In Search of Humanity

Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority image courtesy of Slate and William Thomas Cain/Getty Images

At a time when much of the pandemic has unfortunately been politicized, empathy for our fellow human beings is in short supply. Some Americans have been violently attacked and even killed trying to enforce mask rules, while anti-vaxxers refuse to believe that Covid19 is responsible for hundreds of thousands of deaths, going so far as to quit their jobs instead of getting the jab. And those of us who have lost family and friends (otherwise healthy individuals) to the coronavirus have listened to nonexperts boldly try to school scientists, questioning their expertise on pandemic diseases.

We’ve also seen irate parents demand that Critical Race Theory not be taught in public schools (even though it’s not) and that certain books be removed from the curriculum because they would make white children feel uncomfortable. Yet, an online petition to bring back slavery was circulated by students at a Kansas City high school. And white high schoolers waved a Confederate flag as they spewed racial slurs prompting Black students to plan a protest in Rome, Georgia. Needless to say, the Black students were subsequently suspended for doing so.

So I wondered what kind of people were riding on the Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority Market–Frankford (SEPTA) line on October 13–a Wednesday night–as they witnessed a woman being raped, sexually assaulted on the train for roughly eight minutes. None made any attempt to intervene. No one even bothered to call 911. I mean, are they the type of people to enforce rules or demand their right not to obey them? Would they remove a passenger for not masking up or threaten school board members to stop their children from being taught CRT in the classroom? In other words, what is it exactly that needed to happen to compel these passengers to act?

Because I need to make sense of all of this. I am desperately clinging to whatever sanity I may have left after 2020 and the events of January 6. I want to believe that the passengers on that train are a fringe group and that the vast majority of Americans would have stepped in, putting our differences aside. But any evidence of that actually happening is severely lacking.