Thursday, September 08, 2005


Morality police

Disclaimer: I'm feeling a tad rant-ish this morning. Don't say I didn't warn you.

I've been wondering about this lately. What responsibility do we have as average citizens to police other citizens' minor transgressions? When are we allowed to be the morality police?

There's a guy who rides the same bus as me every morning, and every single morning he gets up and leaves the free commuter newspaper he's been reading on the seat. I know that this particular newspaper encourages "sharing" to widen its circulation, but to me this isn't sharing so much as littering. Every morning I get off the bus behind him, and want to reach over and grab the newspaper and hand it to him and say something coy like, "Excuse me, sir, I think you dropped this." But I don't.

I did, however, pull up beside someone on the highway and holler a piece of my mind at them (cruising at speeds around 120 km/h) when they dumped a bag and tray of McDonald's trash out the window of their moving car in front of me one day this summer.

And then there's the opposite end of the spectrum. My father has been stalked (I can't think of another word for it) and confronted after using the handicapped parking spot at the store. He has a legitmate pass on his windshield, but even when my dad showed this guy the pass, he just harrumphed and walked away. And that's nothing compared to the outright cruelty Y-vonne describes in telling the story of her sister-in-law, who has terminal cancer in the bones of her legs, returning to her car legitimately parked in a disabled spot to find a note on her windshield stating that if she'd get off her ass and exercise and lose a few pounds and she'd be able to walk.

Shameful, isn't it?

Just before Christmas, Tristan was battling a virus and I took Simon out of the house to let him lie on the couch in peace. We were half way to the mall when Beloved called me in a panic, saying Tristan was having what turned out to be a febrile seizure and wasn't breathing properly. I turned the car around, and called 911. When I got off the phone, I drove like a maniac, passing people on curves and making left turns on red lights. One car full of young men who I had passed pulled up behind me at a stoplight and started to come out of their car, yelling angrily at me. I stuck my head out the window and said I was racing home to bring my baby son to the hospital, which shut them up in a hurry. Now, when I see someone driving erratically I think of that night, and just do my best to get out of the way, because you just never know what's going on inside somebody else's life.

And back on the other side of the fence, Beloved wanted to call the police last night on the teenager next door and his friends. We came home from a walk around the block with the boys around 7 pm and they were perched at the garage end of the driveway smoking dope. Now personally, I'm pretty laissez-faire on that one, but I do admit that 15-year-olds smoking out in the open where my kids can stumble upon them is a bit of a stretch. Is it really our business? Although not terribly impressed, I was of the opinion that no harm was done, but Beloved was angry.

I can't find a line in the sand here, where on one side it's okay to interfere with what someone else is doing and on the other side you should mind your own business. What do you think? Do we generally err on the side of being busy-bodies, or are we mostly live-and-let-live? And should we be more of one than the other?