Ironic as it may be, one of the most violent movies you will ever see features one of the most dramatic statements about violence to grace the screen.
In the opening moments of "The Boondocks Saints," an elderly Monsignor at a Boston church is speaking to the congregation in emotional tones.
"And I am reminded, on this holy day, of the sad story of Kitty Genovese. As you all may remember, a long time ago, almost thirty years ago, this poor soul cried out for help time and time again, but no person answered her calls. Though many saw, no one so much as called the police. They all just watched as Kitty was being stabbed to death in broad daylight. They watched as her assailant walked away. Now, we must all fear evil men. But there is another kind of evil which we must fear most, and that is the indifference of good men."
The brothers who are the focus of the film exit the church into the bright sunshine, light cigarettes. One says in heavy Irish brogue, "I do believe the monsignor's finally got the point."
The other replies, "Aye."
But do we have the point? It has been many years since the Kitty Genovese murder, and we still hear stories all the time of people being abused in public settings, or in situations where surely someone had an idea that evil was going on.
How many stories of domestic abuse or child abuse do we hear in our communities? In most of those cases, I would wager that someone suspected that something was wrong. But it is so easy to ignore what we see, to say it isn't our problem and leave it for someone else to deal with.
I was reminded of this movie scene this week, reading a report out of Chicago.
On a Blue Line train Thursday, a 19-year-old woman was beaten and bitten by a man trying to steal her phone. Male bystanders in her train did nothing to help her.
"They just watched," Jessica Hughes, a student at DePaul said. "I feel like people just don't want to get involved." The beating left her hospitalized.
The report said a man had entered the train car with a woman, sat down next to the young woman, and started grabbing at her headphones in an attempt to steal her iPhone from her pocket. He then pushed her to the floor and began "beating on my head," she told CBS.
When he was finished beating her, the assailant just walked away.
The act of doing nothing for your fellow man is so common that it has a name - "the bystander effect."
People watch each other victimized like they would watch a video on their laptop or cell phone, or a video game playing out in front of them.
Another recent story from Chicago had a man run over and killed in North River. Bystanders didn't help him after an assailant punched him and left him unconscious in the street; in fact, passersby robbed the man while he was lying in a pool of blood.
I'm not asking you to resort to violence to answer violence. Unlike the movie, vigilante justice comes with consequences and real risk.
But don't turn a blind eye, either. If we don't do anything about crime when we have the opportunity, we are not much better than the criminals.
Call 911. Step between people before an argument can turn into violence. Distract. Scream for help. Offer to help someone who needs it. Do what you need to do, what you can do.
Crime is a terrible thing, but in the big picture of humanity, indifference is even more sad and dangerous.