Many years ago, in Britain, I was an Inspector for the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. One day I received a communication from my Headquarters directing me to visit – with a view to prosecution – an elderly couple who had inadvertently left their pet dog in a car on a hot summer’s day, while on holiday in the south of England. When I contacted the couple I found them utterly distraught. The loss of their beloved pet, through circumstances not deliberate, but certainly due to their unfortunate actions, was tearing them apart.
My Headquarters insisted I return a “case-file” on the couple. This meant they would most likely be prosecuted for leaving their dog in the car in a manner “likely to cause unnecessary suffering”, the prerequisite for an offense under the relevant legal statute.
I refused. In my opinion, for any act to be a crime requires intent. This couple had not intended to cause their loved pet suffering, the whole incident was no more than an unfortunate accident. I was disciplined for refusing to obey orders, but stuck to my guns and to this day believe I was right.
Yesterday, on the NBC Nightly News, anchor, Brian Williams, introduced a segment of the program with the words:
“What punishment is appropriate for the woman who made the the worst mistake a mother can make?”
Brenda Slaby’s two year old daughter died in a car yesterday because her harassed mother forgot she was there. Slaby, an assistant principal at an Ohio school, collected doughnuts for a school meeting then went into school forgetting her daughter was still in the back seat.
NBC Nightly News, and no doubt a number of other insensitive media channels, then proceeded to run clips of this mother’s agony in a police station while being interviewed for a possible offense. Thankfully, sanity reigned, and Brenda Slaby was not subjected to the further agonies of a criminal prosecution, only the continuous and prolonged scrutiny of three hundred million Americans via unscrupulous media channels determined to wring every last ounce from this personal family tragedy.
The lack of any dignity offered to human beings undergoing the exquisite personal torments of family trauma, has long been a source of intense disgust to this visitor to America’s shores. Sadly, it is not only the corporate media who are to blame. Individual blogs are vying for the opportunity to condemn this unfortunate woman for nothing more than the crime of being human.
How many of us can look at the Brenda Slaby case and not say, “There, but for the grace of God, go I.”?
It could happen to any one of us. Particularly in this nation where attempting to do too much, for too many, is considered a veritable virtue.
NBC Nightly News, and the other media channels who unashamedly ran footage of this mother’s agony, have plumbed new depths in degradation and bad taste. It leaves one wondering if there is any segment of human misery left that they are not prepared to plunder for the sake of their precious ratings.
But then, their ratings are determined by the numbers of Americans who watch, and approve.
Filed under: Quick to condemn