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Please (Don’t) Stand By

24 May

Unknown

An awful violent attack occurred in London yesterday. A soldier was massacred in a very public and calculated manner to make a political point. No doubt attacks with this level of brutality happen around the world all the time. But that it happened in London, a country not embroiled in a homeland war, captures attention. That the attack was structured and played out to garner as much social media attention as possible adds to the awareness. The men who hacked a soldier to death lingered at the site in an effort to broadcast their motive. Cell phone cameras and London’s extensive close-circuit televisions obliged the murderers.

Video captures what appears to be a street painted red, the murderers, with bright red hands holding cleavers, spew forth their message. The images will sear and scar. But there is something beyond the horror in the tableau. There is a woman, of a certain age, talking with a blood-covered man. She stands close enough to him (knifing distance if you will) to be in serious danger. He is still holding his cleavers as he tells her why they did what they did. Beyond them you can see clusters of people looking on and holding up their phones. But this woman stands alone with an attacker. Ingrid Loyau-Kennett had gotten off the bus hoping to aid the murdered soldier and found herself face to face with a murderer. She immediately set upon disrupting whatever he intended to do next and distracting him until help arrived. Later, when asked why she would put herself in such danger she seemed baffled. Why wouldn’t she do what she did? When a reporter insisted “But you could’ve been killed.” She replied; “Better me than a child.” There were no children in her care at the moment. She was in no immediate danger when she got off the bus. She could have kept walking, or stood on the sideline taking photos or video. Instead she inserted herself into clear and present danger because she felt it was the right thing to do.

It is a stunning thing to do and one most of us never would or could attempt; walking directly into the path of crazy and danger. How many times have we rationalized our way out of inserting ourselves into far less lethal circumstances? How many times have we seen an adult manhandle or berate a child, and kept walking? Have we passed a visibly confused or distraught person assuming someone else will help? If we live anywhere that’s inhabited with other people, we probably make these kinds of decisions weekly if not daily. And they are decisions. Walking past a person in need is no less a decision than approaching a blood soaked cleaver wielding murderer. Turn your phone camera on someone rather than lend a hand (or walk away) is a decision.

The brutal murder of an innocent person can never be justified or excused. But if we can look at the actions of Ms. Loyau-Kennett as a personal guiding light, we can make the world slightly better. We will never be rid of crazy or rage, or calculated killings, but we can care more. The next time we see a situation that catches our eye and creates an uneasy feeling in our stomach, we can ask ourselves what would Ms. Loyau-Kennet do?

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Posted by on May 24, 2013 in Cultural Critique

 

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