Pandas and rhinos and dogs - oh my!

December 1, 2005 09:00 AM

By David Brandao

Ah, the eternal optimist I am. Since I was tied to my desk (figuratively, I assure you) and unable to accompany my colleagues who were going to the Supreme Court, where two abortion-related cases were being heard on Nov. 30, I decided to search news sites on the web to see if any of my co-workers were photographed outside the hearings.

The first stack of photos I encountered featured various shots of George W. Bush doing presidential things. Well, naturally the media would focus on the leader of the free world carrying out his official duties. The president is always news, and that's that.

The next bunch included blizzards and earthquakes. That's logical, too. Nature on a rampage? That's news. Always was. Always will be.

Beyond that point, though, I started to wonder if I was going to see any pictures of anything related to the high court. The cases, I thought, were significant and newsworthy. NOW v. Scheidler, the case in which pro-life demonstrators were accused of racketeering, was being rehashed for the umpteenth time. Ayotte v. Planned Parenthood, a case over a New Hampshire law requiring girls under 18 to tell a parent before having an abortion, was also under review. And people who watch the Supreme Court were watching John Roberts, the new chief justice.

That's got to be news, right?

Well, not exactly on the photo pages. The next picture featured Mei Xiang, a giant panda at the National Zoo in Washington, who had a baby panda last summer. The baby, Tai Shan, has its "coming out" party at the zoo on December 8, and sure enough, Tai Shan was in the next picture. The shot that followed was another panda picture, but neither Mei Xiang nor Tai Shan but Sin Lu, the new baby panda at the San Diego Zoo.

So it isn't easy to breed pandas in captivity, and I suppose that's newsworthy. Pandas certainly qualify as cool critters. But - not what I was looking for.

At first glimpse the next photo also appeared to be a panda. Would you believe a dog, dyed to look like a panda? For unexplained reasons, someone in Japan adopted an abandoned mixed-breed dog, and used black dye to create panda-like markings (legs, ears, around the eyes) on the formerly all-white pooch.

This is news? What about the folks at the Supreme Court? Certainly they're next.

Of course, as you might expect by this point, they were not. I was next treated to some nice photos of a mama rhinoceros and her baby. We're told that mama's name is Betty, but the baby is thus far nameless. The little rhino was born November 29 at Friedrichsfeld Zoo in Berlin.

By now, I'm really getting befuddled. Pro-life demonstrators at the Supreme Court are playing second fiddle to East Coast and West Coast pandas, panda-painted Japanese dogs, and a baby German rhinoceros?

Finally, a few token photos of various folks at the Supreme Court hearings popped into the browser. At least they weren't ignored altogether.

Don't get me wrong. It's not a problem that our society has an apparent interest in baby animals; it's that there seems to be an overall lack of interest in the fate of baby humans.

I'm reminded of my last visit to the Gulf Islands National Seashore before Hurricane Ivan flattened Santa Rosa Island along the Northwest Florida coast. While walking on the beach, I came across a plot of sand that was obviously off limits. This square of land was marked out by tomato stakes and a bright red ribbon that looked a lot like crime scene tape.

I had to go check it out.

It was a sea turtle nest, and signs along the red-taped perimeter of the forbidden zone quoted chapter and verse of state and federal statutes outlining the possible penalties for disturbing this cache of embryonic turtles.

That, too, is well and good. As stewards of the earth, we need to look out for the ecosystem. It's just downright odd that there are such prescriptions against man's inhumanity to beast, but not, in a similar situation (the embryonic stage), prescriptions against man's inhumanity to man.

If pandas and rhinoceroses and turtles deserve legal protection, why don't human beings?

It's a question society not only doesn't want to answer, but a question society doesn't even want to hear. Or at the very least, a question the mainstream media gatekeepers don't want society to hear.

Notice that the mainstream media never covers abortion itself. It's abortion "rights," or abortion "restrictions," or abortion "politics." If abortion is "just a common surgical procedure," why isn't it televised? We see bypass surgery, kidney transplants, Siamese twin separations, breast augmentations - you name it - in living color in our living rooms all the time.

Why not abortion?

I think the answer is obvious. The truth would be rather upsetting. And that's why we only get pictures of pandas and rhinos and dogs.

Release issued: 1 Dec 05

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