Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Pet Sounds

People's feelings about each other are often conflicted.  But people's feelings about their pet animals mostly are not. They may have complex feelings about their dogs or cats, but mostly those feelings are strong, direct and pure.  Especially under stress, almost everything can come down to that relationship---as it did in this story about a young actor who felt forced to have his dog put down, and soon after ended his own life.

  People have very direct relationships with their pets, and they tend to judge other people on how they behave towards pet animals. So while the politics of pets is presented lightly, people don't take the topic lightly.  It's a test of basic humanity.

The story of Mitt Romney's summer vacation many years ago has been quietly making the rounds.  He drove 12 hours with his family in the car, and the family dog in an air-tight carrier on top of the car.  The dog got sick, and his diarrhea dripped down the car windows, so Romney pulled off the highway at a gas station, hosed down the car and the dog in the carrier, and resumed driving.

The reaction has been growing, with stories often referring to this Dogs Against Romney website. 

That was the context when David Axlerod tweeted a photo of President Obama with his dog Bo with the message, "How loving owners transport their dogs." 

Cute, right?  But another story suggests how potentially powerful this really is--a story of wanton cruelty that explains the mindset of the Rabid Right to those who don't get it when illustrated by stories involving just people, or even less impressive, politicians.  I won't reproduce the photo here, but it's in the story: the children of a campaign manager for an Arkansas Democratic congressional candidate came home to discover their pet cat dead on their front porch, obviously murdered (the story gives the graphic details) and with the word "liberal"written across its body.

What this says about what humans are capable of is depressing enough, or how far we have not come in being civilized and empathetic.  But the message of where Rabid Right politics are is pretty clear.  It says it for some people perhaps even more directly than attempted assassination, or the vile and racist words of Republican officials including their party chair, or the implications of the cruel policies these folks favor. 

How we treat animals is often better than how we treat each other, and certainly better than we treat the rest of life and the future of life on this planet that provides us with our life.  So the effects of certain policies and beliefs, as well as the hearts of those that sell them, is exposed through attitudes and behavior towards the pets that bless us with their presence.      

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