Unconscientious Neglectors

In the wee hours of March 13, 1964, Catherine “Kitty” Genovese finished her shift as a bar manager at Ev’s Eleventh Hour Club in Queens, New York and headed home. She parked her car in a parking lot near her neighborhood and began walking to her apartment. Winston Mosley was waiting for her.

He attacked Genovese on the sidewalk, stabbing her repeatedly. She screamed “Oh my God! He stabbed me! Please help me! Please help me!”

A neighbor turned on his exterior lights and shouted at Mosley, and Mosley fled. But when hey saw no help was coming, he returned.

Genovese had made it to someone’s doorstep, but Mosley caught her and stabbed her again. Genovese screamed she was dying and neighborhood lights came on again, forcing Mosley to flee once more.

By 3:25 AM, Genovese had made it to the rear of her apartment building and entered through an unlocked door. Once inside, she collapsed. Mosely followed her in and found her unconscious. He raped her, took her money and stabbed her one final time.

At 3:50 AM, Karl Ross, one of the thirty-seven witnesses to Genovese’s attack and murder, finally called 911. When the police arrived, Genovese was already dead. When asked why he waited so long to report the crime, Ross said “I didn’t want to get involved.”

On June 4, 2008, Angel Arce Torres was struck by a hit-and-run driver and thrown down in the middle of a busy Hartford, Connecticut street. Pedestrian witnesses and onlookers simply gawked and walked on. One driver paused briefly and drove off. A man on a scooter circled the victim and then zipped away. Finally, a police cruiser, responding to an unrelated call, spotted Torres in the street and stopped to help.

Bryant Hayre, a witness to the incident, said he didn’t feel comfortable with helping Angel Torres because he was uncounscious and bleeding. Torres’ hit-and-run assailant has yet to be apprehended. Doctors say he will never return home from the hospital because he can’t breathe without a respirator.

It’s easy to condemn the witnesses who were slow to respond to Kitty Genovese’s attack. And we’re all disgusted with the callousness of the passersby who left Angel Torres lying in the street. Fellow human beings were in distress and folks like Ross and Hayre couldn’t be bothered. Crimes were committed under their noses and their responses were odious.

It’s easy to feel indignant and cast aspersions at Ross and Hayre; they’re easy targets. But while we publicly stone conspicuous perpetrators of indifference and dereliction, the bulk of the guilty escape without notice.

At this exact moment in our planet’s history, the most diabolical crimes against nature and humanity are being methodically committed at a horrifying rate and we couldn’t care less. We “don’t want to get involved” or “don’t feel comfortable” making a stand.

The shameful, willful destruction of our ecosystems and the contamination of our oceans, our air, our atmosphere, our soils, our forests and our water sources are being carried out at this very instant. The polar ice caps are almost history. Coral reefs are dying. Plant life is retreating uphill. Animal life is being sequestered and extinguished. Storm systems are growing in force and frequency. Lands are being decimated by drought and pestilence. And we—key witnesses to these cataclysmic events—are oblivious. All we’re concerned about is the price of gas.

Every day we haplessly feed the hand that bites us. Instead of dropping bombs on desert zealots in Iraq and Afghanistan, we should be demolishing coal-fired power plants and oil refineries. Instead of fighting a war on drugs, we should be fighting against greed and capitalism run amok. Instead of building border walls, we should be building green coalitions, neighborhood agricultural co-ops and affordable solar energy applications. Instead of allowing big oil and gas conglomerates to reap obscene profits, we should be garnishing their revenues to redress past environmental misdeeds and fund ocean “dead zone” reclamations, safe renewable energy campaigns and wide-scale wildlife conservation.

The signs of criminal environmental calamities are all around us, but apathy, ignorance and complacence keep us actively inert, perpetually heedless and chronically unbothered by our role in the devastation.

In this regard are we any better than Ross or Hayre?

In the end, weren’t they both accomplices? In the grand scheme of things, aren’t we?

Native Texan E.R. Bills is the author of Texas Obscurities: Stories of the Peculiar, Exceptional and Nefarious and Texas Oblivion: Mysterious Disappearances, Escapes and Cover-Ups. Read other articles by E.R..

9 comments on this article so far ...

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  1. Maien said on July 4th, 2008 at 8:16am #

    Thank-you for your ‘call’ for individuals to bring some integrity back into their lives!

  2. corylus said on July 4th, 2008 at 9:15am #

    The points made have been made again and again, and I plead guilty. Yet what is a response that will work to stem the tide of murder, environmental destruction, apathy, greed? Act alone, and take my word for this, you’ll end up on “watch” lists, and be subjected to continuing harassment, and that’s just for voicing your opinion and frustration. Act out, and one by one we’ll find ourselves rotting in detention centers awaiting torture. Organize with others and find yourselves destroyed by provacateurs, spies, warrantless charges, and now, illegal “terrorist” activity. Consume as little as possible, and do what one can to reduce your footprint, while millions of others take up your slack, blithely killing themselves and the rest of the planet. This is just another empty paean to the sick reality of our culture: no solution, spleen-venting.

    Progressive writers need to start finding ways to pique the consciences (perhaps a lost cause on those that have no consciences) of the truly neglectful, those responsible for America’s wasteful, killing ways, or suggest ways to bring them to justice — in a system where justice is a one-sided proposition. I’m sick of being beaten over my head by guilt-tripping writers when I’ve spent my life trying to reduce my impact and to implore those with power to change their ways. Writing such as Bills’ is discouraging and depressing to me, offering no solutions, just a finger shaking in admonition.

  3. A. Somebody said on July 4th, 2008 at 11:04am #

    Instead of being frustrated by such articles, what about e-mailing them to people who you think could benefit from reading them? Yes, individual efforts may be small, but the more we share our stories about such efforts, the more people will hear about them and perhaps be moved to act. I think that peer pressure plays a huge role in getting people to change habits. If all of one’s friends talk about how they recycle and pass on tips on how to do so, for example, the one friend who does not recycle might feel left out and/or guilted into doing something. Don’t give up hope: the battle for a better world is long and hard, but when you look back on your life someday, you’ll be proud of having taken so many positive steps. Sharing what you do with others is part of the process, though.

  4. rosemarie jackowski said on July 4th, 2008 at 3:58pm #

    We are a culture devoid of empathy. A nation consumed with narcissism and self-absorption -people dying on emergency room floors, while the hospital staff walk around the dead bodies.

    For some time now, I have been working to organize a national “Celestine Project”. Is anyone out there interested in jumping on-board and helping? If so, please read the article below and contact me.

    https://www.dissidentvoice.org/2007/11/a-death-on-valentine-street/

  5. A. Somebody said on July 4th, 2008 at 4:49pm #

    Rosemary, what is the goal of your project? It’s nice that you at least provided some light into Frank’s life before he passed. You probably did more good than you can even imagine.

  6. rosemarie jackowski said on July 4th, 2008 at 5:45pm #

    A. Somebody…Thanks for asking. The goal would be to match up people who have no support system with a person or family that would help once in a while .

    For example, something that most people don’t know is that some medical procedures will not be performed if the patient does not have someone in their household for a few hours after the patient comes home. This is a growing problem now that so many procedures are being done on an outpatient basis. That is just one example. There are many gaps in most of our social service systems. Sometimes, a simple procedure like a tooth extraction will not be done if the person has no one in their home with them. I have a friend who needed an emergency hospital procedure due to a detached retina. He was going blind. The hospital required that he have someone with him when he arrived home.

    Our society and our culture are fractured. Family members sometimes live far apart. Imagine the plight of someone – with limited finances- and no support system – maybe an emergency and no one to take care of children. Think of a single mother with ruptured appendix, and no family nearby to care for the children.

    It is interesting to note that after my article about Frank was published, I heard from people around the world. His life story is even more impressive than I had imagined.

  7. David said on July 4th, 2008 at 8:02pm #

    Maybe it’s just time for us to go. After all, the collective efforts of humanity when absent a handful of artists, thinkers and leaders (good or bad) throughout history have been pretty meager.

    And really, the United States is not much more than a great piece of real estate that has hanging around its neck the dominant theme of Golding’s Lord Of The Flies.

    The real sadness is that so much potential existed here that just couldn’t flower. I suspect that many of us are really in mourning for that terrible loss – as we should be.

  8. lrothrock said on July 5th, 2008 at 6:52am #

    Boy, David, you got the mourning right. I look around me and I can’t believe what our priorities have come to. We’ve been so deluded by materialism. We sit in our homes in front of our screens and we’ve completely lost touch with each other and nature.
    Speaking of, as much as I protest Disney, I recommend Pixar’s new film “Wall-e” for that very reason (as ironic as that is). It shows us what we could become if we don’t change our evil ways … it was horrifying! lol
    I like the Lord of the Flies analogy.
    I’m going outside.

  9. A. Somebody said on July 8th, 2008 at 9:44am #

    Rosemarie…I am probably too overcommitted to be able to jump on board as an organizer, but I’d be more than willing to help out local folks here in my community… I feel bad when I think of the elderly who have nobody…