Americans Are Innocent Bystanders

By Dan Proft

March 29, 2024

Several years ago, I wrote a column for the Chicago Tribune about the death of a young man named Marquis Gaines that occurred on State Street which isn’t such a great street these days.

Gaines stopped at a 7-Eleven to get a snack after his shift as a bartender at one of the gin mills in the popular River North neighborhood. There was a guy loitering outside of the store who said something to Gaines as he walked passed. When Gaines turned around to acknowledge the comment the loiterer sucker-punched him leaving Gaines laid out on the street unconscious.

Surveillance video showed more than a dozen people nearby failing to come to Gaines’ aid. At least one person, reportedly an employee of the 7-Eleven, called 911. But no one outside even bothered to shield Gaines from traffic, though two predators swooped in to pick Gaines’ pockets while he was unconscious. Nice city. Eventually Gaines was accidentally run over by a taxi, and he died after finally being taken to a hospital.

About that time, a study by Cornell University sociologists found that only 1 in 39 Americans would respond to help their fellow man in a health emergency. That’s fewer than 3%.

The so-called “bystander effect” of not wanting to get involved is not a novel failure of the human condition but it has mutated beyond health emergencies and, unlike COVID, this virus is getting more lethal not less.

Contenting ourselves to be our brother’s sugar daddy rather than his keeper is no longer just our posture with strangers. Now we behave the same way when it’s our loved ones.

America is rotten with “mediocre men”–the term former All-American University of Kentucky swimmer Riley Gaines uses to characterize dads who let their daughters be physically dominated even to the point of serious injury by male interlopers in their sports.

Once we conceded the stranger and then our kids, our institutions went up in flames. COVID was the perfect cultural accelerant.

The 6-feet-apart social distancing so-called mitigation “just sort of appeared,” Tony Fauci testified. We learned from a new documentary entitled, “It Wasn’t Fauci,” that the other public health quack, Deborah Birx, was the lockdown architect. She manipulated VP Mike Pence and took advantage of dilatory Trump staffers who didn’t even bother to read the guidances (which were received as mandates) she was sending to the governors promoting the Draconian lockdown policies.

Tony Fauci didn’t close any schools. Deborah Birx didn’t impose any lockdowns or vax mandates. They just made recommendations. Trump and Biden didn’t close any schools or impose any lockdowns or vax mandates. They just followed the advice of the public health professionals. All have cleared themselves of any professional failures.

Hundreds of millions of Americans who enthusiastically served as COVIDian sentinels are playing right along with the innocent bystanders they obeyed without pause or question.  To do otherwise would be to implicate themselves. No accountability for thee means no accountability for me.

And now it’s everywhere.

The parents in Edmond, Oklahoma, high schools that allowed officials to set up a hazing culture under the auspices of raising money for charity that turned high school gyms into scenes from a Gore Vidal movie with 14-year-old girls sucking peanut butter of the toes and licking chocolate out of the armpits of men.

The Uvalde, Texas, police who took 77 minutes to breach the elementary school where 19 children and 2 teachers were murdered. They dithered while they heard gunfire they knew was taking out grade-schoolers. Two years later and 21 bodies later, they have officially been cleared of any professional failures.

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin wanted to keep his health and a medical procedure he underwent hush hush. That was a no-no he ultimately acknowledged. A review was done that officially cleared Gen. Austin, despite his admission, and the Pentagon of any professional failures.

For the last four decades,  America’s two major political parties presided over permissive border security that has now metastasized into full-blown lawlessness. Now sanctuary city politicians and their constituents don’t like the welfare state’s spigot being turned in the direction of the Biden buddies by other sanctuary city politicians and their constituents. In lieu of self-examination, they just call Republicans “racists.” It’s easier. Republicans run around blaming Biden for a migrant “invasion” but refuse to use their power over the purse in the House of Representatives as leverage to repel said invasion.

Accountability is one of those attributes like “fiscal conservative” people like to ascribe to themselves to sound civic-minded. The accountable fiscal conservatives have turned America into a country with $35 trillion in debt that eschews personal responsibility.

I know what you’re thinking. What have I done with my little perch as a Chicago morning drive radio talk show host and podcaster. I have platforms. Where are my results?

Who, me? I’m just another innocent bystander.


Dan Proft is the co-host of the radio program, “Chicago’s Morning Answer” on AM 560 and the host of the “Counterculture” podcast at and the usual podcast platforms.

Comments 25

  1. What an appropriate column today when western Christians remember the ultimate accountability of Christ’s Passion and death on the cross to account for the sins of mankind. Sadly today egregious abuses by selective justice in our courts just rolls by the wayside. The laptop from hell is dismissed and the whole Biden family goes on its merry way confident that nothing will ever happen of consequence (accountability).
    An election for CC States Attorney where someone with a reformer/true justice bent is ahead by 2K votes and wouldn’t you know it. Dang, there were these 10K mail in votes in a box over in the corner. We cannot possibly disenfranchise Democrat party line votes. It’s a MIRACLE!! Again. I deeply fear the same nonsense in November. The populous will wring its hands but nothing will happen. No accountability. Ever. Just power and mail in ballots.

    1. Well said. Especially the house GOPers who do nothing on the border crises. It’s bcuz major companies here need cheap labor. We already have everything made in Chinky Charley land but the labor needed here, landscaping, roofing, construction, day care, etc needs illegals that work for anything. It could be simply solved. JAIL ANY BOSS, CEO, OR OWNER OF A BUSINESS THAT USES ILLEGALS. EVEN IST TIME OFFENCE, NO GRATIS: STRAIGHT TO JAIL. BET A LOT WOULD LEAVE ON THERE OWN.

        1. Enrique. Thomas is a bloviating gas bagger who often has no idea what he is talking about. As a Jew I found his comment on a prior article about prewar Germany particularly inane and ridiculous. But that said, sometime life’ trials force us to reveal who we really are. When the full force of Illinois government tried to intimidate Dr. Rudd to alter his autopsy findings to suit their narrative, Thomas stood up – alone – and said no. He stood by his findings much to the dismay of the local Illinois Democratic party. And he suffered the consequences both professionally and I imagine financially. That is why, I at least tolerate his often times sanctimonious, know-it-all, my-sh..-don’t smell, windbaggery.

  2. 1st off this morning, THANKS for the artwork accompanying many of these columns…. i’ve been collecting them and swapping them out as home screens. A happy result of this is the salving of curiosity various grandkids who have never heard of Diogenes and the suggestion that I tell stories like “Mr.” Homer!

    The art selections drip of Kasso’s aesthetic and that’s high praise.

    Yesterday, in a crowded and silent Quest Diagnostics’ waiting room, I held the door for a young Mom and her sub teen son. We both used the two gizmos to sign in; blinds drawn on an empty reception desk, scanning our IDs and insurance cards. I stole a line from Seinfeld and congratulated them on “beating” me to valid registration. We grabbed the last seats and joined the silence.

    Minutes later a young woman walked in and spent a few minutes feeding her cards to the scanner gizmo. When she was finished she turned around to full seats.

    Instantly I was back on a crowded Jackson Blvd. bus rolling east through Columbus Park. My old man had taught me about offering a seat on the bus to any lady that might be standing. I did and this lady with a dead fox wrapped around her neck and white gloves with black buttons on the fingers thanked me profusely and called me a young gentleman. I felt like the entire bus approved of me.

    I stood up and offered her my chair. She demurred and I told her I don’t get this opportunity very often and she really must accept which she did and I could tell it felt good for her too, to be treated publicly this simple courtesy. It was my most gratifying moment Holy Thursday.

    Silence returned to this odd, shabby, yet sterile room. Then the youngster’s voice, in that silence, asked his Mom and she whispered that “that man offered that lady his seat because that is what a gentleman does”. I winked at the kid. He smiled and his Mom gave me a smile that rivaled the one the now seated lady shared.

    All I did was get involved, in public, with strangers, in a manner consistent with (common) social graces learned as a boy on the west side.

    I didn’t think too much about this until your column ended and I realized that yesterday I was NOT a bystander. And, good things happened for that simple involvement, that human engagement. My pleasant experience is benign and, perhaps, an inappropriate response to Gaines’ and Uvalde’s distinctions. But I think it illustrates that change must begin somewhere and sometimes in small ways.

    Mr. Proft, you’re so right. Accountability requires involvement. It’s time for gentlemen to stand up. Our ladies and Moms and youngsters can’t be left alone without a clue and without a chance. Thanks again for another terrific read.


  3. Hey Dan. Thank you for this. Any ideas on how to get over this hump of inaction? I believe if someone shows they have a spine during a challenging time, it will catch on and others will join in to increase the strength.

    1. Just so. This is a social virus infecting our society that spreads as people see it in action. It can be overcome by spreading a different social virus that the previous gentleman described. Every public act of courtesy, compassion and courage can beget another and another and another. Each one of us have the power to change society if we have the courage to be the change. Be like yeast!

  4. This insightful Proft column puts the Covid disaster in focus, as well as much else in a country settling for infirm leaders and robust debt. The masked melodramas, dumb lockdowns, closed schools, and falsified claims for an experimental drug could be seen as mass hysteria, but could also be seen as institutional irresponsibility promoted as responsibility.

    Next we can look forward to ten million mail-in ballots for illegal immigrants. That should solve the threat to democracy.

  5. Excellent Column.
    Accountability like Common Sense is not so common.
    To be accountable, you need to be different-stand out- from the herd. You also have to admit failure and accept any consequences that may occur. Very uncomfortable situation to be in; especially in an environment which we are taught and told not to “judge” and the mere act of accepting your failure is judgement. The lack of accountability is further rewarded by not being being ridiculed, ostracized or canceled; like not being called racist for suggesting government follow the law.
    I would love to see a ripple effect from the actions of Mr. Hansen; a simple act of humanity spreading to others. However, I doubt that will ever be a realization: pretty sure that an hour after the leaving the waiting room it was forgotten.

  6. Thank you Dan for your accurate, thoughtful analysis. So well said, and sad what our society has come to. A moral compass no longer exists. Anything goes if it is “your truth”. Government has been out of control for a while now, and getting worse.

  7. The other day in Rockford a man stabbed seven people, killing four of them. He walked around the neighborhood stabbing random people on the street. No one helped. If anyone witnessed the assaults they were unable to help unless they had a firearm. Thanks to Illinois restrictive gun laws people are pretty much hamstrung about having a firearm to defend themselves. Or stop a random attack like this. I know, I know…guns kill people. So do knives apparently. Maybe we need to ban knives too.

  8. Ironically, feminism has created a climate where this can happen. I remember dating a girl in high school (late 1970s) when the toxic sort of feminism first really started to permeate everything. On a date, I held a door open for her. She told me I didn’t need to do that.

    I know women that get offended by the idea of men asking their husbands for daughter’s hands in marriage and not being able to walk their daughters down the aisle, a symbolic job that was always afforded to the man. Fortunately for me in my family, that did not happen.

    Today, I can have sex with a woman and never call her again. I don’t need to accompany her to the abortion clinic. I don’t even have to buy her dinner, I can just hook up on a phone app. Isn’t equality great?

    Feminism relieved men of accepting the responsibility for being what we always thought were men.

  9. I’m firmly in the camp that believes the “innocent bystander” phenomenon is nothing new. Where were the heroes in the past who looked the other way when the city of Chicago was fleeced by the parking meter deal? Where were the whistleblowers in the lead up to the March 1996 Illinois Democrat primary when a young upstart took out a very popular state senator from Hyde Park named Alice Palmer (I guess disenfranchising black women was not a thing then) on a technicality with her signature nominating petitions by a charlatan named Barack Obama who then waltzed to victory in his first election to the Illinois state senate? Where were referees when a couple years later when David Axlerod used his muscle to get Jeri Ryan’s divorce records unsealed because her ex was running by then against Obama for the U.S. Senate which then left us with Alan Keyes after embarrassing revelations came out about their visit to Plato’s Retreat in NY during their marriage? I could go on and on but you get the point! No, sir, the innocent bystander epidemic is nothing new, but it is no less exasperating!

    1. By the way, in a previous post, contrary to the conventional wisdom here on JKNews, you said Burke’s lead would hold. You were right. She was officially declared the winner today. Nice call.

  10. Forty years ago, the two big lies were, “The check’s in the mail,” and “I won’t *** in your *****.” Today, the two big lies are, “I’m a fiscal conservative,” and “I take full responsibility…” Well done, Dan.

  11. In regard to the Cornell study whereby only 3% of those surveyed said they would respond to a health emergency, this diverges form my experience. Some years ago I was called during a commercial flight to provide medical assistance to a passenger with a medical emergency. I and a nurse responded to the flight attendant inquiry: “Is there a doctor or nurse on board?” Furthermore, my casual impression – just talking to folks in the industry – is that by far and away doctors and nurses in the vast majority do respond to flight attendant’s calls for medical assistance … even though (on American carriers) they have no legal obligation to do so.

    In terms of the Bystander Effect I recall two examples that stick out of me. First, I grew up in NYC so the 1964 murder of Kitty Genovese shook all New Yorkers to their core. Kitty was a young woman who was raped and murdered and her cries were ignored by 38 people. Now it came to pass that the original reporting – by the NY Times in fact – was severely flawed. It was highly unlikely that her cries were ignored by so many. In fact this was a made up narrative. But the original story – false as it was – led to the concept of the Bystander Effect which is ingrained to this very day. Second, I personally witnessed the Bystander Effect early in my medical career. When a “code” (cardiac arrest) was called in the hospital a whole bunch of medical personnel would respond and all hell would break loose since no one was in charge and no one knew who should do what and a lot of folks just standing around trying to figure out who should do what. With the advent of a discrete “code” team with a designated “leader” and roles, “codes” were much better organized and much more efficient … no one standing around and everyone assigned a discrete role.

    One thing Mr. Proft does not mention is that the “reluctance to get involved” sometimes has nothing to do with the Bystander Effect and much to do with the “No Good Deed Goes Unpunished Effect”. Witness former marine Daniel Penny who intervened when a homeless man was physically threatening passengers on the NYC subway he was on. Mr. Penny is now charged with manslaughter.

  12. Dan, excellent column! Thomas, thanks for sharing your story, it is encouraging to hear! Consider Jesus parable about the Good Samaritan, or a favorite Bible verse from the Apostle Paul in the Book of Philippians, Chapter 2:3-9 that is pertinent to the Easter celebrations going on this weekend and is instructive on how Christians should behave:
    “Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility of mind consider others as more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who though He was in the form of God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but emptied himself by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross!”

    That is the attitude of our God, the one who washed the feet of His disciples!

Leave a Reply