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."
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.