Last Sunday I spent a bit of my down time wandering along on Facebook. I spend a fair amount of time doing so on the weekend because it is one of the few times I have to play on the site with impunity.
A friend of mine put up what I thought was a pretty innocuous post about his desire to increase penalties for animal abusers should he ever be in a position to do so. Seems innocent enough, right? However, as can happen when folks bring up the subject of animal welfare, one of the first responses posted was from someone questioning why, with all of myriad of human suffering issues going on, would someone choose to focus on animal issues?
Not knowing the commenter, I tried to take a diplomatic tone as I responded, noting that there are a lot of issues to be worked on and that people should find the ones that speak to them and work on those. I actually believe that. You don’t have to dig “my thing”--- you can find your own thing to get excited over. Just do me the courtesy of not disrespecting my choice of issues and I’ll do the same in return.
No such luck.
A bit later, a comment from the same person was addressed to me. It began with the usual, “some people think animals are more important than people…”, followed by a proposition I’ve (unfortunately) heard before: If there’s an injured and dying person and an injured and dying animal, who do you save first?
Oh, snap! Look at that big ol’ trump card played in my direction. There it is, neatly wrapped in one sentence, right? Only a complete societal loser wouldn’t agree about the answer to the critter equivalent of the “would you torture someone to prevent a nuclear weapon from going off in your home town” question. Game. Set. Match.
Except it isn’t.
I didn’t go back to the thread to reply for a couple of reasons. First, the overall tone in his response to my comment flat-out annoyed the hell out of me, and one of my very favorite things about Facebook that I can play there without arguing with people. If I’m looking for a fight I can go to news articles, internet sites, blog sites, talk radio or my family. On Facebook I want to share ideas and articles that I find interesting, important or enlightening with folks who might be interested. If folks aren’t interested they can bounce right past them and wait for the next post, but I have no intention of spending my time there defending who I am or what I believe.
Second, it was my friend’s post and I don’t feel right about sitting on their post to argue with another of their friends. I consider it poor manners (for lack of a better expression), akin to going to someone’s house for dinner and then starting a dust-up with another invited guest. But I still want to address the question, because it’s a question that deserves a response.
My answer is: It depends.
If the imaginary-improbable-scenario is that both a child and dog are drowning in the middle of a lake, clearly just about everyone is going to reach for the child first, me included.
But let’s say that the injured/dying person is some lowlife who just broke into my home to do dog-knows-what, and the injured/dying animal is my dog, hurt while trying to protect his family. Or maybe the injured/dying person just beat down an elderly person for their money and the dog in question is a police dog, injured while bringing the guy down. Who do you help first?
Under those circumstances, I know which victim is getting my time and attention and I can guarantee you that I won’t lose an ounce of sleep over my choice.
That’s the problem with ridiculous propositions like the one that was posed. It takes an issue and tries to frame it as a throw down where, at first glance, it would seem that there really is only one correct choice. But real life has many, many more variables than that and I believe the exploration of those variables help me refine the values that guide my life, including the part of my life that I give over to animal causes and concerns.
Feel free to use my reasoning to determine the quality of my character and compassion for my fellow humans, and I’ll try to reserve judgment on your compassion for your fellow earthlings.
At least until I come up with a great ‘gotcha’ question…