An open letter to the astonished, indignant, and unreasonably angry folks who cannot understand the allergy parent backlash against Peter Rabbit (may contain adult language–get over it):
“Every three minutes, a food allergy reaction sends someone to the emergency room in the U.S.”
So begins this informational article about food allergies on the FARE website.
So, listen. I get that you don’t get why people are mad about Peter Rabbit. I get that you don’t have to worry about food allergies. Every three minutes, that’s someone else’s kid in the ER. Every three minutes, that’s not your problem. Every three minutes, not your cross to bear, right?
Fine. Then go about your day. Don’t be mad about Peter Rabbit. Go see it. (Or better yet, don’t, since you probably weren’t planning to anyway, were you?) I mean, who cares anyway, right? It’s just a kids’ movie. It’s just silly. It’s not hurting anyone.
Sure, it’s not. But when three weeks ago a trio of high school girls intentionally exposed a classmate to her allergen through a pineapple tainted high five, an attorney “liken[ed] it to a prank and a prank does not rise to the level of intentionally harming somebody where they can die.” Except that it was intentional. And she was harmed. And she could have died.
Could have died like thirteen year-old Karan Cheema, who did die from a similar “prank,” but not before spending the last twelve days of his young life in intensive care because another child knowingly flicked a piece of cheese into his mouth.
And these cases are not unique.
See, Peter Rabbit tossing Farmer McGregor’s allergen at him might seem harmless to you, but that’s exactly the problem. I know that you don’t know the truth. I know that you aren’t going to talk to your kids after the movie about how Farmer McGregor’s EpiPen saved him, but it doesn’t always work like that in real life. I know that you don’t question whether the broad lesson about Peter’s behavior will be enough, that it’s not your burden to question whether the film did enough to show that this type of exploitation of a person’s disability is not just naughty but is dangerous, evil, and potentially deadly. I know that you don’t wonder if just one shitty little kid will see the movie and get the cruel seed of an idea planted in his head, and if that one shitty little kid will be in your daughter’s class one day, and if that cruel seed will sprout the black tree from which your sweet baby will hang.
But I. Fucking. Do.
Let me give you a hint about anaphylaxis, for the uninitiated: It’s not fucking slapstick. It’s not whoopie pies and seltzer bottles, oversized mallets and exploding cigars. It’s sudden, and it’s unexpected, and it’s life or death. It’s your baby turning blue and becoming unresponsive. It’s ambulance rides and emergency room visits. And sometimes, it’s your baby’s funeral–oh, but not your baby’s, right? So what’s the big deal, yeah?
Here’s the thing I’m getting at, boss–since I’m sure I have to spell it out for you: you don’t get to tell those of us who carry the cross of food allergies that we’re overreacting. You don’t get to call us snowflakes or bleeding hearts or be pissed off that we’re “offended.” Until you have held your baby in your hands and watched her eyes flutter closed while you hope with every piece of you that the EpiPen you’ve never used before does its job, that the ambulance comes quick enough, that the reaction doesn’t get any worse, you don’t get to be the arbiter of my outrage. Until you have spent hours on the phone with food manufacturers trying to find out if the food you are giving to your child might contain accidental traces of things that will kill her, until you have lived with the secret knowledge that every public place you take her is more than likely–no, absolutely guaranteed to be–smeared at every turn with the invisible poisons that her body cannot bear to touch but that are the literal bread and butter of every other child, you don’t get to tell my wife she is being ridiculous.
And until you have clicked every link in this blog and read every story and attempted to understand the crushing weight of the fear food allergies hang over every day of our lives, you can kindly stick your opinion in the same dark hole where you’re keeping your head.
Because here’s the real kicker, friend. I’m not offended. I’m not clutching my pearls and gasping in mock horror that those folks at Sony Pictures could be so politically incorrect, as you would have it. I’m fucking terrified. Because–you clicked those links, right? and read those articles, right?–none of the stories I have posted or any of the others I have ever read about kids dying from food allergies has been about parents who were unprepared or uninformed or neglectful. The only mistakes the parents in these stories ever made were in trusting other people–school administrators, allergy doctors, and even just people like you, Jack–to understand and accommodate their children’s life-threatening disabilities. And you know what you’re doing, right? You’re encouraging those people that we often have no choice but to trust, those people we and our children have to share public spaces with, to downplay and disregard our well-founded and not at all unreasonable concern for the health and safety of our children.
But really, go about your life. Go see your bunny movie, and order a large popcorn since you don’t have to worry about what kind of oil it was cooked in, or whether the teenager behind the counter handled the kernels with unwashed hands after serving up some cheesy nachos. Enjoy it. I don’t begrudge you your ability to do that, and I certainly don’t need you to carry this burden for me. My shoulders are plenty broad and my legs plenty strong. I’m sure as shit not asking for your help, modern-day hero that you so clearly are.
But buddy, I will be thrice-damned before I let you shame me for not allowing ignorant and insensitive people to make a joke of my precious baby’s life.