…the only hope
This is hard for me to put into words. But I have to.
I want you to imagine I get off my leash and chase a cat, and catch it and kill it. Handsome is furious with me. He feels horrible for the poor kitty, and devastated that he will have to tell the cat’s human friends about it. And even more, he feels guilty – for not holding me back, and for not training me better.
Okay, that’s awful, and of course happens with us dogs, cats, and people all the time. (Don’t get me wrong, I love chasing cats, but it’s just fine with me that Handsome holds me back from doing anything so heartbreaking).
But I want you to imagine something worse. Imagine I do this twice. And when it’s a calico cat that I catch and kill, Handsome is angry and sad and really lets me know it. But when it’s a Siamese, he kind of shrugs it off. “Oh well. You shouldn’t have done that, Shirelle, but it’s only a Siamese, so I’m not going to punish you or anything.”
THAT is what’s been happening in my country for centuries, to humans – based not on a breed but on skin color, ethnicity, sex and other qualities. And it breaks my heart.
I’m sure you have heard about George Floyd and Breonna Taylor, two innocent people who were killed by police officers in the last few weeks here. Now I’m a big fan of the police, and want them empowered to keep themselves and all of us safe. But sometimes they can make mistakes, or sometimes a bad one can do something really awful. Just like everyone else.
What makes me sad, and furious, and nauseous, is that our society has continued to say that if they do it to someone with white skin that’s a big problem, but if it’s someone of brown or black skin, it’s no big deal!
Every culture has its faults and its prejudices, just as every person and dog does, but the trick is to try to see them and work through them. This situation, from names you might know from songs like Medgar Evars and Emmett Till, or maybe even from your history classes like Rodney King, all the way up to today, is actually a mass mental illness. One that has damaged the human race since it began.
We animals of smaller brains develop all kinds of prejudices, of course. I was attacked by a black furry dog twice my size when I was a puppy, so large black furry dogs terrify me. You almost certainly have similar knee-jerk reactions yourself.
But you humans have bigger brains that can take those judgments and turn them into beliefs and rules. And that’s where the problem lies.
I would never say one should kill large black dogs, or that they deserve to be treated different to me; I just find them scary, nothing more. But human brains will come up with the stupidest, most insane concepts – this race should be enslaved, this ethnicity is immoral, this sex can’t lead, this sexual orientation isn’t natural, it just goes on and on!
And it’s SO DAMNED STUPID!!! (yes I know, you’ve never heard me use that word before)
Here’s the fact – you have the individual right to care more about certain people than others, or certain dogs or cats than others, of course. But in the big picture, no human or dog or cat or lizard is truly worth any more than any other. Or better than any other. Poodles tend to be a very smart breed, but there are stupid ones. I’ve met pit bulls who were sweeter than even me, though they’re bred for fighting. And believe it or not, I’ve even met calm Chihuahuas (while yes, most are more hyper than a hummingbird on espresso!).
Passing judgments about anyone’s worth based on their color or anything like that is pure idiocy. Yes – when you guys do it, it makes you stupider than us pooches, even with your gigantic brains!
But mass judgment is as natural to you guys as cat-chasing is to us, and nothing I say is going to change that part of your nature.
What I can do is ask you to rise above it. And I know only one way to do that: I want you to begin to realize that You Belong. And We Belong.
Philosophers and Theologians far more intelligent than I will tell you that our separateness from each other is only an illusion, and that the job of living is to learn that, so we can be together in the next world. I can’t tell you whether they’re right or wrong about what’s coming. But I do know this – every human belongs to every other one right now.
Think about it. Let’s say you were in a crowd, say watching a World Cup match (oh I hope you can have crowds like that again soon!). And some crazy man sneaked a big gun into the stadium, and started shooting people randomly. Your life would somewhat belong to him, right? He’d have the power to determine whether or not you lived to see your loved ones again, or to see another sunrise. Now imagine someone next to you saw that man pull that gun out, and grabbed you and shoved you down under the seats, so you weren’t hit by any bullets. Then your life and fate would belong to that person, right? At least somewhat? Or maybe a brave soul jumped up and tackled the shooter and got his gun away from him? Then every person in that stadium would have to acknowledge that their lives belonged to that hero/heroine in a way.
Well I hope your life is a bit more mundane than that today. But don’t you equally belong to every driver who hits, or doesn’t hit, your car? And doesn’t every other driver on the street equally belong to you, because you hit or don’t hit them?
What about when one person is feeling depressed and unloved and unseen, and they pass someone on the sidewalk who smiles and says good morning, and their dog licks that person’s hand and sniffs their great-smelling pants… and that miserable person’s view on the world suddenly changes. Can you see how those two people, and that dog, all belong to each other at that moment?
My friends, seven billion people belong to each other right now. When one farmer grows a tomato, when one industrialist dumps poisons into clean water, or finds a way not to, and when one performer makes people laugh till they cry, YOU ARE ALL INTERWOVEN.
Sure you don’t see it most of the time, but that’s what I’m begging of you: Realize it now.
Because if you understand that every person belongs to every other, then when something goes wrong for someone, the idea that it doesn’t matter because of their race or sex or whatever, gets exposed for the insanity it is.
I’m a very empathic dog. Maybe not every other pup out there feels as much for people as I do. But when a woman is lying in bed or a man is buying something at a shop, and the next moment they’re killed, that hurts me. And when the powerful say that those deaths are no big deal, that hurts me more. And when tens of thousands of people go out to protest against this, that makes me very happy (though I do get scared about them spreading this stupid virus if they’re not careful!). And when some jerks use this as a chance to steal free goods or sneakily exacerbate violence, or some police use it as an excuse to shoot or beat innocent people, or a leader uses it as an excuse to order his people gassed and beaten and then lie about them and what they’re doing, I get furious.
Because I belong too. Those people who were killed, the officers that killed them, the protesters, the looters, the shooters, and even the corrupt leaders, all are part of my world. And yours.
Of course, we’ve seen the clearest example of this possible in the past few months. We all know that the one way you people worldwide can interact without spreading the coronavirus is to wear masks and stay distanced. Yet we see folks all the time insisting they don’t need to cover their mouths because they have no symptoms and they are strong enough to survive the disease. But of course they don’t know if they got infected ten minutes ago, and that they might right now pass it on to someone far more fragile. So why do they refuse to wear masks? Because they don’t believe that We Belong. It’s so simple – if you love your grandmother, then don’t take a chance on giving the virus to someone next to you who might then give it to their grandmother. BELONG!
This year has been awful for the human race in countless ways. But I hope and pray that it has at least taught us all something. A virus that appears in one city can dominate the world. We Belong. Worldwide pollution can set a continent on fire and kill untold numbers of people and animals. We Belong. And a death that, years ago, would have been easily covered up, can galvanize marchers across the globe. We Belong.
I’m not telling you what your politics should be, or your religion, or who you need to like or fear. I wouldn’t dare.
But the hair on my back is standing up, and my fangs are snarling out, demanding that anyone who reads this gets the message: Either humbly realize that We Belong, dear humans, or you’ll arrogantly destroy yourselves and all the rest of us.
And when we’re all gone, no one’s going to care which of us was a calico cat and which was a Siamese.
Be kind and be strong, my friends. The future can be so beautiful if we can just accept the simple fact: You are you and I am me, and we belong to each other. End of story. Forever.
And for that, I love every one of you,