Saturday, February 18, 2012

Maybe A Dingo Ate Your Baby

The Lindy Chamberlain case is back in the news.  I've always thought she was innocent, but that isn't the point.  The case reminds me of how much I have always hated the way popular culture has made fun of that phrase, and therefore the case, and how much popular culture, and American humor in general, is based on making fun of people, and making fun, and light, of (other) people's tragedies.  I've never thought there was anything funny at all about the suggestion "Maybe a dingo ate your baby" because if it is true that a dingo did eat that child, then it points to a fact that is horrific on two levels.  The first is that a 9 week old baby lost her life by being eaten by a wild animal, all claws and teeth. That is a terrible, and a terribly painful, way to die.  What did Azaria Chamberlain ever do to deserve that?  (Nothing.)  The second is that a family lost their precious daughter, sister, cousin, niece, granddaughter.  There isn't anything funny about it.  I hate that popular culture, in general, makes light of tragedy.  Like all the jokes about Nazis.  I don't think there is anything funny, at all, about a ruling party that slaughtered six million innocent people and launched a war that resulted in the deaths of millions more.  It's just not funny.  Or the 'dead baby' jokes.  Not funny.  I'd like to see a poll of parents who, having suffered the loss of a child, go on to tell 'dead baby' jokes.  My guess is that those tasteless jokes are only told by people lucky enough to have never lost a child.  You know what else isn't funny?  When people make jokes about "retards" and use "retard" and "retarded" as insults.  My daughter is beautiful, funny, smart, innocent, guileless, silly, happy, and utterly precious to me.  She is also retarded.  I have a big problem with people using her condition as an insult.  To do so suggests that there is something offensivley wrong with her.  There is not.  There is, however, something very offensively wrong with people who make fun of human suffering, sickness and disability.  My instinct tells me that what is wrong with them and is an utter lack of empathy, and an utter lack of awarness that in life it is nothing but luck that separates a family in our situation from a family, well, not in our situation.  I think a lot of people believe that they have some how earned their good fortune, their health and well being, the healthy and well being of their children, the ability to have children, etc.  They have not.  What I have realized is that life is shockingly, cruelly random.  People comfort themselves, and they try to comfort others in the midst of tragedy, with sayings like "Everything happens for a reason"  and "God never gives you more than you can handle."  The people who say these things are well meaning and well intentioned and say them out of a desire to remove or at least ameliorate suffering.  I get that.  It's just so off.  Like Azaria Chamberlain.  For what possible reason was her life ended so grotesquely and tortureously after 9 weeks?  Or that little 3 day old baby in Pittsburgh that was mauled to death by a family dog a few days ago?   The Chamberlains did not survive the ordeal inflicted upon them by the tragic death of their baby girl.  Their marriage fell apart, and their remaining 3 children had their lives ripped apart. What about this family in Pittsburgh?  For what "reason" has their 3 day old baby boy been so cruelly killed?  There is senseless tragedy and suffering around us all the time that serves absolutely no redeeming purpose.  I am particularly offended by the sentiment that 'God never gives us more than we can hande'.  I was taught in Catholic school that God is all loving.  Am I really to believe that He looks down upon His creation and picks out His strongest children so as to inflict massive amounts of suffering upon them?  That he punishes those who are strong with suffering and rewards those  who are weak with good fortune?  If He does, then He is caprious and cruel and not worthy of worship.  I think it more likely that God has nothing to do with inflicting suffering upon us, but does have something to do with helping us through our suffering, like in the old Footprints poem.  The sentiment that God never gives us more than we can handle is also easily disproved, by the way, by every suicide ever committed.  Suicides are committed by people who cannot handle what has been given them.  Like Christina Symanski.  So yes, I really do hate those sayings.  They don't comfort me.  And I think they are usually only said by people who have come really close to suffering, but managed to dodge the bullet at the last moment.  Or have suffered, but had it all turn out all right in the end.  Or never really suffered at all.  I can't know that for certain, of course, but it is my gut instinct.  But what if their suffering hadn't turned out all right in the end?  Would they still (sanctiomoniously?) utter such nonsense to people who didn't manage to dodge the bullet?  To those who suffered and didn't have it all turn out all right in the end?   Speaking as one who hasn't dodged the bullet, and for whom it isn't going to turn out all right in the end, I doubt it.  Because when you know, as we know, then you know that no amount of good will ever outweigh the suffering.  That in the end, it isn't enough.


  1. Grandma loves Naomi

  2. Grandma really loves Naomi!

  3. Or that you should pray to God for things to get better. And when they don't someone says to you well it was not God's will. Then why pray? For me the only prayer that applies to any of us should be "thy will be done" and "lead me Lord". I chant those and not much more because I do not believe that God chooses to answer some prayer and not all. He only can give us strength to live the life that we were thrust into.