What would you stand-fight- whatever for?

This story would be much better if I was working in the yard with the pickaxe whacking away at tree roots. But I wasn’t, I was moving around dirt with a cultivator on a pole. I have a little hand cultivator but I think the hoe-looking thing was much better for my back. While I was doing this life was going on around me. Across the street teenagers were walking on the sidewalk talking loud, being obnoxious, and engaging in horseplay. However the horseplay took a wrong turn when one of the boys put one of the girls in a headlock and would not let go. One of her friends tried to free the young woman but to no avail. I let a few seconds go by when I moved out of the yard with my cultivator and to the street saying clearly, “Miss, do you need any help?” I repeated myself. One of the other boys then yelled, “She’s got a stick!” That’s when the young man holding the girl in the headlock released her and he and the other boy jogged up the block. As they ran I yelled, “Stop being silly!” This would have been followed by “I’m not going to hurt you” were it not for the fact that the girls also moved up the block rather quickly. As I said, imagine if I had my pickaxe instead.
(okay click the date stamp 10.5.06 for full post)
Later I thought of a conversation about “engaging” or “confronting” teens on one of the neighborhood listservs. There were those who mentioned a fear of retaliation. Someone will always mention retaliation when confronting either things evil/bad or things really annoying. The headlock incident was a missed teachable moment. The kids missed a chance to hear why beating up on girls is wrong. There are other teachable moments like explaining why throwing trash on the ground is bad too. But I won’t let fear of retaliation stop me from stepping up to those teachable moments, no, pure laziness, apathy, and an unwillingness to be bothered do that for me. Retaliation is the last thing on my mind. A little bit of bravery plays into it, but it comes from the same fount of bravery for public speaking, as confronting teens or anyone else in the process of doing wrong requires one to speak publicly. There is that same risk of failure. Your audience could dismiss you or laugh in your face or become very hostile. As I said, laziness, apathy and not wanting to be bothered keep me from confronting all the wrongs people do.
The retaliation thing does bring up a question of what wrong will one stand up for and confront right there on the spot? Being passive-aggressive as I am, I tend to take the path of least resistance. Sometimes I’m moved to action. This is worrisome as I think, what would happen if I were mugged or attacked on a street filled with people like me. Of ten Mari clones, one would run out and help as the crime took place, 7 would just call 911, and the other two would be completely dumbfounded and paralyzed with indecision of what to do.
I’m more likely just to call 311 or 911.
note: I had prewritten the above the day before the rest is an addition.
Yesterday, while minding my own business in the yard I heard some kids (about 10 and 11 years old) harassing a man on the street. When I looked up from what I was doing, the man had already passed me and was heading south. So were his pants and a the dark side of the moon was out as well. The kids (two boys) pointed him out to me and sort of wanted me to ‘do something’ about it, as according to them, he had his butt all out and “showing everything”. I offered to call the police, which I did. The boys chased after the man, with a spirit of righteous indignation, harping and yelling “pull your pants up man,” and “nobody wants to see that.” When I got the dispatcher on the phone the man had already turned the corner and was out of my sight. The dispatcher told me to call again if the man reappeared. Well a few minutes later he came up the block and I called the police again. I did not look carefully, but the way his pants kept falling, exposing his rear, it would be a safe bet that the front was exposed at times as well. I reported this and the man’s description and where he was walking. The kids, who’d been trailing him, stopped in front of my gate as I was outside on the phone with the dispatcher. They said that the man threw rocks at them. A possible untruth on their side, as I did see them, but not the man, pick up some small rocks before they turned the corner. The dispatcher said they’ll send the first available car. Well the first one between now and never, I thought.
So you witness something, will the fear of retaliation be your constant guide? Or is it a mix of timing, mood and a certain act itself that will move you to stand up or do something? Or do you need to be asked? I don’t know the answer. Sometimes we’re brave, sometimes we’re cowards.