Tuesday, January 29, 2008
The Monsters Among Us
We know it is there, we hear evidence of it whenever it is a quiet news day. But we tune it out, we don’t have to look at it - stare it in the face - take some action. We put blinders on; push it to the back of our minds - ‘there are so many more important things to think about’. Then, one day, there is something we cannot ignore. A story, an image that confirms, unequivocally, that yes, there are truly monsters walking among us. For what, besides pedophilia or child abuse, is more distressing, more unjustifiable, more horrendous than abuse of innocent animals.
I am not talking here about the garden variety slaughter of animals by the millions/nay billions and the deplorable conditions these animals exist in - all in the name of putting a prime cut of meat on our tables. As horrible as this is, it is of a different nature and is a discussion for another day. Today, I am talking only of the nightmarish cruelty and criminal neglect of the animals we call our pets.
For me, it came in the form of an image, an internet picture of a blinding truth. It was something that could not be ignored. Come upon quite by accident, it seared itself onto my retinas. This image, once branded into my brain, could not be forgotten.
We hear all the tragic stories - owner dies - dogs found starving, or elderly woman with a heart bigger than her wallet is found with 150 cats in appalling conditions. Then there are the stories of ignorance. ‘I didn’t know you had to trim a pony’s feet - I thought he was just getting taller’, or ‘who knew that if I tied my dog on the deck he might fall off and hang himself’. This image did not fall into either of these categories; rather, this was a picture not of ignorance or unfortunate circumstances, but of pure evil. The evidence within its borders depicted an unspeakably malicious intent.
What had once been a beautiful, majestic horse lay bloated and torn in a pile of debris and filth. She lay there on her side, with a death grip on the 4x4 post that had become the instrument of her destruction. We can only guess at how many days this proud animal stood, hobbled front and back, innocently trusting that someone would eventually come and care for her. How many days before, mad with hunger and thirst, she began to challenge her restraints, and still no one came. Death is never a pretty sight, but this snapshot of time is literally too painful to look upon. It clearly portrays the work of evil.
Whether dog, cat, horse or other domestic animal, we have bred them over many centuries to be one thing above all else - subservient. The dog, lying curled at our feet, does not want or expect its masters kick, yet when it comes he will return with head down and tail between his legs, questioning what he has done to displease. The cat, purring in our lap, wants nothing more than food, water and an occasional stroke of its fur. Yet for some, that is still too much to ask. The horse, large and powerful as he is, bends his will to humans 1/5 his size. One thousand pounds of muscle and bone, properly directed, with the proper intent, could crush the life out of most humans. And yet, they give themselves over to us completely - ‘tell me where to stand, what to eat, when to work or sleep’. And how do we repay this gift - this complete trust, this greatest of gifts, given with no higher price tag than that of care and affection?
Most people understand and respect this unspoken pact. Then what can be said about the monster that committed this atrocity and others like it? Would any person with the barest ounce of humanity be able to commit such an act? It is common practice to label those who commit heinous acts as animals. If animals were capable of acting in such a way, none of us would be safe. What kind of a malignancy allows one to torture another living being in such a slow, methodical and calculating way, day after day, turning a deaf ear to an animals tormented cries as death approaches? One can only hope that these travesties, masquerading as human beings, will find a special place in hell reserved just for them.
Equally incomprehensible to me, is the fact that this all took place in our own back yard. This did not happen in some 3rd world country, but in one of the wealthiest and most educated states in the country, Connecticut. As this tragic struggle ensued between animal and starvation, did we pass this poor animal’s tormentor on the highway, stand behind it at the grocery checkout, or have it servicing our new car. Sadly, they wear no signs like ‘monster within’ or ‘evil lurking inside’.
What motivates such evil? First, we have to ask; why get the animal in the first place? In most instances, there is at least some initial expenditure, especially in acquiring a horse. So why? Owning animals is not a requirement, a societal imperative or even an expectation. Although there are many who feel the pressure to have both spouse and children to achieve respectability, there is no such expectation with animals. The answer is horrific but inescapable. For some, it may be a sick need to have something weaker around on which they can vent their rage or perversions. But, everyone has bad days; a fight with a spouse, a lay-off notice at work or 3 hours in traffic. We all have them, days when we come home with the urge to break a few dishes or kick the crap out of our furniture. The fact that most of us have learned to manage our anger in more appropriate ways aside, is this what happened here? What kind of dementia would have to take control of a mind to move it to an act of such cruelty? And even if we could comprehend it, this was no single act of rage; this was an extended period of torture. The resulting conclusion is frightening in its potential accuracy - these are Ted Bundys and Jeffrey Dahlmers in the making; sick, demented creatures working their way toward human torture.
So if we won’t do something for the animals, maybe we will do something for ourselves. But, how can we see the monsters within? How can we pick them from the crowd, avoid them, castrate them, stop them? Are we just not aware enough? Do we have to look deeper - read more into our co-worker’s covert smile, our neighbor’s secretive nature? Should every reclusive loner be suspect? For now, maybe just being more aware, inquisitive and pro-active may be our best course. But, for the future, we need to advocate for tighter restrictions and much more severe penalties for animal abuse. That can only happen when we recognize the full value of each life, no matter how small. That means a change in our priorities.
We pursue years of school and training for our jobs. We require licenses to drive a car or enter into a marriage with another consenting adult, yet any idiot that can draw a breath or write a check can have a child or be entrusted with the care of an animal, no training required. And thus, our victims are created; a bottomless pool for any pervert, abuser or pedophile to dunk into as deeply or as often as they like, without restriction or repercussion. It is our job as a society to take their ladles away, once and for all.
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