|USA Edition||Today Is Thursday December 12th, 2013|
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One of the first things children are taught when they go into society is not to talk to strangers. People buy guns not to protect themselves from those they know, but from those they don’t, when in all likelihood the people close to them are more likely to cause them harm.
On April 13 an 11-year-old Florida girl was rescued by a man she didn’t know after spending four days alone in a swamp. The initial reaction by law enforcement to his 911 call was suspicion. And undoubtedly many viewers who saw the breaking news were suspicious as well. After all, when we see middle-aged men with young girls we assume the worst.
Perhaps that’s because that’s all we ever see. If James King had rescued Nadia Bloom after one hour instead of four days his act of samaritanship would not have been news at all.
One can only wonder how many life-saving acts by strangers occur every day, beneath the sensationalist radar of the media.
Perhaps that’s because that’s all we ever see. If James King had rescued Nadia Bloom after one hour instead of four days his act of samaritanship would not have been news at all. One can only wonder how many life-saving acts by strangers occur every day, beneath the sensationalist radar of the media.
In contrast to these uplifting stories, we learned on April 23 that the Boy Scouts had been ordered to pay 1$8.5 million in punitive damages for sexual abuse by an assistant troop leader in the 1980s. Add to this the ongoing revelations about abuse in the Catholic Church and one might conclude that the rational approach to regarding other human beings is to be equally suspicious, and equally trusting, of all.
But instead we have an irrational trust in the familiar, and an irrational fear of the strange. One of the first things children are taught when they go into society is not to talk to strangers. People buy guns not to protect themselves from those they know, but from those they don’t, when in all likelihood the people close to them are more likely to cause them harm.
The word barbarian comes from the Greek barbaros, for foreign. If you were Greek the world was divided into those who were Greek and those who were not. The demonization of strangers was a bogeyman then as now, as the Greeks warred among themselves more often than they fought the Persians. The Illiad begins with Achilles’ refusal to fight the Trojans because his fellow-Greek, Agamemnon, kept Achilles’ slave girl for himself. If Homer was sending a message to his countrymen about the ambiguous nature of us and them, they didn’t learn it at the time.
The world is a scary place. There are swamps and box jellies, foreign armies and drifters with murderous intent. But we are a social species and must depend, like Blanche duBois, on the kindness of strangers. For all the sorrow they cause a few of us, it should be noted that your life, or your child’s life, is far more likely to be saved by a stranger than taken by one.
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