Rio de Janeiro's violent streak was thrown in my face today. There are days in Rio where you only see the beautiful landscape and wonderful people and others where the city seems to flip over exposing it's nasty little underbelly.
On the way home from school, my boys and I were approaching the crazy homeless lady who "sells" magazines next to the school. I say "sell" because no one actually buys them. She carefully spreads out these 2 yr old versions of Veja while she sprawls over the entire freaking sidewalk. As you can see, she is usually someone I consider annoying as I have to take my boys off the sidewalk to get around her carelessly spread-eagle legs.
Today was different. Two street kids were there and she was on her feet. Seeing her on her feet made me wake up and pay attention. The street kids were grabbing at her stuff. While she made sure to keep a distance, she kept telling them to put the magazines down! They were hers to sell! The teen and kid took her things and walked down the street. There was nothing in the bag of value and they were just doing it to be little shits.
If I hadn't had my boys with me...
I come home only to find out that a good friend of mine was robbed by knifepoint. She was out for a jog, it still being light out, when a large man grabbed her. He put his extremely large knife to her throat, and demanded her mp3 player (which was actually an ipod). When she couldn't get it off fast enough, he sliced the cords of the headphones like jelly (her words) and ran off with it and her cell. She walked away with a couple of cuts but then realized that there was a man there watching the entire thing happen. The man told another man passing by and all three of them watched the assailant run away. No one did anything.
My friend told me later that she though of my blog post about a girl shot in Flamengo. She kept thinking "Give him everything." Considering her position, I think she was right to do so... not that she had any other option.
But hearing her story made me think of Jenna's comment on the Flamengo post about how we need to fight them. While my friend couldn't, that man watching could have. That man could have rallied someone to help him. And I could have helped that poor woman, or at least tried to motivate another onlooker without children to do something.
I can't say why the man didn't do anything but I can say why I didn't. I was afraid to get involved. I live in the area and have small children. Street children normally run in packs. I could be caught off guard any given evening and be totally screwed, and what if my boys were with me. Sure I'd fight and I have very little doubt that I wouldn't at least stumble away, but do I want my kids to experience that?
At the same time, if a criminal knew that other people would react, I doubt they would choose to attack. Maybe if we acted as a community the criminals would have less opportunity to strike...