Paul's Heart

Life As A Dad, And A Survivor

Frustrated By Bystanderism

Like many, I watched the horrific murder of George Floyd in May of last year. And then I watched the anger, the fear, and the wreckoning of understanding that racism is still a major problem in this country, seemingly no better than decades ago, only now, massive awareness.

Like many, I have been watching the trial of the murderer who took the life of George Floyd. Like the jury, I have seen new unseen video footage, including from bodycams and other angles.

I want to be perfectly clear, I support our police and other first responders. And there is a huge difference from a cop that accidently takes the life of a suspect or in self-defense, and one that blatantly disregards human life. No matter how the defense attorney tries to deflect away the true cause of Floyd’s death with accusations against the victim and finding faults in the various witnesses including first responders and police supervision, his client, in the end, well, we all witnessed the same thing.

The average person may not understand all of the medical terminology being thrown around in this trial, but unfortunately, many of the terms are all too familiar to me, given my extensive history as a cancer survivor. I know the terms hypoxia, RCA, lactic acid, and many of the other terms, because they all deal with cardiac concerns, of which is one of the health issues I deal with.

But, besides the fact, that Floyd lay unconscious, unresponsive for as long as he did until paramedics arrived, and the murderer remained on the neck of Floyd ignoring his obligation to be responsible medically for the victim has left so many scratching their heads, what else could have been done, since the killer would not relent.

In the schoolyard, probably all of us at one time or another, had witnessed a fight on the playground. Two combatants in the middle of a huge crowd, being cheered on. Likely, one fighter a bully, the other the target. Or perhaps you witnessed someone being pushed around publicly in a restaurant. Witness a parent just wailing on a kid’s ass in a grocery store? There are three participants in an act of bullying, the bully themselves, the target, and the third, the bystander. This is the person who for whatever reason, is unable to stop or prevent the assault from going any further.

The reasons of the bystander(s) can vary from apathy, to fear and apprehension, physical, or even health issues. If you really want to understand the mind of a bystander, you could not have a better example, than those who witnessed the murder of George Floyd. Testimonies by the many witnesses who gathered at the scene, finding their words as the only method to try and stop the murder. Sure, there will be those who will claim the behavior and language only enflamed the situation. Really? Could you picture yourself at that scene? All you had to do is watch the testimonies, and you could see why there was no easy solution for them to save the life of George Floyd. We see a fight… we try to stop it, and get hurt in the process. We see a cop killing an unarmed, restrained, and unconscious human being, if we lunge at the officer, the only thing that clearly would have prevented this killing, we would have been shot by the other officers at the scene.

My friend, fellow Hodgkin’s Lymphoma survivor, actress, author, Annie Lanzilloto did what she does best a couple of days ago, put her feelings, the way many of us feel, into words. With her permission, I am sharing the gut-wrenching monologue and video. An advocate for many causes, these words strike a hard reality. And that there is the possibility as history is witness to, justice still is at risk to not be served in the end. Floyd will still be dead. And we will still not have an answer, how to protect others from those who are supposed to protect us.

With that, I present the text and the video about “Bystanderism, the risk of stepping in,” by Annie Lanzilloto. Annie, these words are perfect!

“It’s Good Friday, and the crucifixion is happening every day. Bystanderism is unbearable testimony in the Chauvin case. The guilt the underage witness Darnella Frazier feels, saying, “I’m sorry George.” Meanwhile without her witness and steady hand, where would we be? Frazier’s video is the gospel of the Passion. It is how we best know what happened second by second. The helplessness and rage of off-duty firefighter Genevieve Hansen and all the witnesses. What they have to bear is unbearable. If they rushed the officers, they would have been shot. Yes I wish we all bumrush bullies of one stripe or another—that the three Marys tackled the Roman guards and got all three guys off the crosses, that we could all be like Todd Beamer and passengers on flight 93 on 911 headed for D.C. rushing the terrorists together, that the doormen in the lobby tackled the attacker of the Asian senior citizen woman on 43rd Street as he stomped her. Me? I cut my baby teeth on my father’s kneecaps biting through his green work pants as he shook my mother by her hair in the Bronx, 1969. Baby teeth are sharp. Bystanderism. The mortal risk of stepping in, I know well, as I got kicked across the room, into the piano. The guilt the witnesses bear and do not deserve. Kitty Genovese, 1964. What have we learned. Where are we? Who are we? And the horror of the Defense message about “interfering with police business” this Passover, Easter Week, and Spring Break, the timing of the Chauvin case on the calendar when we all are home watching. There are only two kinds of people now: when you look at George Floyd, do you say, “He is me,” or “He is not me.” He is me.”

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