They should feel the pain they cause

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, January 14, 2004

It has been a grim week in both local and national news, from the young father in Georgia who murdered his own child and in-laws, to the unknown person who was responsible for the death of two horses here in Andalusia. The acts are worlds apart in horror - I'm an animal lover, and horses in particular - but I am also a mother, and the idea of a human being who could strangle his own child is alien and abhorrent.

But the acts are also related - they show a complete self-involvement. In each case, the person was only thinking of himself.

"What would happen if I took a pot shot at the palomino down there? Betcha I could hit the quarter horse from here…"

"My life is awful, I want it to end… but I'm taking somebody else out with me…"

I've said it before in my column, that the greatest sin is selfishness, that tendency to be so concerned about one's own needs and wants and desires, that what others need, want or desire don't even factor into the equation. I want to shake the perpetrators in each of these cases and tell them to drag their heads out of their egos for a moment and consider their actions.

You want to prove what a marksman you are, what a mighty hunter? That's what shooting ranges are for; or you could go for a buck, like other hunters with a grain of sense and common decency, instead of a tame and captive target that probably walked up to greet its killer.

You want to end your life? It's a sin and a shame, but as far as I'm concerned, it's your decision - but it's not a decision you should be able to make for others, least of all a child. This is, I'm ashamed to say, not a Christian attitude, but when I think about that man strangling his baby, I think the sin and the shame was that he didn't attempt to end his own life first, leaving the infant alone. I think there's a pagan warrior woman at the heart of almost every mother, what my husband calls the "Mama Bear" - that will not stand by idly and watch my child be injured. Or anyone else's, if I can help it.

I think about the Harpers, who have lost two family friends, gentle creatures that met them at the gate for an apple or carrot, horses that shared lazy afternoon rides with them.

I think about the family of that baby, about the sisters who will never see her grow into a playmate.

And I think about those who would rather destroy than create, those who cannot look beyond their own narrow worlds and petty needs, and I wish that they - those who ended life - could suffer the pain their actions have left behind.