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My New, 7-Year Old Hero

Tricia directed me to "Is An Animal A Thing? Or A Being?" where Jampa Williams and her 7-year old son, Noah, write of a stir he caused in school by insisting that animals are not "things" (as in a noun is a person, place or thing). He wanted to classify animals as "beings," and thought the definition of a noun should be revised to "beings, places and things."

Jampa writes:

To be regarded as a thing is to be regarded as an object lacking liberty, protection or rights. A being regarded as a "thing" or an "it" lives or dies, thrives or suffers, according to the consent or even whims of those who hold power over him or her. Often, human beings have bestowed and continue to bestow upon other human beings the classification of "it," and the results are, and always have been, horrific and unconscionable. Treating any sentient being as a "thing" or an "it" produces results no less horrific, no less cruel.

Following her letter is Noah’s, and my favorite part is the end:

A rug or something is a thing, but not an animal. He or she is not a thing! This is not funny, it’s all true. I would not lie to you about this. It’s not a joke.

Do not lie to me, either.

Noah’s onto something, there. We do in fact lie to our children by setting up a system of language that puts only humans, and maybe our pets, in a position high enough where they are permitted the almighty words: who, whom, she, he, and, apparently, being. Nonhuman animals are relegated to the status of inanimate objects: things. And that is a factual error.

Check out the comments, where there are: people who miss the point and don’t see language as important; people who get the point that animals are sentient but simply don’t care to consider them; people who attack Jampa the same way vegan mothers all over are usually attacked; and people who understand the ramifications of the issue and are in awe that someone so young is able to teach us all a lesson.

We are all teachers and we are all students. All of us.

3 Comments Post a comment
  1. My favorite comment: "When people shine light into the darkness, there will be a few people who will try and pull the blinds back down. It's not that they can't see the light, it's that the light causes them to see themselves and this reflection into themselves is painful."

    November 18, 2007
  2. [I posted this on the Hartford Courant board]

    Jampa – I loved and was moved by your words and by Noah's – such brave words and such a brave stand at his age. How terribly sad that so many people ridicule or belittle simple truths from this courageous child. Do we not see more than enough examples of that today?

    There is hope in this world after all if there are children like Noah waiting in the wings to be future 'leaders of men'.

    I was reminded of the great Harry Chapin (R.I.P.) song "Flowers are Red," which I am sure was written to prevent other Noahs from being suppressed.

    [Mary, here is a great related story about some Winnipeg, Manitoba grade 9 female students who set up an 'AR/vegetarian' club and gave talks to grade 7 and 8 students about their cause – MORE BRAVE YOUTH]:

    'Anti-meat talk bites student'
    Vegetarian being home-schooled after run-ins with students, staff
    Winnipeg Free Press 2007

    November 19, 2007
  3. Jampa Williams #

    Dear Mary, Tricia, Terry and Friends,

    Hi! I want to thank you so much for your supportive, loving, instructive and incisive comments not only about my son Noah's essay, but about the difficulties of challenging unjust and outmoded social norms. I wish we could all sit down to a good meal and talk. The extended community of compassion that I have been discovering is very encouraging to me. In spite of the predatory internet trolls, or perhaps indeed and in some cases because of them, our family has found much to be grateful for in the community of people speaking up for compassion and for free speech. Thank you! May we all move from strength to strength in creating a more just and more loving world for all beings.

    November 20, 2007

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