I’ve been walking the yard with the dogs lately. I’m sure most of you can guess why.
If you can’t, I envy you.
Our two dogs, you see, have eating habits that only a canine could love. Our senior citizen, Duchess the Wonder Dog (“I wonder where she’s gone to?”) tries to chew backyard grass and sometimes the … um … stuff that dogs leave behind in backyard grass. Big Blake, meanwhile, has the instincts of a burglar, the stomach of a billy goat and the common sense of Roger Rabbit, leading him to grab any semi-edible opportunity within his considerable reach.
In short, if they see something lying on the ground that looks intriguing, they’re likely to give it a try.
And well … that’s just not safe anymore.
You’re probably sick of reading about poisoned meatballs. I know I’m sick of writing about them. It nauseates me to think that someone could decide that stuffing a meatball full of rat poison and throwing it in the grass could be a solution to anything.
If my neighbor’s been revving his engine, I don’t attach a car bomb to the ignition.
If his weeds are out of control, I don’t spread gasoline and light a match.
And if his dog is making more noise than a Jack London wolf pack, the answer lies in the cell phone, not the d-Con.
To a sensible person, it would be obvious.
But as I’ve said before, there seems to be a shortage of sensible people these days.
In my worst moments, I sometimes think friendly discussion itself is a lost art. Listen? Reason? Compromise? Please. This is the age of planting your flag and venting your spleen, whether it’s in the halls of Congress or the photons of Facebook. Because by jingo, you’re right, and if you can’t carry the day by facts, it’s time to do it by volume.
The old legal maxim goes “If the facts are on your side, pound the facts. If the law is on your side, pound the law. If neither is on your side, pound the table.”
There’s a lot of table-pounding lately.
In a scary way, this is simply the next step. If debate is unnecessary and the rightness of your cause is assured, why not take whatever measures are needed to end the problem, regardless of its impact on anyone else? At a certain stage of self-righteousness, others don’t matter. At a certain stage, others don’t even exist.
Nothing exists to them but the anger.
I don’t want to overstate the case. There have been and will be people who make selfish choices, even deadly ones. But at a time with so much selfishness on the march, it’s time for the rest of us to draw a line.
We will not be bullied.
We will not be intimidated.
And we will find our way to a better place again.
We’re watchful now, because we’ve been taught to be. It’s a terrible lesson to need to learn. We will watch those we love to keep them from harm, and we will watch for the agents of harm so that they may be stopped.
But our duty goes farther.
On a smaller scale, we must create a place for courtesy and understanding to be. We must be ready to remind people that listening is more than an option, it’s a prerequisite. Yes, the ones who need it most will be the ones who are lest receptive. But the rest of us must keep the conversation open.
It will not be easy. Sometimes I’m not even sure if it will be possible. But I know it won’t be if we let the bullies and the screamers and the brawlers have everything their way.
Only in trying do we have a chance.
I’m aware of the paradox here: to be uncompromisingly for compromise, firmly for gentleness. But it can be done. Any good teacher or parent has done it. They’ve found ways – sometimes through much difficulty – to head off the rude and the hateful so that civility and respect can continue.
We have to find that way again. All of us. Together.
Let’s make a world where it’s safe to feed the dog.