I thought about the disturbing scene the entire way home. Sadness dragged behind my feet while guilt crawled up my back. Should I have done something about what I saw? Where do I toe the line on moral obligation?
The other night I was out for a run. I happened to pass a couple of people walking with what appeared to be an extremely agitated, anxious, cowering dog. I’m not a canine behaviourist, but it showed distinct signs of severe abuse. I ran by. The crouching dog was lurched into motion by a sharp tug on the leash. And in a matter of seconds, the visual was nearly nothing more than just another inert passerby all too easily forgotten about. Except that I couldn’t forget.
Should I have intervened in this circumstance? Could have I?… Thinking of it now, I’m not sure I have the characteristic of warrior brazenness that accompanies most heroes. And silent ignorance is often what enables the misdeeds of villains.
But let’s be real. Life isn’t some dark comic. I’m no hero, and those people certainly aren’t villains. In fact, maybe—by no fault of their own—the dog just happens to have behavioural issues. Or maybe they were the recent adopters of a mistreated animal trying to give it back some sense of normalcy. How dare I accuse honest people of malice when trying to make right by their hands the wrong done by another’s?
Or maybe what I saw was an accurate reflection of reality: they abuse their dog. In effect, I was just another person too afraid or ignorant or oblivious to speak up. Obviously these are the questions to which I’ll never know the answers.
It leaves me to wonder, how many times do good people stand by and do nothing in the face of bad affairs? For fear of embarrassment, for fear of offending, for fear of fear itself. And what if it was a child instead of a dog? Abuse suspected not least because of visual cues, but also because of the gut-twisting sickness of intuition. Would that scenario change anything? Should it?
And at what point do we forego social inconveniences and awkwardness to respond to what is right, to respond to our own personal voices of conviction? These inquisitions are not easily answered, at least not by me. I’m torn between the shame of my inaction and the compulsion to make my business what I feared wasn’t mine to make.
I’m at a loss. What would you have done?