On Man’s Duty to Defend the Weak and Vulnerable

On Man’s Duty to Defend the Weak and Vulnerable July 16, 2015

Jasper Spires is seen in an undated picture released by the Metropolitan Police Department in Washington DC. (Handout/Reuters)
Jasper Spires is seen in an undated picture released by the Metropolitan Police Department in Washington DC. (Handout/Reuters)

Did you hear about the tragic story of recent American University graduate, Kevin Joseph Sutherland?  He was on the Washington Metro when an 18 year old named Jasper Spires tried to grab Kevin’s phone which was tucked into his waistband. 

Then, Spires used a pocket knife to repeatedly stab Kevin while his the other passengers “huddled at both ends of the car.”  In their fear, no one did anything to stop the attack.  They only watched as the 24-year-old victim was stabbed to death right in front of their eyes. 

Apparently, however, this sort of violence is not new to the Metro, and neither is the inaction of other passenger witnesses.  Another woman — Marianne Seregi, an art director at Washington Post Magazine — told of her own assault on the subway while no one helped.  Though her attackers didn’t brandish weapons, a man sitting in front of her never turned around.  The only person who tried to help as a small woman who yelled “cut it out.”  They didn’t “cut it out.”  Marianne struggled with the fact that no one helped her, but admitted that she probably wouldn’t help another person if she saw something similar happening.

My husband David said these passive passengers reminded him of this scene from American Sniper:

He writes in National Review:

In voiceover, Chris’s father delivers lines that young men in the military have heard for generations. There are three kinds of people in this world, he says — sheep, wolves, and sheepdogs. The sheep “prefer to believe that evil doesn’t exist in this world.” The wolves “use violence to prey on the weak.” The sheepdogs are “blessed with the gift of aggression” and possess an “overpowering need to protect the flock.” These men are the “rare breed” who “live to confront the wolf.”

Are we all becoming either “sheep” or “wolves?”  One passenger recounts holding Sutherland as he died:

What I don’t wish is that I had somehow tried to attack the assailant. I am a little bit larger than he was, but I would not have won. It’s scary, because if we had been sitting closer and had seen the attack start I probably would have tried to help, and would have been stabbed.

Even though the commenters below his admission encouraged him, by telling him he might need counseling after seeing this student stabbed to death, John Daniel Davidson called this man’s description of the incident “beta male rationalizing at its finest.”

David agrees:

If I responded the same way that man did, I would also need counseling — not because I had seen a terrible thing, but because I had failed so horribly in my most basic duty to my fellow man. I would find it hard to live with myself. In a moment of ultimate crisis, that person looked deep inside and discovered that he was not, in fact, a man. Given the fear, given the ultimate stakes, failure is understandable. It is not, however, excusable.

But then again, we shouldn’t be surprised. We no longer raise boys to be men. We no longer teach them from a young age that they must not tolerate others preying on the weak and the vulnerable. We teach them that aggression is always and everywhere bad, to look for authority figures to set things right, and thus the single-best thing they can do in a crisis is find someone to tell. We raise people to be sheep, to delegate their bodily security — and the bodily security of their friends and neighbors — to that “rare breed,” the sheepdog.

The whole article is worth a read, especially for parents who are trying to figure out how to raise children who take care of the vulnerable.  We shouldn’t leave the protecting up to the police or those “sheepdogs” who may or may not be around.  All men have the responsibility to protect people who are less capable of defending themselves.  David concludes:

…if we keep raising boys to be sheep, no one will fight for the next victim, either. Instead, they’ll do what they were taught to do — tell the authorities, hold the dying, and cry on their therapists’ couch.

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