How do you explain cannibals to your kids?
Before the repulsive events of the past week, it would have seemed a silly question.
But, sad to say, cannibalism is a hot topic at breakfast tables, schoolyards, offices and coffee shops across the GTA. Blecch. I’m weirded out just writing about it.
Unless you are lucky and have been in Antarctica all week, you know what I mean.
For starters, on Saturday, Ronald Poppo, 65, a homeless guy had his face gnawed “down to the goatee,” as a witness put it, by a zombie-like attacker beside a busy Miami road.
Rudy Eugene, 31, hunched over poor Mr. Poppo and growled at cops, before one of them shot him dead.
The victim, if he survives, faces an awful road to recovery.
Our stomachs had barely recovered, when the Luka Magnotta horror story began to unfold.
On Tuesday, a man’s severed foot arrived in the post at Conservative Party HQ in Ottawa. Then a hand was discovered, addressed to the Liberals.
The relevant torso was found in Montreal, to go with a snuff video. Its murderous star is believed to be Magnotta, 29, a porn actor now sought by Interpol.
In addition to murder and dismemberment, the crime reportedly features cannibalism.
Can the world get any more nauseating?
There aren’t many taboos left, but cannibalism shows few signs of regaining social acceptance.
I say “regaining” because some scientists claim genetics prove we are descended from cannibals. But it’s a long way from cave men to Hannibal Lecter.
Today, nothing repels/compels us like cannibalism.
And not just because of all the toxins and additives in the modern human body.
Last December, a Dutch TV show similar to the Jackass movies stirred the pot. The two hosts ate a small piece of each other — loonie-sized abdominal fillets sliced by a surgeon, pan-fried in sunflower oil and served by candle-light with wine. Chianti? One host described the main course as akin to tire rubber.
Hang onto your stomach, gentle reader. Cannibalism is rarely so prime-time. Usually it is a shadow of our nights, the realm of the Brothers Grimm, Marilyn Manson and Swedish metal bands.
Once in a while, its practitioners leap onto front pages.
Albert Fish, the Werewolf of Wysteria, did so in the early 20th century, even sharing with police recipes for some of his victims.
In the 1990s Jeffrey Dahmer killed 17 men and boys and consumed parts thereof.
In 2001, German Armin Meiwes dragged cannibalism into the Internet age, advertising online for willing meals. One of them joined Herr Meiwes for dinner. Meiwes videotaped the deed and consumed about 20 kilos of his guest.
This grossest of sins came to Canada in 2008, on a Greyhound bus near Portage la Prairie, Man. Gentle soul Tim McLean, 22, was beheaded and cannibalized by fellow passenger Vince Weiguang Li.
Speaking of real-life horrors, doctors say Li, 44, is already okay for trips outside the Selkirk (Man.) Mental Health Centre. I assume the tastier residents of Selkirk are not happy about that.
And now, the Magnotta nightmare. Soon, we will need a Cannibal Hall of Fame.
Which brings me back, finally, to the question: How do you explain this to your kids?
“For younger kids in particular, the scariest program on TV is the news,” says a Canadian Teachers Federation guide.
News, by nature, is unusual. It glares. If it bleeds, it leads.
Some common sense I’ve borrowed from the U.S. advocacy group Children Now:
Watch or read the news with your kid. If they don’t see it with you, they’ll get it embellished by their chums. Put ugly stories in context. Such as: Very, very few people are cannibals.
You can’t protect them from all things, but you can make ‘em feel a little safer.
And what of us adults?
Hold your stomach and hide under the covers ‘til they catch the guy.