Have you seen ‘Shooting Dogs’ (also known as ‘Beyond the Gates’), the film about the 1994 Rwandan genocide? There’s a harrowing scene with a Tutsi mother and her young baby, hiding in long grasses from Hutu militia. The soldiers, armed with machetes and on a killing spree, are disbanding when they are halted by the wail of a baby. The woman urgently tries to hush her infant, who is too tiny to have any comprehension of the mortal danger his crying places him and his mother in.
The film is based on a true story, though I do not know whether this specific event actually took place or was merely included as a metaphor we can all relate to. Suffice to say, the scene plays out the horrifying reality of the militia’s regime. They were pitiless, and it was a truly disturbing portrayal of brutality.
I watched the film some years ago and it has never left me. My heart was in my mouth during that scene, and I was willing the woman to do the only thing I could imagine may have saved her and her child: I always wondered why she didn’t put her breast to her son’s mouth – surely it would have saved them?
Alas, moments later, it was too late: they were both gone.
We are all too aware of the inhumanity in the world around us; the repugnant acts of depravity such as that I describe above. Thank goodness we don’t, in general, have to contend with such wickedness in our country.
As a nation, by and large we are compassionate; considerate; caring. The very idea of this level of violence, particularly towards babies and young children, is appalling. We are uniformly sickened and bewildered that there are fellow humans among us who are able to carry out these senseless atrocities.
So how shocked would you be if I suggested that on a daily basis, I and many others just like me, are made to feel a small degree of that fear for our offspring? That you, potentially, are the cause of it? That though the intention may not be there, the threat is?
When I get in my car to take my baby girl swimming, or go shopping, or to the doctors, I do not expect to contend with selfish/inconsiderate/plain idiotic drivers; drivers who put their own, and – more importantly – my daughter’s safety at risk. Yet this is the reality for parents all over the country, day in, day out.
Be uncomfortably honest with yourself (if not me) for just a moment – are you guilty of a lack of patience on the roads? Moreover, do you get frustrated with slow drivers and deliberately tailgate? No? Could it be, perhaps, that if the car ahead of you performed an emergency stop you may inadvertently be too close to avoid a collision?
And if any of the above are applicable to you – do those cars sometimes have a sticker in their rear window to inform you there’s a small child mere meters from the potentially lethal weapon piece of machinery you’re operating?
The disparity between the situation which unfolds in the film and tailgating is vast, granted. But bear with me…
Have you ever stopped to consider that you are, essentially, terrorising the parent of that child? Because it’s entirely natural that when our baby’s life is in jeopardy – however unlikely the danger – we feel intimidated and threatened; because however unlikely, you are, in fact, putting an innocent’s life at risk. And we feel that the person responsible is merciless and contemptible; we feel terrorised.
But that’s nothing compared to how you will feel should an accident occur while you’re driving too close to us.
Should the worst happen, you will have to live with yourself and the ghastly reality of what you have taken from us. You will have to live with the knowledge that you deprived a child from fulfilling their potential and leaving their mark on the world.
So, once again – have you thought about killing a baby today? Please do, before it’s too late.
It’s very unlike me to write something so morbid. But if it results in just one person being more considerate of other road users, then I’ve succeeded and it’s been a worthwhile exercise.
Please drive aware.