I can think of three times when I did, two in Taiwan. The third time was today.
We were at the zoo, watching the elephants when all of a sudden a kid, about 12 or 14 years old, who’s standing there beside his mother and younger brother, winds up and flings a small, plastic drink bottle as hard as he can at the elephant, it bounces off the elephant’s side and lands at the elephant’s feet. The mother did nothing, but I jumped in front of him and shouted, “Hey, what the hell are you doing! That’s bad. Bu hao. What the hell are you thinking.” He was completely startled that someone confronted him, much less a yaiguoren and appeared very meek, frightened and shamed. His mom then told him he was wrong too, though not half as strongly as I had, and she didn’t blame me at all. His younger brother, however, started crying. Later I saw them again and was surprised to see there was also a husband/father, not that it would have mattered to me. The kid needed a serious scolding and if a parent wasn’t going to provide it I see nothing wrong with a stranger doing so.
The other occassion was in Taichung at a science museum where they’ve got a terrific collection of lifesize, realistic animated dinosaurs that move their heads back and forth and roar. It looks to me like they must be fairly expensive creatures. So I was pissed off when I saw a young boy, maybe 7 or 8, climb up over the edge of the barrier and start tugging on the tail of one dinosaur. “Hey,” I shouted to him, “hey, get down.” But he didn’t hear me and kept on proudly tugging on the tail. So I marched over, grabbed him by the scruff of his collar and yanked him down off of there. He too was completely startled, as were the people around us. And later I saw him pointing at me to his mom, but I didn’t give a damn. If his parents’ wouldn’t stop him from breaking expensive exhibits intended for hte general public, someone else needed to.
The third one was in California. I was standing on the sidewalk in front of my house when this crazy, homeless lady who lived in the vicinity walked quickly past, cussing and screaming, obviously seriously agitated. A moment later I saw the cause of her distress. A young kid was chasing her, shouting at, intentionally taunting, and taking pleasure at scaring the hell out of her. The kid passed just a few feet in front of me so, without thinking, I grabbed him by the shoulders and said, “Hey, knock it off. Leave her alone. She’s crazy, just leave her alone you little shit,” or something like that. I know that one’s never supposed to touch another person’s kid, but I didn’t hit him. I just grabbed him. If I hadn’t grabbed him he would have just ran past laughing. In any event, I knew most people wouldn’t have intervened like that, but I didn’t give a shit. And when he told me, “you’re in big trouble mister,” I knew it wasn’t over yet.
So I went back inside, sat down and waited, and when the cop showed up at my door I wasn’t surprised. I told him what happened, he knew the crazy lady and agreed taht the kid’s behavior was very wrong, but told me I shouldn’t have touched him. I said, yea, I understand. The cop then told me and the boy, who was standing on my lawn with his mother, to apologize to each other. Fair enough, I obliged, though his nasty mother screeched for blood, trying to get the cop to haul me off to the slammer. No such luck. The boy and I said our words and it was over.
So, what do you think? Does a stranger ever have a right to intervene and tell someone else’s kid to knock it the hell off? If the kid is violating the rights of another person or the general public and his parents don’t stop him, aren’t others sometimes justified in butting in? Is it always wrong to touch the kid (not punch, not twist, poke or otherwise hurt, but just grab him for emphasis) when teaching him that lesson? Has anyone else done anything similar?