I attended a local parade this weekend where there was a young man seated next to me wearing a T-shirt emblazoned with a drawing of a gorilla’s face in full roar. The gorilla was wearing sunglasses and a hat. Written in large letters on the underside of the visor of the hat were the words, “BEAST MODE.”
Now, the young man wearing the shirt wasn’t acting like a beast, as he thanked those passing out candy on a regular basis, but it got me to pondering recent events.
Last week, a two-year old boy playing in the water at a Walt Disney World hotel near Orlando was attacked and killed by an alligator. The boy’s father ran into the water and fought with the reptile in an effort to free his son, sustaining injuries to his arms and hands as he tried to force the alligator’s jaws open and free his child.
It was a horrific, terrible, awful incident and one can only imagine the incredible grief these parents must feel. I pray God will comfort them and help them to heal from this.
Now, there was considerable “parent-shaming” on the internet after this incident as people apparently sought to defend the alligator from what alligators naturally do.
The area where the boy was playing was a white sand beach on “Seven Seas Lagoon” right next to the hotel with a patio nearby. True, Disney had put up signs saying “No Swimming” but it did allow and even encourage fishing, power boating, and even paddle boating in the area. Even though it was called a “lagoon” it is a man-made lake. Numerous others who have visited this area were never warned, nor was there any hint, that alligators posed a danger in this body of water, even though authorities caught and “euthanized” five alligators from Seven Seas Lagoon right after the incident.
But it is the irony of this event that I cannot escape.
For almost 90 years now, Walt Disney and Walt Disney Productions have popularized cartoon portrayals of animals as people who are kinder, gentler, and more lovable than actual people.
This is called “anthropomorphism” and we are very, very fond of it.
Now, don’t get me wrong here. Like almost every American of my generation and generations before me and after me, I grew up watching Walt Disney cartoons. And yes, Walt Disney had always been synonymous with wholesomeness—as were characters like Mickey Mouse, Bambi, Thumper, etc.
And our culture took that concept of the wholesome, altruistic, happy and carefree (and sometimes it even seemed “sinless”) animal and ran with it.
Coupled with various nature films throughout the years, and the shift in our society from a rural to an urban culture, we have become a society that is apparently fonder of animals than we are of each other. A 2015 Gallup Poll found 32% of Americans felt animals should have the same rights as people.
Public outrage over a dentist shooting a lion last year in Africa and the shooting of Harambe the gorilla just recently were epic—even tsunamic.
Meanwhile, there is virtually no comparable outrage over the 44 people who are murdered each day in this country.
In point of fact, we as a society find the murder of other human beings to be our preferred form of entertainment, as about half of the top shows on television are about that very subject.
At one time, humanity sought to differentiate itself from “animalistic behavior” by practicing things like chastity, altruism, self-restraint, and even self-denial. These were seen as uniquely human traits, expressing the best in our humanity. Indeed, the word “humanity” has at its essence the idea of denying “the self” in favor of the good of others first.
Not coincidentally, as we have come to admire the behavior of animals above that of the human race, the human race has become increasingly animalistic to the point where we now believe that it is not possible to restrain ourselves from the behaviors we previously considered “primitive” and harmful to society as a whole.
Is this all Walt Disney’s fault?
One would have to have the morals of a baboon to write that kind of thing about “The Happiest Place on Earth®.”
So God created mankind in his own image,
in the image of God he created them;
male and female he created them. Genesis 1:27 (NIV)