Feb 22, 2007

Rescuer Saves Neighbor from Loud Movie: Vigilante or Hero?

Time for a confession here: this story could be about me. I hear someone being attacked violently—OHMYGOD—it's my neighbor—she's being hurt—quick—I gotta do something. Whenever I hear the story about the Good Samaritan, I want to be that one good person who helps the hurt traveler. Stories like the one in Germany recently kill me—an actor lies down in the divider on the Autobahn, pretending to be injured. No one helps him. Proof of what? That no one cares for strangers any more? I think, if I were there, I would have stopped to help. I am confessing to a hidden hero wannabeism. Maybe I watched too many Westerns as a kid. Don't know where this urge came from exactly, but it's in me.

Once when I lived in a large apartment building in Japan, I heard a woman's screams and shouts of "Call the police. Help me. HEEELLLLPPP." And so I did. Called the police, that is. The next day, I was surprised when my front door was egged. Maybe my neighbor had been acting out an elaborate fantasy with her partner and I just wasn't in on it. Maybe I was too smug thinking I had done what was right. Hey—that must be it—like all the superheroes, I hate injustice and seek to right it when I can, sometimes to ill effect.

So here's the story: James Van Iveren of Oconomowoc, Wisconsin hears horrible cries for help from the apartment downstairs. OHMYGOD—
it's a woman—my neighbor—she's being raped. Somebody's got to help her. Van Iveren does what any hero would do. No, not call the police—don't have a phone and by then it would be too late. Quick—got to help now. He dashes into his own apartment, grabs his family heirloom cavalry sword, dashes back to the scene of the attack, and breaks the door down to rescue the poor damsel. Inside the apartment, what does he find? One startled neighbor, alone, staring at—you guessed it—the blue screen, enjoying a loud pornographic movie one minute, then confronting a man in his doorway brandishing a three-foot-long sword the next. Naturally, our hero is charged with trespass, disorderly conduct, and more.

Here are my questions for you: what would you have done? And should Van Iveren be charged or forgiven for his embarrassing mistake?

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