LAST WEEK, I found myself sounding a bit like Jerry Seinfeld as I asked myself: “What’s the deal with all these alligators?”
I’ve been glued to the cable-news monster since news of the Orlando massacre broke, and I’ve noticed that the only break in Orlando coverage is either segments on Trump or the Disney Alligator. Wow. I just wrote “Disney Alligator” out for the first time, and it makes me smirk at the irony: a brand that has defined itself by humanizing animals into lovable characters with heart and compassion is also the very corporate conglomerate feeling the consequential reverberations of a human-animal interaction that did not have that famous Disney Happy Ending.
In case you missed it, it was an even rougher week in Florida when, last week at Disney World, a father and his toddler son were wading in the shallow waters of a swamp-type body of water next to their hotel. The child, Lane Graves, was snatched by an alligator — these bodies of water are there natural habitats — and was later found dead from drowning. This was a really sad, tragic, and shocking accident happening at the ”Happiest Place on Earth.” But, please note that I use the word “accident” purposely, because that is the entire essence of this circumstance. Disney did its part with signs warning guests against going in the water because of possible alligator presence, but these people went into the water, regardless. (The father claims that the signs were few, far-between, and unclear, which has led Disney to adding more signs with more-explicit wording.)
Yet, despite the clear evidence that this accident was simply just that, it shocked me to see the fear-mongering on cable news programs, decrying “Killer Alligator Still on the Loose” and implying that this alligator was a criminal that we needed to pursue without rest until it was dead (much like the rhetoric used to describe our intent with terrorists regimes, incidentally). This alligator was just living its life in the only way it knew how to do. I can understand the despair and need for vengeance this family must have been feeling, anyone could — but have we forgotten the way nature works in favor of becoming irrational crusaders of justice? Apparently so, because just two days ago, Tammy Sapp of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Committee announced that the FWC had captured and euthanized the alligator. So much for conserving the wildlife in their natural habitats.
First off, the headline of the CNN piece implying that this “monster” was still on the loose is funny. I had to laugh that CNN was trying to turn this alligator into America’s most threatening enemy — in between coverage of Donald Trump, the most direct threat to our freedom, and the Orlando shooting, the largest mass shooting in our nation’s history. Forgive me for thinking this alligator is a blip on our nation’s radar. After a good laugh, I realized how this story is actually a reflection of how deeply fractured our nation’s values are and how we prioritize them.
With the help of the creative imaginations editing our news now, America has started to look like a spaghetti Western version of its former self. What used to be this good ol’ boy American attitude of seeking justice for all has become a satire of affluenza fueled by our obsession with guns and violence, in tangent with our continued huge financial investment in weapons and artillery. Is our government really so stupid as to think that hunting down alligators is going to keep American citizens safer than passing anti-gun legislation or funding the kinds of program that will keep violence from occurring in the first place? Are the old white men at the top really so scared of being replaced that they would prefer to arm everybody with a weapon and see what happens than risk being out-educated by a younger generation? I guess that explains the rise of Donald Trump, doesn’t it?
The worst part about all of it is how fatally moronic we must look to the rest of the world — not to mention how our children’s children will certainly look at us with disgust when they are learning about this chapter of American history in their likely no-longer free middle school education that takes place in weird, insulated, cool-air bubbles because our atmosphere is too hot for them to be in what we know today as “schools.” What are we teaching our children about how we value nature if this is the response we have when something totally natural and completely accidental happens when we interact with Mother Nature?
Oh, yeah, Mother Nature. Remember her? For your information, American humans, Mother Nature always wins. While we might have the brainpower (and gall) to take natural gas and oil, create societies completely dependent on their use, and destroy our atmosphere, Mother Nature is still clearly out of our league. She will get scientifically — not biblically — angry and create devastating storms and destruction to punish us. Despite our knowledge of how to fix this problem and work with Mother Nature — anyone heard of solar energy? — we are too proud and too greedy to compromise with her and work together. A fatal mistake, if you ask me, and the other 70% of Americans who now admit and believe in climate change.
The fact that we went after this animal, hunted it and a bunch of lookalikes down, and killed them (if I’m a betting woman, I’d say it’s just an attempt to save face, none of these alligators might really be the “culprit”), just to prove to the rest of the country and the world that our d**k is bigger than a saurian’s is not only as moronic as it sounds, but it is also a slippery slope. Remember that innocent time as a child when you would see a spider and, instead of killing it, you’d put it in a cup and set it free? When is the moment where that compassion for the other animals we live with on this planet ends and the new chapter of killing that little thing because we are scared starts? Probably when we process watching the news for the very first time.
So how can we make that shift preventable? Lead by example. Leave the damn alligators alone. Put more signs up. Educate people about the animals that exist alongside us so we can prevent more accidents from happening. It’s the only way we can continue to live on this happiest place called Earth.