In defense of Mickey Rourke

Mickey Rourke with his Chihuahua.

I don’t get it.

Monday we ran a story about Academy Award nominee Mickey Rourke. He recently rescued a stray dog from the streets of Romania, the location of his current film project. This article has feel-good written all over it, I thought. The actor, who credits his now deceased Chihuahua with helping him overcome depression, speaks often and openly about his love for dogs.

As expected, the response to the piece was mostly positive. But a few readers questioned his choice and were even critical. Mainly they wanted to know why Rourke didn’t adopt an animal here at home.

Pam posted: “Hey Mickey, what about the U.S.?”

Christine agreed: “One thing I don’t understand is why we in U.S. go far away to adopt a child, a dog? Explain someone?”

I’ve never understood why we allow arbitrary geographic delineations to dictate who gets our help and who gets overlooked. Why is one’s birth country — or state or city — a factor at all when it comes to reaching out to an individual in need? I’m guessing the response would be something along the lines of: We should make sure things are in order at home before we go cleaning up someplace else.

I’m not just being obstinate when I say that that still doesn’t clarify it for me. Why? To many, the planet is home.

This judgment around who we’re supposed to be aiding first or who is most deserving reminds me of the criticism-disguised-as-question I often hear leveled toward animal welfare advocates: “There are so many people in need — why aren’t you helping them?”

For me, that answer is simple. Because no one species, just like no single nationality or gender or ethnicity, is immune to hunger, cold, loneliness, and fear. Pain is pain no matter who experiences it. And there’s no evidence that animals’ suffering is not just as profound as humans’. (Exhibit A.)

Bottom line, there’s an abundance of need everywhere. It’s relentless. And it may be staring you in the face from the streets of Romania. It may call to you when you’re at your local shelter or it may hit you when you’re thousands of miles from home. The point is, once you hear it, do something. Somewhere. For someone.