I watched the first “Lion King” in a theater full of little people who squirmed, ate popcorn, spilled pop and shouted “Look Mommy! What’s going to happen Daddy?”
The movie’s opening hushed us as the animated African world of wildebeests, army ants, zebras, elephants and birds congregated. A baby had been born. A cub of the lion family played, unaware of itself, as babies are.
As this little life was presented to the kingdom, the animals rejoiced–pawing, whinnying, and squawking in celebration. The children around me clapped, unaware of themselves, as children are.
My heart filled. And I cried. I cried at the joy of life–the celebration a baby brings, the wonder of 10 tiny toes, the experience of childhood things like a Disney movie, the awe of what it means to be a part of the “Circle of Life.”
Not long after that evening in the theater, an international summit was called in Egypt to discuss improving the world’s life. Then Secretary Hillary Clinton and others addressed the “population control” and the use of abortion in poor countries. America soon became a provider of abortion to the poverty stricken of the world.
And now, at the same time as the new “Lion King” movie releasing, New York lights up its buildings to celebrate being able to abort all babies deemed undesirable.
No issue since the civil-rights has so divided our nation. As I considered the volatility of both issues, I went back to Dr. Martin Luther King’s writings from an Alabama jail. I won’t pretend to guess if Dr. King would be pro-life or pro-choice were he alive today. But I’d have to think he’d have an opinion on black children being more likely to be aborted.
I was struck by the similarities of the issues: the decisions on just and unjust laws, how churches have become cautious instead of extremists in love, and mostly the renaming of persons to things. Martin Buber called it the “I-it” for “I-Thou” principle. When we label someone, we separate them into a different category and then have control over them. To justify war, slavery, and the slaughter of each other through history, we have named the enemies “it,” refusing to recognize their humanity.
At the international summit, the baby was labeled a fetus, an individual life became part of a worrisome mass of population growth. Parts of the world were labeled poorer than us, and it was decided their life needed bettering by becoming more like us. The joy of life was stampeded into the African dust under the fear of the adult word “overpopulation.”
In New York, the child was labeled a choice, an individual life became an inconvenience. The joy of life turned into a cheer for being able to end it.
Apparently not all lives are cause for celebration.
Perhaps only kings’ sons are worthy of rejoicing.
If you are a baby of a poor person, or without a perfect physique, or if you are a baby girl, you are not as deserving of festivities. Perhaps not even deserving of life. Some are not worth the discomfort of their mother for 9 months. “Privileged groups seldom give up their privileges voluntarily,” wrote Dr. King.
It seems to many life is valued in materialism, ignoring the richness of community, spiritualism, and spirit often found amongst those with less. One only needs to look at our own emotional poverty to wonder if we really should make others more like this.
Is the answer to a poor life eliminating the people or the poverty? Ask that poor mother if she wants to have the means to care for this child. Ask that hassled mother if she wants to have help with life to ease the burden of this child. Is it really so incredulous to the American dreamer that the rich baby and the poor baby both have 10 fingers, 2 eyes, a swirling brain and a thumping heart?
Have we gained equal access for the handicapped to everything except the birth canal? Have we become so cynical we give up all hope for the less fortunate child?
The Lion King gave me a vision, and Dr. King a way to express it:
I have a dream.
I have a dream that one day no child’s life will be judged by his parents’ income, or her gender, or their pre-tested abilities, or the convenience of the pregnancy.
I have a dream that the effort will be placed in preventing poverty but not parenthood.
I have a dream that one day again in this land every life will be celebrated and cherished and defended.