Two days ago, a calf was born on the 120-acre mountain farm next-door. On my morning walk that day, I rounded a turn in the trail and spied him under a chestnut tree by the creek, just hours old, still wobbly on his legs, his mother licking him vigorously. Last night a coyote tried to kill that newborn calf. His mother successfully thwarted the attack, but not without injury to her ear and face. On this morning’s walk, I noticed that all the cattle are huddled together at the bottom of the mountain, the calves in the center of their protective circle.
Twenty years ago, when I was in South Africa observing the stunning work of its Truth and Reconciliation Commission, friends there who were anxious to increase tourism and stimulate the economy after the devastating apartheid years encouraged me to visit Kruger National Park. Unforgettable are the majestic elephants, the herds of trotting giraffes and graceful gazelles, the hippos bellowing at a full orange moon rising over the Limpopo River. But what I remember most vividly is a trek into the savanna in an open-platform truck to view the lions at sunset. Before we began, our guide gave clear instructions: “Stay in the truck. Don’t separate yourself or make any movement that distinguishes you as an individual. As long as the lions think we’re one huge animal, they won’t attack.”
Natural instinct in both animals and humans is to stick together and protect the most vulnerable among us. But we have lost our way. When we funnel massive profits toward corporations through unconscionable tax “reform,” we have lost our way. When we slash educational funding and accessible healthcare and affordable housing to pay for it, we have lost our way. When we target laborers, immigrants, children, LGBTQ persons, women, persons with disabilities, the elderly, and people of color, we have lost our way. When we control those who are most vulnerable through abandonment, incarceration, and deportation, we have lost our way.
I’m not sure how to find our way back. But I want to be part of the circle at the foot of the mountain, defying the predators, defending everyone in the herd. I want to live in a society where our abundant resources are committed to the common good, where no one gets left out. What do you say we work together and build that society? “As long as the lions think we’re one huge animal, they won’t attack.”