A little girl escaped the watchful eyes of her mother, and ended up on the narrow streets of a big city. In the distance, a white van approached. The driver wasn’t going very fast – maybe just 20 miles an hour, but he apparently didn’t see the toddler, and the toddler definitely never noticed the van. And then in a moment, it happened. The van ran over the little girl.
The driver knew that something was wrong. Maybe he noticed at the moment of impact that he was running over a small child. But after pausing for two seconds, he decided to drive on. This decision required that the back tires of the van would run over the girl, and as the van drove off, a smear of blood trailed off into the distance.
Although no one saw this event happen, a security camera captured it on video for the world to see. And, it captured the aftermath. Within seconds a man walked down the street. When he came across the girl, he didn’t even bother to look down. He simply altered his path, walked around her body, and continued on his way. Other people came upon her body. Some stopped to look at her. No, she clearly wasn’t dead, but no one stopped to try to help.
Another van came down the street. It didn’t stop. The street was so narrow that it couldn’t avoid running over her legs. This van, like the last one, wasn’t driving more than 20 miles per hour, but this driver, unlike the first, never bothered to pause.
Finally, a trash worker noticed the body of the girl, and she attempted to move the body. At this point, maybe a few minutes had passed from the initial hit-and-run, and the girl was more or less lifeless. The trash worker was able to locate the mother, and the mother quickly scooped up her daughter and rushed her to the hospital. She was soon declared brain dead.
This event happened in China, but it could have occurred in Chicago, or anywhere in the world. People claim that human life has value, and yet when confronted with a situation that puts their own lives at an inconvenience, how many of us value our convenience over the value of another person’s life?
Certainly this little girl was “innocent,” but consider that in another part of the world, the dictator of Libya was being shot and beaten to death around the same moment. No one would claim he was an “innocent victim,” but is it right for people to cheer and claim “this is the day we’ve been waiting for”? In his case, people judged his life had no value. Does that make them any different from the people that judged the toddler’s life in China had no value? We assume that the little girl had potential and deserved a future, and yet most of us probably deny the same assumption to the Libyan dictator. And what about the people connected to both deaths? How do we feel about their potential?
What gives a human life value?
“The notion that human life is sacred just because it is human life is medieval.” – Peter Singer