If, as you were going about your shopping one day, you encountered a young man wheeling a stroller containing what appeared to be a wailing baby and saw that man yell angrily at the baby and violently jerk the stroller around, how would you respond?
Most of us probably hope we would intercede in some way, stopping what appeared to be abusive behavior toward a helpless infant. But if we did do that, we would apparently be unlike a host of people who actually did encounter such a man recently in a crowded New York City store and park. What did those people do as the angry young man hollered "shut up" and stronger invective at what appeared to be an uncontrollably crying baby?
Some of them looked uncomfortable. Others looked upset. One shouted "shame on you." And many of them walked by as if nothing unusual was happening. None of them – not one – tried to physically intercede or confront the man face-to-face.
Thankfully, as it happens, there was no crying baby in that stroller – just a CD player emitting crying-baby noises. The whole thing was just a stunt captured on video by an audacious, spelling-challenged young man who apparently makes a habit of staging such pranks and posting the videos on YouTube.
It's a horribly unfunny prank – in many ways unfair to the people who seem truly upset by what they're seeing and uncertain as to how to stop it. But it does reveal how inert people can be when it comes to the abuse of children. (As if we needed any further evidence in the midst of the Jerry Sandusky/Penn State scandal.) We don't want to believe people are really capable of doing terrible things to children – our inclination is to rationalize, to tell ourselves it's not as bad as it looks. In this case, mercifully, the abuse was not what it seemed. But the video serves as a reminder that if we don't stop abuse when we see it, we cannot assume someone else will.
In the end, after the man in the video ditched the stroller next to a Christmas tree, the only one to walk over and look inside it was a little girl, who had to beg other people to pay some attention -- any attention at all -- to the stroller's contents. Only one person out of so many to actually check on the "baby," to make sure it was OK? That's shameful.
Do you think you would have responded differently from the people in the video?
Image via YouTube