Up to the minute Amber Alert Information

Friday, May 16, 2008

Sanitized Death

In the May 8, 2008 edition of the Chisago County Press, publisher Matt Silver expressed his view regarding the tragedy that occurred just after the Kentucky Derby finished. His commentary is not online, so I will produce portions of it here.
The horse broke an ankle. . . . they proceeded to euthanize the horse right there on the track in front of all the spectators and the millions watching on television. . . . why couldn’t they have moved the horse to the stables before they put it down? Yes, I know the horse was in unbelievable pain, but there has to be a better way than on national television. Do you have any idea how many children were watching the race with their parents? Now their parents are forced to have a very uncomfortable talk with their kids that they shouldn’t have to. Once again the television moguls think they know what is best for you and I [sic].
In the May 15th edition, there are two good response letters, answering Silver. Neither are available online, but I will not reproduce them here. Both argue correctly that the occasion needed to have parents talk, however difficult, with their children because death is a part of life.

Matt Silver lives in a sanitized world and wants to raise children in a sanitized world. The more one avoids the realities of life, the more problems one will have. Sheltered children will not be armed to handle death. Children need pets—fish, a turtle, a bird, a kitty, a puppy, a horse—to learn to care for life that is not their own. Kids are rewarded by learning that these creatures depend on them for shelter, have hunger, feel pain, get sick and make the child happy.

At any time death can cut short that interdependence and children need to be taught that even while their pet is still living. Teaching a young child about death will create a respect for life and the teaching must continue as the child matures. How else will a child handle the inevitable death that invades one’s life? Far too many have a cavalier attitude about life precisely because they have not watched a creature die. Life is precious and there is nothing like death to stamp that on our minds.

With Silver’s approach, how could a hunter bring home a duck, goose or deer and clean them at home? That is an especially good opportunity to teach a child who is not psychologically attached to the game that he may eat. Living in a world in which the roast or the chicken legs are brought home from the grocery store denies the rough edges in life that many must endure to produce the sanitized product. I lived in a world where I learned as a kid to chop the head off a chicken, clean it and then thoroughly enjoy the chicken dinner. And then I went out to feed and care for the other chickens with respect for their life.

In contrast to this, kids are playing video games and watching movies that are extremely violent. Becoming an accomplished and violent killer is the aim. Exposure to real death might very well diminish this thirst for surreal death.

I am very thankful I experienced the death of my childhood dog, my pal. We raised beef calves that became our pets and then we ate their steaks. Crass? No. That’s life. And when I bowed my head in thanks to God, I knew that a living animal gave its flesh so my life could continue. Death, properly understood, creates gratitude. All life survives on other life.

I was also privileged to watch my aunt, grandma and mother die at home. Their suffering and difficult living gradually taught me to let them go out of the land of the living. It taught me that I too shall follow, that death always follows life. Death, properly understood, creates preparedness for the life to come.

It is a tragedy to shut death out of our lives and the lives of children. Perhaps we would take life more seriously if we took death seriously and not sanitize it.

No comments: