the surface level. Stories such as that of a few Americans and a British man apprehending a gunman in France (The Trick to Acting Heroically) inspire many, who can imagine themselves doing something similar if such an occasion arose.
Sadly, these heroic actions do not always happen. Often times, when people see atrocious acts being committed, they are too scared to speak up. Other times, they assume that its a personal matter, such as the young boy being beaten on the 36 bus-- the other passengers, while they were horrified by the scene, thought that perhaps it was an issue between the boy and his presumed father (Nightmare on the 36 Bus). They did not want to put themselves in harms way.
Does that make their silence any better? Is that a valid reason not to speak up?
In the case of David Cash, I do not believe so. When he saw Jeremy Strohmeyer with Sherrice Iverson, he could tell that things were going south. However, he didn’t actively try to stop Strohmeyer-- it wasn’t his problem, he didn’t know that girl. He also remarked that he wanted to get out of the situation as quickly as possible.
The last sentiment is one that is common among bystander stories. However, the first few about not knowing the young girl, and subsequently not caring about the murder or turning his friend in because it “wasn’t his problem”, is not. It is honestly terrifying that someone could have this thought pattern and think there is nothing wrong with it.
Yes, Cash was under no legal obligation to stop Strohmeyer. But as a human being, Cash should have had the moral strength and the basic sense of what is right and wrong to know that what his friend was doing was reprehensible. He had all the power to stop the senseless rape and murder of a young, innocent girl. At the very, very least, he should have reported Strohmeyer to the police when he confessed to him.
Cash’s mindset regarding intervention and acting in situations where someone needs help is extremely dangerous. For him, if he doesn’t know the person suffering, he doesn’t see a reason to care. This, to me, shows a lack of basic empathy for fellow human beings. It shouldn’t matter if you don’t know the person in pain-- your instincts should automatically push you to at least want to help, if not actively do so.
Cash’s mindset regarding intervention reminded me of the poem written by German Lutheran pastor Martin Niemoller: “First they came for the socialists, and I did not speak out-- because I was not a socialist”. This is the exact kind of thinking that has led to multiple genocides around the world.
As stated in “The Bystander Effect in the Age of Cellphones,” bystanding is a result of the presence of other people which causes one to not take action-- in the article, a crowd gathers to watch and take pictures of a fire, rather than call 911 or check if there was anyone stuck in the building. I believe that these people had the obligation to get help, as everyone should when lives are at risk.
I believe RedStudent makes a good point when they said that if your mother or sister or daughter was in a situation like Sherrice’s, you’d want someone to step in. It’s never easy, but it is the right thing to do.