The sun kissed my eyes and made me squint. Watching my dog at the corner of our fenced backyard, barking at a neighboring dog, blurred my focus as a small bird’s flapping wings flew through my line of vision.
It is a glorious morning in Michigan. The sky is bright. The leaves are raked. The temperature is crisp. My world is beautiful. Or is it?
I join my friends, family, neighbors, and strangers in a close partnership this day. We mourn Paris together. All the news programs are talking about a real danger we face. A reporter visiting New York, whose name I did not catch as I listened to a CBS report, spoke about his home in Paris. He talked of the Paris he knows…a grouping of small villages. At times, he said, he tires of everyone knowing his name when he moves around his personal neighborhood. I think he is embarrassed to admit this feeling.
In front of the camera he is calm, yet sincere, in his thick white/grey moustache and beautiful matching head of hair. His tie is a lovely shade of purple, tastefully matching his patterned pocket scarf. The light grey suit he has chosen would be very understated save for the pop of color with which he has accented his look. Speaking of trying to contact his friends at home, he dials in his sadness so that his words will be heard and not overshadowed by a visual display of grief. The little villages blend with his statement, “All of Paris is our village.”
Reminiscent of, “it takes a village…” I think about the concept. We are not all one, and yet we are one. We differ, and yet we are the same. We hate, and yet we are loved. We love, and yet we are hated. Retiring the word “hate” seems like a brilliant idea, and yet it is impossible. Circulating the word “love” in all its various forms and meanings is attempted, and yet it is thwarted.
I let my mind float from thought to thought, however random, as my dog runs in reckless abandon. Circling, sniffing, listening—hypersensitive—all his senses alert in the realm that is his backyard, he runs his village. I watch him and wonder. I command; he usually listens. One thing, and one thing only, makes him disobey—the hunt. My sweet, small, quirky, loving, attentive little dog will hunt down—and kill—any wayward bird, mouse, or mole that dares to enter his territory.
Are we humans able to be compared with our canine companions? I consider as I reach for a piece of bacon. I offer thanks for the pig. Then I immediately recall videos of pigs displaying emotion. I try not to think of the cows, chickens, and fish that die so I can eat. Is this a similar concept? No, I scold myself, I must eat to survive. Paris is different. It was killing for no reason. A flawed ideology, a hatred of people who do not believe in a particular concept. And yet, I wonder for the umpteenth time, why not go vegan? I follow this thought with anger at my brain as it bumps its way through my uncontrolled musings.
Killing for food aside, throughout history, man has killed for reasons that hold no logic—political reasons, misguided religious reasons—women and men have killed for king, country, ideology, family. Whether the fight was for borders or minority rights, power or ideals, revenge or imagined affront, misunderstood threat or real threat, genocide—war, in all its forms—cold, hot, far away, or in the next village, it is real. Too real.
I just checked on my dog. He is lounging in the sun, watching over his village.
I am weary. Recent events have left me drained.
My fertile mind floats toward a human tendency. Why do we applaud the bad guy? Not now, of course. We are not applauding ISIS, at least not the majority of us. But, why then, do we applaud the bad guy in other situations? Movies, minor thievery, rebels—for some reason we occasionally enjoy unsavory characters. It’s not the same, some would say. How dare you! There is no comparison, others would argue. Trivial infractions cannot compare to cruel acts of horrific terror. Killing innocent people is not the same. These are acts of war. Control your thoughts.
I agree as I ponder the human condition. My brain hurts as I try to arrive at the tiniest minutia of understanding terrorists’ issues—they elude me. I think of the pain, suffering, and death they inflict—even on themselves.
A form of entertainment was introduced in the United States in the 1970s—military-style combat video games overtook pinball machines as a form of play for the younger generation. In what world is that an acceptable form of play? I wondered as I watched young college students take a break from studying. Having entered university life at the tender age of thirty-nine, I had no clue, sprinkled with a heavy dose of dislike, about young people relaxing while pretending to shoot human targets instead of studying.
I still don’t get it.
Then I think farther back to “cowboys and Indians.” In my youth girls played with dolls while boys played with toy guns and cowboy hats. The file cabinet storage unit in my left cerebral hemisphere extracts an image from a movie—no—a book by Michener, if I recall correctly—where a native American Indian thanks the slaughtered beast before feasting on it. Later in the story—or perhaps a different story along the same lines—one tribe fights another tribe. But there is no blood involved. The battle is won when a warrior completes a coup. “Counting coup,” as I understand the concept, can be as simple as touching a member of an opposing tribe with a hand, or a bow, or a “coup stick,” as described in James A. Michener’s novel, Centennial. No blood need be drawn.
That sounds civilized to me.
I look at my dog as he chooses to come back into the house. He has scrutinized his yard today and all is calm. The kingdom is intact.
I love my little dog. I rescued him, and in some ways he rescues me. He cuddles with me as I look into his adorably round brown eyes and try not to think about the revulsion I felt when I picked up the mole he killed a few weeks ago. What is my dog thinking as he kills his prey? An intruder? Is he protecting his territory? I remember feeling helpless as I witnessed the event. No amount of calling, voice raised in anger, stopped him from his task. When he rolled the dead animal over with his paw, making certain that the little thing was, indeed, dead, he turned and walked away. No emotion, no regret, nothing.
My brain, always rolling, thinks of the real threat to any neighborhood dog—especially a small one, such as my own. Coyotes. I have seen a coyote a mile from my home. I have heard that coyotes kill dogs just because they are in the way. The territory governed by my dog, our backyard, becomes the coyote’s territory as soon as he chooses to set paw in it. Killing for perceived rights of ownership, be it land or territory, color of skin or fur-coated body, beliefs or instinct, seems to travel through all species.
If a coyote attacked my dog, I hope I am strong enough to go after the coyote. It goes against my core beliefs, to attack, to harm, to kill, and yet, I think I would try, as long as I was not cowering in fear.
Sharing my wandering, overflowing thoughts, I worry about sounding ridiculous and insensitive to the barbaric and savage terror attacks in Paris. It is not my intention. I am merely a student of the human—and apparently the canine—condition. A privileged person, such as myself, living in freedom and relative calm, I cry at injustice, and then I hide in my family room. I watch television and curl up with my dog, tail wagging happily as he licks my hand.
For the moment, my village is secure.