State Senator Troy Balderson is proposing restrictions on ownership of exotic animals. He is reacting to a terrible tragedy in which an apparently disturbed man who collected wild animals released them and then committed suicide. To protect the public, the authorities had to shoot some rare Bengal tigers and other innocent, magnificent beasts.
I am confident that with this law passed, such an incident will not recur. However, I am also confident that it won’t recur if the law isn’t passed, and, that irrespective of whether it passes or not, something equally awful and weird that has nothing to do with exotic animals will happen in the future.
It is difficult to accept that bizarre and heartbreaking things happen. Mass death is frightening; even moreso when it seems so strange and unlooked for.
In Boston in 1919, 21 people lost their lives due to a molasses flood. In 1986, a lake in Cameroon erupted, releasing a massive cloud of carbon dioxide that suffocated 1700 people. In both cases, people scrambled to prevent a recurrence (a lawsuit about defective molasses tanks in Boston, some underwater carbon dioxide draining experiments in Cameroon).
That human beings have the impulse to prevent “the next one” is part of the settled order of nature and therefore not to be bemoaned. But by definition the next completely unpredictable tragedy is one that none of us can conceive of, or prevent, right now. We just have to go through life hoping that we will not be ravaged by a marauding liger, drowned in a sea of molasses, or strangled by an exploding lake.