If you tell a Nazi with a knife, “Tut-tut! That’s not acceptable!” he will cordially invite you to accept that knife in your throat.
When did that stop being obvious? How did that become some profound truth? Slate Magazine tells us The profound and damaging lesson of the Portland attack is “Two brave men saw something. They said something. They died for it. What will we all do next time?”
Is that “The tragic lesson of Portland”? That you can get hurt when Evil People run wild with weapons? That’s not profound. That’s trivial. When did that even become a thing to doubt?
Someone somewhere always pays the bill for social change. When you put off that bill, it costs more to pay it later. That’s not profound. That’s trivial. How did people blind themselves to that?
The artificial world in which we live
- in which you take your complaints to HR and let them handle it;
- in which you call the police and forget about what you see happening in front of you;
- in which you block someone on Facebook and pretend that answered their argument;
- in which you appeal to the Supreme Court and assume justice will be served;
- in which you decide freedom is free and believe nothing is risked for it;
- in which you talk about the arc of the universe bending toward justice and put away your own tools for bending that damn arc yourself;
That artificial world is a lie.
We build such a world for our babies
- to show them the world as it should be;
- to allow them to grow into youth who can then experience the world as it is and stand that experience;
- to send them in out into that world which must might kill them if they try to make it into the world they want it to be;
We build such a world as a truth we plan to make real.
Making that world risks our lives. It risks our lives and it risks the lives of our babies. It kills some of us and it kills some of them and that kills us even if we aren’t the ones who died.
We die inside a little every time we risk them by sending them out into that world. We rot inside a lot every time we fail to risk ourselves to bring that world into being.
I ride the bus to work. Last December, a man at my bus stop tried to prey on a woman. I’m not a fool. I didn’t just jump into it. I bided my time to see if the encounter would end without my intervention. I planned to intervene when I could do so with the least risk.
When the time came, I tried to engage the bus driver’s help. I stayed between the man and the woman. I did my best to separate them. I gave her the invoice he’d discarded from the stolen property he was carrying so she’d have legal leverage on him if the police came.
I didn’t worry about his threats toward me until later. I failed to completely separate them, but maybe I did some good, and maybe I risked my life without doing any good at all. I knew when he tried to follow me off the bus he might hurt me, might even kill me.
It wasn’t even a choice. Neither is
- breaking down from it later;
- knowing you would never know if you’d succeeded in helping that woman;
- despairing when well-meaning friends and not-so-well-meaning cops tell you that you shouldn’t have intervened;
It’s still what you do if you want a better world.