Standing up for Others

This is from an old letter that I wrote home when I was backpacking in Europe, age 20:

“I ended up in the [Florence] train station trying to sleep. About five am a couple of guys, around my age, began hassling the old winos in the waiting room. They’d twist paper and set it on fire in the wino’s hand or in the bottom of his pants. I woke up to this and sat there not believing that the people in the waiting room (and it was crowded) were just sitting there doing nothing. I couldn’t just sit there, so when they went to light another torch I stamped in out and almost took the guy‘s fingers off. I’ll tell you these guys didn’t appreciate my interference and I picked up the flack. I wasn’t looking for a fight, but I wasn’t going to sit around and watch them burn drunks. They gave me a warning (fingers across the throat etc.) and went at it again. So, I repeated my intervention — what a troublemaker I am! — and a shoving match started up. It was only two to one so I figured the odds weren’t too bad — if I couldn’t talk it out or bluff, I could always run away. Discretion and valor, right?  I stood my ground and gave them shit in my best Italian. To my relief, they ended their torment and left the waiting room – peer pressure, who knows. Interesting that in all this ruckus (lasting about 15 minutes) not a single other person got involved or backed me up. Jesus, what a world!”  

– European Chronicles 1979

Ben’s Easy Rider days, back in the last millennium

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