A lesson from a dog during a divisive time
A loud thunderclap sends the dog scurrying under my desk.
I’m disoriented not because this desiccated desert is suddenly dripping wet from a violent rain, but because everything else is so weird.
Fifty percent of Republicans think top Democrats run a child-sex ring. (And one-fifth of Democrats do too?)
Most voters think abortions are a doctor-patient issue, but we’ll soon be sending folks to jail.
Sixty percent of U.S. citizens think Donald Trump should face criminal charges, and he’s the leading candidate for the Republican presidential nomination in 2024.
Sometimes I try to imagine contemporary events involving past political figures. Dwight David Eisenhower fawning over Vladimir Putin. George H.W. Bush or Jimmy Carter demanding a state election official find 11,000 votes, then spending the next two years trying to get Clinton’s election undone. Kennedy or Nixon, or even Ronald Reagan, inciting a bunch of angry clowns to try to scare the senate and vice-president by threats of violence, then sitting back munching gummy bears as it unfolded on TV.
The dog bumps the chair arm with her nose, to suggest a better use for hands than tapping little plastic squares on a keyboard.
The dog has a point. Imagine being a weekly newspaper columnist and trying to figure out what to write. Some weeks, everything you write is so obvious it feels stupid to put it on paper, but it’s anathema (or “lies”) to a significant minority of readers.
Talking about guns recently, some opponents of gun-safety legislation said it all came down to families not raising their kids right. I agreed that many parents don’t raise their kids right. (I did suggest that while we improve child-raising and mental health services, which will take years to affect 18-year-olds, we might want to make it harder right now for irresponsible people to get guns, to help until our other efforts solve the problem.)
But they were talking about families not raising their kids as Christians, and about defining family as a biologically male father and a biologically female mother. And about making sure kids know the rules and follow them. I’ve seen kids badly scarred by all kinds of families, including “Christian” ones; and we know religion doesn’t prevent sexual abuse of children.
I’ve also seen many families in which two men or two women raise their children with love, care, and humor. I know people who are transgender, or don’t wish to be identified by a gender, who are wonderful people.
Religion is great for some families, but it’s a horror for others. (That’s partly ‘cause folks turn it to their own purposes or needs, without adequate attention to the actual teachings.)
Ultimately, what matters is love; some amount of trust and honesty; probably mutual respect, with parents telling kids the rules (even showing them, by living those rules), but not overbearingly, maybe even discussing why they make sense. (Sadly, too many parents feel threatened by that kind of conversation.) And you also need some luck.
The dog finally lies down, having made her point. I contemplate how much I admire her for having survived some pretty tough situations, including the mental illness of the person she took care of before taking care of us. A friend recently looked into her big brown eyes and remarked, “Dogs are put here to remind us how to love – and they do a damned good job.”
When in doubt, pet a dog.