I came home one day last week to find my wife watching Dr. Phil. I don't know why she was watching Dr. Phil, but she was. And what is more, I found myself drawn into watching it too. The subject: Octomom.
By now, I think everybody knows that "Octomom" is not the name of a new superhero. However, I doubt many people remember that Octomom's real name is Nadya Suleman. I didn't.
And that bothers me. That I didn't know her name.
There has been much discussion about whether or not her doctors acted ethically, and there should be discussion of that topic. There has been much discussion of whether or not Nadya is physically, mentally, and emotionally equipped to raise 14 children by herself. That is a discussion that needs to be had as well, although I am not sure that the best people to make those decisions are mass media talking heads.
What I find disconcerting is the way that we as a culture seem to have completely dehumanized the situation. What started as an incredible story became late night punch line and now has become a source of great anger. On Dr. Phil's show, he played voice mails left for Nadya and people who tried to help her. These voice mails were beyond cruel. Threats that Nadya should have her uterus "ripped out" sink to the level of a Nazi concentration camp. Now, today, I read a story online that a porn company has offered her $1 million and lifetime medical and dental insurance to star in porn movies. Step away from that which I consider borderline extortion for a moment ("You can provide for your families medical expenses if you will let us film you having sex with other people and make money off of it") and what is left is a very cold reality: that people would pay to watch just because it is her, "Octomom".
Amazement, laughter, self-righteous anger, self-indulgement. And most people won't even care enough to know her name.
There are obvious problems that this story brings to light. The reality is, for every ounce of news coverage provided on Nadya and her children, we know a very small percentage of what there is to be known about Nadya, her life, her children, her doctors, and this situation. There are reasons to be sad, there are reasons to be angry, and there are reasons to be happy (for one, these 8 babies survived). However, there are no reasons to stop being human.
Many have argued that the anonymity of the Internet makes people bold, willing to say or do things they would never do if their name was attached to it. I believe the same results take place when we strip a person of their humanity, their identity. We can say to them, do to them whatever we want. American pastors in the South defended the idea that God did not make Africans to be "real people", so it was OK to make them slaves and punish them brutally. A century later, denominations had to repent of that sin. I wonder how much repentance is needed right now in this situation.
Her name is not Octomom. That name seems to have unleashed a host of obscenity from people. Her name is Nadya Suleman. She is a child of God, just like you and me. She is in need of God's grace and provision, just like you and me. More importantly, God loves her just like he loves you and me. Maybe we should all remember that the next time we go to make our comment about the story in the paper or on the television.