As the mother of a four month old baby boy, I am appalled at the horrific reactions that I have seen following the tragedies in Ohio and Florida this past month. A few weeks back, I addressed the country's response to the rescue of the three-year old boy and the death of Harambe the gorilla, and now, we are faced with another tragedy involving a child, the two year old boy who was killed by an alligator while his family was vacationing in Disney. Let's get this straight: these are both horrific accidents, and the families involved need our sympathy, prayers, and support. One mother could have lost her son when he was trapped in the gorilla enclosure; another actually did lose him. I know that both families are kicking themselves now, wondering what they did wrong, what they could have done differently. I know that both families thought that they were in safe places, that they never imagined that in the blink of an eye, their child might be dead. The boy at the Cincinnati Zoo was lucky. He was able to escape with just a concussion and some cuts and bruises. The other boy was not so lucky.
In the aftermath of both incidents, I assumed that people would be sympathetic. Any parent of a child who is mobile knows how quickly they can disappear. Parents know how quickly their toddlers can get into trouble. One minute they're playing quietly in the sandbox; the next thing you know, they've got a handful of sand already shoved in their mouths and they're eating who knows what. And all you did was sneeze. You didn't even have time to reach for a tissue before your child was satiating his hunger with sand. The parents of these two children knew this as well, but disaster struck nonetheless. Because none of us is perfect, and we cannot save our child from every potential threat. The mother at the zoo did not leave that morning assuming that her toddler would be able to sneak into the gorilla exhibit. The father at Disney did not bring his kids to the man-made beach for Movie Night assuming that he needed to be on the lookout for alligators. Both of these children did what toddlers do best- they explored, testing the length and strength of the invisible chord that bound them to their parents.
These two children were doing what they do best, and they suffered as a result. They were exploring, testing the limits, learning to be more independent. They were doing all of these things with the reason and logic of a toddler. A toddler. These kids could barely dress themselves. The biggest decisions they made in a given day were about their clothing and their playtime. The three year old just wanted to be closer to the gorilla. The two year old just wanted to play in the water while he watched his movie. The notion that they deserved any of this is just appalling.
And yet that notion prevails among many Americans. In the days following the Cincinnati incident, liberal animal rights activists blamed everyone that they could: the zoo owner, the zoo employee, the mother, the three year old. That's right- people wanted to blame the three year old boy for the death of the gorilla. I was appalled to see signs held by activists at the shrine dedicated to Harambe, signs that demanded the blood of the child to make amends for the blood of the gorilla, signs that suggested that it was a bigger tragedy for the gorilla to die than the child. I'm sorry, but no child ever deserves to die. He was three years old, for heaven's sake. Do you know any three year olds with impeccable reasoning capabilities? I would love to meet them because the three year olds that I know like to eat glue, think that they're a superhero, and want to pet the lion at the zoo. Yeah, that's right- they want to pet the lion. THE LION. Because it's fluffy, and it has a pretty mane. Even after you tell him that the lion bites, he still wants to pet the big kitty. I'm really not that surprised that this little boy wanted to get close to the gorilla. He probably just wanted to pet it.
It's absurd to blame the little boy for his actions, or for the death of Harambe. He's a little boy. Yes, his mother should have been keeping a closer eye on him; she should have gotten down to his level to explain to him that, no, you cannot pet the gorilla. The gorilla is mean. He could hurt you. But she's just a mother. She's just a human being. She's not perfect, and I'm sure she's punishing herself constantly now. I'm sure she relives that day in her mind, morning and night. But liberal Americans weren't content to blame just the mother; they wanted the boy to be punished as well. Some even demanded blood in retribution, or suggested that his life was not as worthwhile as Harambe's. I'm sorry, but that's just ridiculous.
Now, just a few weeks later, we are faced with another tragedy, another death. This time it is not a gorilla who has died; it is a child. Will that child be mourned? Will there be a vigil in his honor? I can't be sure, but I wouldn't be surprised if this little boy is not given the same respect as Harambe. Already, less than twenty-four hours after his death, I've seen countless negative comments concerning this story. I've seen people who are up in arms because this little boy's death is taking away from the tragedy at the LGBT club in Orlando, as if we cannot mourn for both. As if we cannot mourn for one more lost life, amidst the fifty other men and women who were killed this past week. As if shedding a tear over this little boy's senseless death is somehow a strike against the LGBT cause. I'm sorry, but that's just ridiculous. There's no reason why we can't mourn both. There is no reason why we can't pray for the repose of the souls of those who died during the shooting, and for the soul of this little boy.
But that is not the end of the absurdity. I've also heard people suggest that the child deserved to die. The homosexual men and women who were shot did not deserve to die. They had done nothing wrong. They were innocents. The two year old boy, on the other hand, well, he got what he deserved. I mean, what child thinks it's a good idea to play in the water after 9PM? What toddler knows that he should be in bed, safe from the alligators that apparently only come out at night? This little boy had done something wrong. He was not innocent. He should have known better. He should have told his dad, no, I shouldn't watch this movie because it's late. You shouldn't let me play in the water at this man-made beach, Daddy, because there might be an alligator. Goodness, Daddy, how could you be so foolish?
But the little boy did not say that to his father. He acted like any two year old. He joyfully accepted a late night movie while on vacation, excited to be able to stay up past his bedtime. This was his first trip to Disney, and he was thrilled to be able to play in the warm water. He didn't expect a random alligator to snatch him, dragging him deeper into the water, further away from his family, before it killed him. And just for the record, neither did Disney. Those beaches are designed to be used by vacationers during their stays. Employees work diligently to make sure that alligators do not stray into the resort areas, but this alligator slipped past them. That little boy thought he was safe where he was. His father thought that he was safe. The staff members and lifeguards thought that he was safe. They were all wrong.
Over the course of just a few weeks, two boys have faced potential harm from an animal. One boy was lucky enough to escape; the other was not so fortunate. America should be mourning for both these boys. The first boy, though he survived, is probably still suffering from nightmares. A part of his childhood has most likely been ruined for the rest of his life. Zoos, which should bring children joy, will probably only leave him terrified. If he is really lucky, he'll bounce back in time, but even then, I highly doubt that gorillas will ever be his favorite animal. The other boy is dead. He lost his life in a tragic accident, and we should be mourning his death. Instead, America insists that both of these boys got what they deserved. They should have known better. They should have made better choices. They should have just stopped being toddlers for a minute. They should have acted like adults, been more logical. But if this is the logic of America, a logic that values an animal over a human, that blames a toddler for his own death, that demands the blood of a child to appease the godless god of modern liberalism, then I don't think I want to be logical.
This is the logic that demands the death of millions of babies in the name of comfort and convenience, that asserts that we are only as valuable as we are productive, that considers children to be either a commodity or an inconvenience. It's no wonder that children have no room in our modern American society. They do not live by the same logic. They love their pets, but they love their mothers and fathers more. They want to pet the lion, to hug the gorilla. They don't know what it means to die; they have no concept of death, just life, and peace, and beauty. They do not intuitively know how to fear, but only how to love. They must be taught to fear. They are often unproductive, building just to knock down again, spending their days laughing, and playing, and dreaming. In their eyes, everything has worth; you do not need to do anything to receive their love. In all these ways, they are the enemy of modern liberalism. They love, and will not be swayed by fear. They do what they want, and not always what they are told. They are unproductive, and they dream of bigger and better things. They see value in everyone and everything, and every life has meaning. And that's why America has little love for children. That's why America demands blood, demands a life for the creature that has been lost. Children remind us all that love is the greatest of all, that love casts out all fear. They remind us that we do not need to be productive to be loved, that we do not need to do anything to have value. Children love. They dream. They take delight in all that God has given them. Theirs is a logic that we would all do well to embrace. We do not need the logic of America. We need the logic of children.
Mary Help of Christians, pray for us!
This article originally appeared on the website Love In the Little Things in June 2016, and has been edited and republished on Catholic365 with the permission of the author.