EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA


May 11, 2013

As an American, should you 'if you see something, say something' or just 'live and let live'?

We live in a culture caught between “if you see something, say something” and “live and let live.”

It’s hard to believe how a Cleveland neighborhood ignored a man now suspected of kidnapping three girls and hiding them for 10 years — as well as one of their daughters — in his rundown house.

It’s hard to believe that the friends and families of the two young men accused of blowing up the Boston Marathon did not report anything suspicious.

All these years later, it’s hard to believe how a dozen neighbors who heard Kitty Genovese scream while being stabbed to death near her home in Queens in 1964 did nothing to help her.

We’ve all heard of Good Samaritans being injured, killed or sued. And you often hear someone saying, “I just don’t want to get involved.”

But in America, our heroes and heroines are those who do get involved, who do go out of their way and make a difference in helping someone else, usually a stranger.

Nearly every night, the TV networks point to someone who has made a difference — a child raising money or awareness about a rare illness, a woman who makes clothes for African children and started a network of other women to help, a man who risked his life to save a child caught in a storm drain.

A few days ago, we celebrated the 25th anniversary of Global Youth Service Day. More than 4,000 service projects were completed by children, such as promoting rainwater collection tactics in Uganda.

Every time there is a disaster in America, from Hurricane Katrina to Hurricane Sandy, from dreadful fires on the West Coast to droughts in the South East, American cash donations and American volunteers make a difference.

Sometimes, we don’t say or do anything because we don’t want to be embarrassed if we’ve made a mistake. Yet how many of us have spent hours worrying whether our inaction or silence could have prevented harm? How many of us have seen outright child abuse in a public domain but hesitate to interfere because “parents have a right to discipline their children”?

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