Tragedy in Cleveland

I have something to get off my chest today as we get more details about the 3 women in Cleveland. I have some very good friends who are law enforcement, and they risk their lives and they do a great job. But what happened in Cleveland was a failure on two counts: the people who “thought something wasn’t right” and then did and said nothing, and the cops who were called on at least two separate occasions after reports of “naked women in the backyard wearing dog collars” and then didn’t follow up.

If something isn’t right, report it. If you report it and nothing is done and you still think something isn’t right, follow up. Report it again. And again. And again. Trust your instinct. If something isn’t right, it probably isn’t. For some reason today, society conspires to suppress that side of our human nature. We’re born with the ability to detect abnormal and dangerous circumstances – we all need to do a better job listening.

We ALL see things from time-to-time which should be reported, whether that’s an unsafe driver on the road, a neighbor whose backyard campfire is suddenly putting out WAY too much smoke, or seeing naked women in dog collars in the yard next door. But when was the last time you reported it? Or are we all just all too quick to chalk it up to “well I don’t want to offend anyone, and they seem to all be consenting adults, so I’ll just go back to watching American Idol?”

Take care of yourself and your family. Then turn right around and take care of your neighbors. If you don’t say something, who will? Is it law enforcement’s job to know every bad situation when it arises?  How could they possibly know that, short of turning this country into a police state?

Individual liberty is paramount in this country.  We’ve all fought battles, recently, to secure liberty.  We’ve won some and we’ve lost some.  But maybe we’re missing the point – maybe the battle isn’t about liberty at all.  Maybe the battle we should be fighting for is to secure our right to personal responsibility.  When our society demonstrates an obvious lack of responsibility (in reporting, acting, investigating, following up, taking care of each other), THAT is when our government is quick to show up and step in.

Let’s turn the tables on this.  Learn from the lessons of Cleveland.  Take care of each other.  For God’s sake, our liberty depends on it, and in some cases, our lives depend on it too.

If you’ve ever seen the tv show “I Survived…” one of the running themes is how frequently people see tragedy right in front of them, often times literally staring them right in the face, and yet they turn around and walk away.  For many of us, this is the Normalcy Bias all over again.  We’re expecting to see normal things, and even when confronted with overwhelming evidence to the contrary, we see what we want to see – what we expect to see – and we ignore the rest, even to the point of dismissing it as “someone else’s problem.”  All so we can get back into our daily routine.  There are dozens, if not hundreds or thousands, of stories from 9/11 where, even when people watched a plane fly into a building right next to them, they turned around, walked back to their desk, and checked their email or called their spouse to talk about dinner plans.  They rejected a visual (or otherwise… some even felt the impact and felt the heat of the explosion) input, even when true, because it didn’t fit into their schedule.

We see that over and over and over… and we’re seeing it again in Cleveland.

Take responsibility for your own life, and let’s take care of each other.  Because no one else will.

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9 comments on “Tragedy in Cleveland

  1. John Balog says:

    Interesting post, and I can certainly sympathize with the thesis. However, you need to balance things like the tragedy in Cleveland with all of the incidents where people call the cops for help with a freind/relative who is having problems, and the cops end up shooting the very person they were supposed to be helping. Violent, unaccountable thugs with guns who’s only concern is “officer safety” are not going to help you deal with your mildly retarded kid who’s acting out, they’re going to shoot him.

  2. John, I think you missed my point completely. This has nothing to do with cops shooting thugs or the “mildly retarded kid who’s acting out.”

  3. Kalaryn says:

    That truly is a tragedy what happened in Cleveland. It makes me wonder what went through the neighbors minds. One would have to wonder if it was just some weird sex thing, there are people into B&D (I don’t agree with it) but one never knows. Even despite that point though, whether it was a B&D thing, they were in the back yard and naked, I would think that someone, especially someone who was a parent would call the police because I wouldn’t want my children to see something like this.

    I think sometimes people just don’t want to get involved, it might be because it doesn’t match their agenda or it could be a case of denial, we all have read things about what happens in a tragedy and there are a lot of people who go into denial, their blinders go on.

    This article makes me feel guilty because the other night I was coming home, there was a wrecked and abandoned car half way up on a lawn. My first thought was it’s stolen and abandoned. Sadly and I hate to admit it, I chose not to call the police, I feel like I do this all the time and I sort of felt as if I would be a burden on the police force once again. I’ve called four times in the last year, all I think were valid reasons but the other night, I just felt guilty about having to do it a fifth time and I didn’t see anyone around and there were no injured parties that I could see. Because of your article though, I guess I will work harder about getting over this, “I call them too much, I swear they are going to know my voice when I call.”

    Okay, I’m embarrassed now.

  4. Kalaryn – you’re certainly not alone. Every one of us has been there. If it makes you feel better, ask a police officer or firefighter sometime how they feel about “false alarms.” 100% of them that I’ve talked to, and there have been a lot, have said that without a doubt, they’d each rather respond to 999 false alarms than 1 actual incident that went unreported. Call. Pay attention to our environment and let’s look out for each other. Don’t be embarrassed!! *ALL* of us can learn from this story.

    • Kalaryn says:

      Thanks, Jeff, that helps me feel a little better. I did go find the article after reading your post and it does sound as if people had called in the past on several instances or so they said but there wasn’t police response. I would search other articles but I am having a hard time processing all of this and I need to get past the disturbing emotions that I feel over this.

  5. Pat says:

    Valid points with which many of us agree. Sadly, we seem to have lost compassion for our fellow humans and tell ourselves we are too busy to get involved, or that someone else will notice and do something. A blind eye seems more prevalent than a concerned word. Until we can restore the forgotten values of community and helping each other, I’m afraid we will continue to hear these stories.

    • Kalaryn says:

      I agree a sense of community has been lost among us. Could be the age where most our getting to know people and the world around us revolves around smart phones and computers. I wonder how many people take the time to get to know their neighbors. In my old neighborhood, as a renter I didn’t but they would have a yearly block party, which as a renter I wasn’t invited. In my new neighbor I know a large portion of them, I know their cars and we all seem to watch out for each other.

      I think maybe each of us needs to make an effort to make it a community again, instead of waiting for someone else to do it. It just takes one.

  6. Someone on my Facebook page (I reposted this with a link) made a really good point: It isn’t always callousness or disregard for others or anything like that which stops us from calling. Sometimes it’s just an inability to wrap our minds around what’s going on: “That can’t be happening. People don’t do that…”

    Other times, it might be like the guy sitting in the restaurant listening to the fire alarm going off. Yes, it’s loud and it means there’s a problem, but he doesn’t want to embarrass himself by being the scaredy-cat guy who jumps out of his seat when an alarm sounds. Instead he decides to look around and see if anyone else is getting up. Of course, everyone else is all doing the same thing. That means no one moves until the flames enter the room, and then there’s a race for the door where people get trampled trying to get out of the burning building. D’oh!

    This morning, there was a callout to our local fire department. First call was a concerned neighbor who saw a lot of smoke from someone else’s house. The neighbor wasn’t sure there was something wrong, but wanted the fire department to check it out. Five minutes later — after the firefighters were already on their way — there was a panicked call from the homeowner saying his house was on fire. That extra five minutes may have made the difference between a home with some severe damage to the porch, or losing the entire house to the fire. But I bet the first caller felt a little embarrassed, asking the department to check out something he wasn’t sure was a fire.

  7. Jim Konzak says:

    Jeff – you’re 100% correct that this is a case of “normalcy bias,” compounded by how our own definition of what is “normal” has changed on a societal level. While we are always responsible for our own actions, there are plenty of occasions where we’re also responsible for our inactions as well. Kitty Genovese, anyone? http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Murder_of_Kitty_Genovese

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