Tales of Whales… January 13, 2012

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I don’t want to be a curmudgeon. The condition is usually characterized as an aging person who has become jaded and grouchy about the enjoyment of youthful passions and delights. That’s not me. But every once in a while something crosses the landscape of the American cultural-bus-tour that requires some comment–maybe even of a disgruntled sort.

I, for one, am fed up with the glorification of animals–especially to the exclusion of energy that could be spent in aiding our own race (that being the human one.)

How many movies are we going to make about whales that need to be saved? How many times do we really need to Free Willy? Do we need another scene of teary-eyed proponents of the animal cause, weeping over some creature that’s being thrust into captivity? AND we’re so type-specific! We seem to care about the porpoise getting caught in the tuna net without ever giving a thought to the thousands of tuna which are being eaten! Dogs and cats gain great favor with us, while mice and possums can be discarded alongside the road as necessary casualties of progress. What is the obsession?

Here’s a story. About five years ago, I wrote a movie called The $6 Man. Many of you may even own it. It is the story of a father who loses his financial security and finds himself on the street with his eleven-year-old daughter, attempting to live on six dollars a day, while also organizing and assisting his fellow-street-dwellers. I love this movie. It is full of heart, humanity, mercy, humor, pathos and all the good things that make a terrific flick. But when it came time for it to go to film festivals and be considered for distribution, it was rejected by many because it wasn’t “family fare.” Let me get this straight: three whales stranded under an ice floe, assisted by a young boy, is called a “miracle story for the whole family.” But on the other hand, an actual family stranded under a  freeway overpass, trying to live in a trash dumpster and love each other is “not suitable for children.”

Is this really the message we want to convey? Because when I challenged those powers-that-be about their decision, they explained to me that the situations were “too adult” and parts of the movie characterized the government and people around the homeless as being uncaring. Amazing.

I watched a television show the other night where a gorilla was seeking personhood because the animal had been taught to do sign language–and his leathery, hairy face seemed to have expressions of sadness. A quick search on the Internet will tell you that gorillas are violent, and chimpanzees (which many folks consider to be our closest ancestor) will rip your face off at a moment’s notice. Now, I have met a lot of human beings who are not particularly favorable, but none who have ever ripped my face off.

And here’s another strange thing–this issue seems to be one of the few that liberals and conservatives agree upon: family fare is any entertainment that involves animals being treated correctly, fantasy, warlocks or unlikely scenarios about young people in difficulty, trying to solve problems.

Where are we teaching our next generation to be human? Because I will tell you right now–caring for a whale, a gorilla or even a kitty-cat does not make you a quality human being. Learning to love someone who has the ability to speak his or her mind–and not necessarily love you back just because you bring them a bowl of food–is the true measurement of our earth worth.

Conservatives love to perch their children in front of “safe” movies, where animals are valued and there is a happy ending, which makes the children giddy, although ill-informed. Liberals likewise fear exposing their offspring to any practical realities of life, feeling it’s better that these experiences be “gradually” filtered into the learning process. So saving a whale or hugging a gorilla seems to be an acceptable two-hour-long baby-sitter as the parents go into the other room, sipping some wine and watching old Scorsese movies. As bad as it is to see conservatives and liberals arguing, it is even more frightening when they unite over inhumanity.

Give me a movie where a young boy discovers three homeless people–or decides to visit a trio of housebound retired folks after school. Let us explore his experiences  with these individuals. I can write it just as heartwarming, real and touching as the “whale tale.” But you will never see it–for we choose to throw money at the homeless problem rather than addressing the real need.

Homelessness in America is a three-fold issue:

1. Many of the people need social reclamation. In other words, they’ve just forgotten how to get along with other people.

2. Others lack the skills necessary to leap back into society and make a living without working all day long to still end up lacking a roof.

3. And candidly, there are mental health issues. Thousands of these individuals who are disenfranchised are struggling with their own minds, insecurities and mental lapses. They need attention.

I realize my little essay doesn’t mean much in the vast spectrum of the pursuit of “family fare entertainment.” But I don’t think we can expect humanity to improve if we don’t spend that much time with humans. And I will continue to speak out on the issue, risking being referred to as ‘the old grump,” hoping that someone who has an ear will hear, and allow their children a real education on how to be alive.

Because let me tell you, I have met many people who adore animals–and hate folks. But I’ve never found anyone who loves human beings who doesn’t stop long enough to give a bone to a stray dog.

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Jonathan wrote the gospel/blues anthem, Spent This Time, in 1985, in Guaymas, Mexico. Take a listen:

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To see books written by Jonathan, click the link below! You can peruse and order if you like!

http://www.janethan.com/tour_store.htm

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