From her least favourite animal

My daughter comes home from school
and says to me: "Mom, during attendance
my teacher asked us our favourite animals."

"Neat," I say, "You said cat, didn't you?"

"Yes Mom," she says, "but Ben said humans.
And Teacher said those are her least favourite.
She said humans are responsible for 
too many bad things in the world."

'Favourite things are people's opinions,"
I remind her, but neither of us are satisfied.

So I say:

"I think a lot of people would agree 
with your teacher. I used to. But I think
that it's a little bit of an excuse."

"What do you mean?" she asks.

I remind her of the time she was struggling
to learn subtraction and she tried
to escape through a door labelled:
"Bad at math."

Because when we believe there's something
about us that cannot change, we can shed
our fear of failure by refusing to grow.
If we're just bad at something, there's no point
practicing to get better. If humans do nothing
but harm, then what is the point of 
of fighting for, or believing in, or expecting
anything different for the future.

Look, I don't need to expound upon 
humanity's sins to her; 
she is already familiar with them.
My daughter was born into a country
where she cannot help but walk over
the bones of other children, slaughtered
by people who looked like her. At nine years
old my daughter knows the words genocide,
and systemic racism, income inequality,
global warming, mass extinction,
she knows she has inherited a violent legacy
she never asked for. And before your protest
that she is too young, I'd like to remind you
that many children younger than her
learn these concepts at gunpoint, with teachers
like hunger and disease,
standing over their parents' graves.

She learns in a loving mother's voice,
I hold her hands as we unpick knots together,
and when she cries, it is never alone.

Are we her teacher's least favourite animal?

My daughter knows the bloodprice of profit,
knows the human sacrifices that make
a billionaire, but I remind her of the little
vegan grocery we shop from whose owners
refused to raise prices despite inflation,
who break every rule of "good business"
in the interest of being "good neighbours."

Are they her teacher's least favourite animal?

I tell her the people of the Wet'suwet'en Nation 
put themselves in the line of fire, 
stand for days on end facing persecution,
to defend the water and land that nourishes us.

Are they her teacher's least favourite animal?

She watches documentaries with her dad
about the researchers and engineers 
developing the latest clean-energy hopefuls,
trying to force triangular economies
into more sustainable circles.

Are they her least favourite animal?

We talk about how poverty is decreasing,
along with infant mortality. About increases
in conservation and species-protections..
How, statistically, the world is becoming 
a better place. It isn't enough yet, but
people are still working to improve it.

Are they her teacher's least favourite animal?

Her aunt sends pictures of her new baby cousin.

Is he her teacher's least favourite animal?

Scientists have developed a vaccine for malaria.

Are they her teacher's least favourite animal?
Mosquitoes kill half a million children every year.
Could her teacher think of no animal more
deserving of the title of "least favourite" than us?

Mosquitoes are only doing what is in their nature,
but human nature is the ability to change.
Our species' entire evolutionary strategy is hinged
on our ability to override our own programming.
A mosquito cannot chose to spare a child,
but we can.

I ask my daughter what she thinks the world
could look like, if we didn't treat each other
like our least favourite animal.

She smiles, satisfied, and already
I can see the future changing. 

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