Last Friday night, I had a Snow Party. It was snowing, beautiful clingy snow that draped itself on everything, making it look like Wonderland. I made a pot of stew, baked bread, took out some nice crisp apples, lit scented candles and put on Celtic music. Then my dogs and I had a Snow Party. We were in our Happy Place.
Some nights aren’t so happy. Those are the ones I spend online doing animal rescue work. Occasionally I post results on Facebook or my blog, but I keep those posts upbeat—cute puppy pictures, dogs rescued or adopted. People don’t want to see the seamy underside of rescue—the suffering and death—so for the most part I keep that to myself.
Occasionally, though, you get a request you feel duty-bound to pass along. A gruesome photo of animal abuse came in with a request to share, because it was the only photo of the incident that showed the faces of the perpetrators. Authorities are finding Facebook one of the most effective tools for tracking these monsters worldwide, so I posted it with a request that anyone knowing their whereabouts contact police.
A couple of people responded negatively, one demanding that I remove the photo and another asking if there wasn’t another way to contact the “right” people.
Like the majority of writers I don’t believe in censorship, and we—collectively--ARE the right people.
Once upon a time, you looked at the Most Wanted list at your post office. With the world made smaller by travel and technology, social media sites are the new post office. There’s no going back to the good old days and they weren’t good. Those pictures only showed the most wanted criminals—people who had hit the end of the road—people not stopped at the point where some of them were “only” torturing and killing animals, before they had moved on to bigger game. That bigger game is us.
We had a clear illustration of this in my community. On an abandoned railroad track behind my property, someone began leaving carcasses of farm animals. They had not died a natural death. Old stockmen shrugged it off. Farmers were just dumping downed animals, they said. But two of us with medical and psychiatric training became seriously alarmed by what we were seeing and called the state police. They did as much as they could in a rural area, but within a short time we had the reports I was expecting. A woman was assaulted in her own yard; fortunately, passing motorists came to her assistance and her assailant made his get-away. We assume it was the same man who later exposed himself to two women walking their dog in a county park. The dog attacked and once more he escaped.
Was I surprised? No. THOSE WHO ABUSE ANIMALS ABUSE HUMANS. Usually their targets are the most vulnerable: women and children. Thank God we have had no incidents involving children. But with events like Sandy Hook fresh in our minds, how can we ignore threats to our society? There were four men in the photo I posted. How many wives, girlfriends, pets and children are at their mercy? One abuser previously apprehended through Facebook photos worked in security. The man was carrying a gun. His three-year-old child was in the photos, watching everything. What would you do to stop a thing like that? What should you do?
I love Snow Parties, my blog and Facebook page. I visit pages of friends and acquaintances on Facebook and they are often delightful, visually appealing and creative spaces with wonderful photos, philosophy, poetry…cheerful and charming pages. They are Happy Places. Even if I don’t actually know those people, I envision them as nice, decent women who nurture families, take meals to shut-ins, read to children at libraries, do the myriad little things that form the weft and warp of our society. I can understand why they are so distressed by a graphic photo and ask if I can’t make it go away.
No. I can’t. I respect the rights and feelings of those who do--who can block or hide my posts--and not for a moment do I underestimate their importance to our decent, civilized society. They are decent, civilized people and we sorely need them. But we need other people, too. I can handle the tough stuff. Not to do so, at its worst, invites the sort of disaster represented by Sandy Hook. Everyone looked away until it was too late.
We must each of us do as our conscience dictates. I like Happy Places. But, Heaven help me, I can’t live in one.