“On the fifteenth of May, in the Jungle of Nool,
In the heat of the day, in the cool of the pool,
He was splashing . . . . enjoying the jungle’s great joys…
When Horton the elephant heard a small noise.”Horton Hears a Who! By Dr. Seuss
Dr. Seuss’ character Horton the elephant in the book Horton Hears a Who! is a champion for equal rights. Horton’s mantra, “A person’s a person, no matter how small” seems tailored to fit the rights of the unborn human. A human too small to be seen or heard, but a person non-the-less. However, Dr. Seuss did not write Horton Hears a Who! with commentary on the abortion issue in mind. It was written in 1953 after a trip to Japan, where Theodore Geisel came to a realization that he, like many post WWII, harbored a hatred and prejudice against the Japanese, which contradicted the dignity every person deserves. The book is dedicated, “For My Great Friend, Mitsugi Nakamura of Kyoto, Japan.”
Theodor Seuss Geisel was known as a liberal democrat, though he never publicly shared his position on abortion. Depending on the source- his widow or his foundation- reportedly said that it is not right for pro-lifers to hijack his story for their own purposes. However, we are not hijacking his story, the story was written as an illustration of equal rights for all. No matter the color of skin, their size, or their physical maturity. Abortion is the human rights issue of our time.
Horton, being an elephant, has very large ears and can hear the plight of the “Whos” when the kangaroo and other jungle creatures cannot. This reminds me of a song lyric, “For the Lord hears the cry of the poor.” In the case of the Whos, who live on a speck of dust, no one can see them. But that doesn’t mean they don’t exist. Some people cannot hear them, and perhaps some people choose not to hear them. Horton hears their cry and at a great personal risk and expense protects them. He is the laughing stock of his community, but does not back down. He even tracks them relentlessly to ensure their protection after they are kidnapped, begging
“Please don’t harm all my little folks, who
Have as much right to live as us bigger folks do!”
Who are the poor? Can you see them? Do you hear them? It is much easier to deny they exist than to accept that you are perhaps blind and deaf to their needs. Is being pro-life just about the unborn? Undeniably, the unborn and crisis mothers are in need of our attention and compassion. Pro-life or Respect Life can be surmised in the word “dignity.” It is about upholding the dignity of all life. There is no greater assault on the human person than that of abortion where they are willfully and legally exterminated like a pest. So we must minister to the hungry, the homeless, and the helpless, but their needs are not above those of the unborn and unknown “somebodies.” We are many parts, but we are all one body. I can use my unique gifts to help mothers and unborn children, to feed the hungry, and help the blind see, etc And I know that there are other parts of the body, other people in my Catholic/Christian Community, that answer the call to minister to the poor in the many other necessary ways such as visiting the imprisoned, educating the unlearned, and caring for the sick and handicapped. Do we have enough help? No. In every area there are people that are still forgotten and left hurting. Are there people that are not answering God’s call to serve His people?
“Are you sure every Who down in Who-ville is working . . . is there anyone shirking?”
We need everyone in the body to do their part. It starts with respecting the dignity of everyone you come in contact with. Kindness and respect should not need to be earned. You will never regret being kind.
“I think you’re a fool!” laughed the sour kangaroo .. You’re the biggest blame fool in the Jungle of Nool.”
It is hard to really love. To sacrifice for the good of another without getting something out of it for yourself is cautioned. Horton plays the fool so well. Both in Horton Hatches an Egg and Horton Hears a Who! we see this lovable elephant risk not just his reputation, but life and limb to protect those smaller than himself. The “polite persecution” as Pope Francis has called it, we do not risk our lives to live out our Christian faith, but it is more of a social suicide. If you live out your faith too loud, you’re just weird. You could also be instantly painted as a racist, bigot, ignorant, judgemental, etc just for sharing an opinion on moral truth contrary to the rampant relativism. In other parts of the world persecution goes much beyond this, such as the Easter tragedy where sadly hundreds of Christians died attending Easter Sunday services in Sri Lanka.
I’m not sure why Dr. Seuss picked the 15th of May. But anyday and everyday is a good day to begin to recognize and seize the heroic moments in our lives. Kudos to Horton for risking it all for the equal rights of the marginalized. So take a little extra time talking with that elderly person so often overlooked, buy an extra jar of peanut butter for the food bank next time you’re grocery shopping, and when a big chance comes to change someone’s life don’t be afraid to be uncommonly generous. A martyr is someone who dies for Christ. A living martyr is someone who lives for Christ. As a whole we live our own lives, we live for ourselves, our own pleasure, profit, and satisfaction. And we feel good about ourselves when we give a little here and there. But like Horton we need to hear the cry of the lowly and fight for them with great vigor and vim. Are you willing to be hauled, mauled, and humiliated?