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Cats are Liberals, Dogs are Conservatives

In this season of political posturing and gamesmanship, of mudslinging and misdirecting, it’s hard not to get disillusioned. Romney said this, Obama did that, he’s a liar, he’s a jerk, he eats children, blah blah blah. It’s enough to make you want to change the channel.

It’s gotten so I see politics in everything now. From movies to television shows to reality television, I’m suspicious of hidden political agendas. As in “Survivor” has a conservative Darwinist agenda in which the strong are betrayed by the weak, but the strongest end up winning. As in The Lorax is an ultra-liberal anti-business pro-ecology diatribe aimed at our children.

I see it in our pets too. Dogs are actually conservative in their behavior; cats are liberals. Think about it. Dogs like the status quo. They get upset by change and if you make changes, they’re likely to pee on the carpet. Dogs are possessive. Give them a bone and they’ll go bury it. Give them enough bones and you’ll have a yard full of ’em.

Cats, on the other hand, do their own thing and don’t like to be told what to do. They roll with change; they encourage it. The like keeping you on your toes. Cats do nothing to earn their meals; they just expect someone is going to pay for it, but certainly not them. A cat may occasionally rub against you and purr like they adore you, but it’s an act. They don’t think you’re capable of taking care of them properly so they have to tell you how to do it.

Dogs need to be on a leash to get around. Cats run wherever they bloody well please. Dogs will crap anywhere but where they sleep. Cats need their own special place to crap – paid for at your expense. Dogs are loyal to their masters, even if they abuse them. Cats, well, they’re loyal to whoever feeds them.

Dogs like to earn their keep by watching out for burglars and illegal immigrants, at whom they’ll bark at until they’re hoarse. In fact, dogs are for building an 80 foot high electrified fence around the house with machine guard turrets with armed dogs manning them. Cats prefer a pampered existence in which nothing is required of them and they can get on the computer and watch videos of other cats, and occasionally play video slots.

Dogs believe in the sanctity of family and are welcoming to all guests; by way of welcoming you they’ll hump your leg. Cats are barely aware that you’ve taken a month’s vacation; as long as the water bowl was full and the food kept on coming they don’t care whether you come or go. Dogs believe in worship – after all, dog is god spelled backwards. Cats don’t believe in anything. Cat spelled backwards is tac and they think they got a raw deal because of it.

Dogs will eat anything, the worse for them it is the better. As a matter of fact, they prefer their chow to be manufactured in a third world country – it’s less expensive and tastier that way. Cats only eat homegrown organic cat food that has been prepared by migrant workers who are paid at a reasonable rate. Why shouldn’t they? You’re the one paying for it mister.

Dogs will yap all day and say absolutely nothing, kind of like Rush Limbaugh and Bill O’Reilly. Cats will say nothing all day and leave you wondering if they’re as wise as they make themselves out to be, like Barack Obama.

Dogs like sex but only for procreation. Cats watch kitty porn on the Internet and masturbate while you’re not looking. Dogs prefer order and structure but little interference from the powers-that-be. Cats want the powers-that-be to provide them with an expensive kitty playground that they’ll sleep on once and never use again.

Dogs will lick your face with the same mouth they just ate their own poop with. You’ll have to chase down your cat and tackle it in order to get any sort of affection. A dog believes in traditional values. Cats think we should think for ourselves and develop our own values.

Dogs are territorial and will attack anyone who violates their borders. Cats are neutral and will glare at anyone who comes to rob the house but will do nothing about it. Dogs are like elderly people who make up so much of the conservative electorate; they sleep all the freaking time. Cats are like young people who make up so much of the liberal electorate; they go out until the wee hours of the morning and then they won’t tell you where they’ve been.

Dogs are into security; cats are into freedom. Dogs believe in fair trade (“go in the kennel for a Milk Bone? Sounds fair to me…”) while cats believe in shared wealth – as long as all the wealth belongs to them. Dogs like looking out at the world – from the safety of their living room. Cats prefer to go out and explore themselves, and might just defect to that excellent Brownstone on Elm Street if they feed him better.

Dogs believe in the American dream; cats are atheists. Sarah Palin is a dog – well, she’s a bitch. Bill Maher is a cat; doesn’t his hair look like someone licked it into place? A dog will walk into the room, yawn, stretch and then forget why he went in there in the first place. A cat will kill Osama bin Laden and then drag his carcass to the glass door in the back of the house so you can see his handiwork. Dogs are pro-business; cats are pro-regulation. Dogs do their duty; cats want to form a committee to discuss the nature of what their duty is before they’ll consider it.

So forget your elephants and donkeys; those are outdated symbols anyway. Cats and dogs are much more relatable to the general public anyway. I don’t know what it says about me that I’m a liberal who loves dogs but I suppose that means I can see the conservative point of view. Some of these examples might stretch credibility just a bit but one thing is certain; cats and dogs are more likely to work together to make things better for those around them than conservatives and liberals are these days.

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Damsels in Distress

Back in the 1950s, women occupied a subservient place in society. Yes, there was a certain understanding that without women, men would be hopelessly unable to take care of themselves (an understanding that persists today and is, quite frankly, as objective as the old stereotypes that women are inferior drivers and unable to vote properly because they’ll always vote for the “cute” guy.

In the 60s and up through the last forty years or so, women began to demand changes, ranging from the ability to choose a career and be paid comparably for it (a change that has yet to actually occur even though it’s been mandated legally), the ability to control what happens to their own bodies and deny an unwanted pregnancy from reaching term if they choose to, and the right essentially to live with the same rights and privileges as men do. Not all of the things that the women’s movement has worked for has come to pass, and some of them have carried with them unforeseen consequences, but women have come a long way, baby.

But the pendulum seems to be swinging. There seems to be a move on the part of the radical right to erode the rights of women. Bill Maher has described this as a War on Women and while I think that might be a little overly dramatic (as election years will do), the sentiment isn’t far off. I’m not sure why the right think that alienating a large chunk of the voters as young to middle aged women comprise is going to win them the election, but I suppose it can be chalked up to taking an ideological stand.

So there are bills being raised by state legislatures (often encouraged by Tea Party governors) that will require women to get sonograms before they can get an abortion. Seven states so far have passed this bill – Texas, Alabama, Florida, Arizona, Kansas, Mississippi and Louisiana. An eight state’s bill (North Carolina) was also passed but is awaiting the outcome of a legal challenge. State governor Bob McConnell of Virginia and State Senator Clay Scofield of Alabama had also introduced legislature to require women to get the extremely invasive transvaginal ultrasound before getting an abortion, which requires the insertion of an eight to ten inch wand into their most intimate parts. After public outcry, the two politicians withdrew their bills but still the other legislation remains that women before being able to get their abortions must listen to the heartbeat of the fetus and listen to the doctor give them a clinical report of the status of the fetus.

I can understand wishing those young girls who use abortion as a means of birth control to think twice about what they’re doing. I can also imagine the agony of a woman who is electing to abort a very-much wanted fetus because severe birth defects have been detected listen to a litany of the medical condition of the baby she’s already made a heart-rending decision to abort as is what happened to Carolyn Jones in Texas.

There is no medical reason to force a sonogram on a woman before performing an abortion. There is also no good ethical reason to force a woman to listen to a baby’s heartbeat before aborting it – it verges on the cruel. In some states, the woman can opt out of listening to the sonogram but in others she has no choice. It’s clearly an attempt of Bible Belt states to legislate Christian morality, and I find it heinous and disgusting. Can you imagine the outcry if Jewish lawmakers in New York enacted laws to force men to cover their heads and wear long beards? I find it ironic – and hypocritical – that decisions about the reproductive rights of women are often being decided solely by men, often without any input whatsoever from women or medical professionals. And as for taxpayers paying for contraception, that is a complete and whole-cloth fabrication. The only medical  care that taxpayers fund is Medicare and Medicaid and those who qualify for those programs are in nearly every case past or nearly past the childbearing years. What is being fought for is for employer-funded insurance programs to pay for it or at least reduce the costs for it.

I also find it incredibly self-righteous and hypocritical that hysterics who think that abortion should be illegal and that every pregnancy should be brought to term are the same bastards who are cutting funds for child care programs, housing programs, educational programs and school lunch programs that these unwanted children would desperately need once born. You’re literally damned if you do and damned if you don’t.

High-profile figures in the right – including commentator Rush Limbaugh and former Presidential candidate Rick Santorum have made disparaging remarks about women seeking contraception as part of their health care plans. In fact, Limbaugh went so far as to say these women are “sluts” – as if enjoying pre-marital sex is somehow solely the province of men because as we all know, if a woman is in need of birth control, the reason is in all likelihood that she’s having sex with a man – who doesn’t receive the same sort of disdain for being sexually active than a woman does. Let’s hear it for the double standard, shall we?

Despite the leading title of this essay, women are strong enough and smart enough to fight their own battles. However, I think that it is time for feminists and those who support them to return back to the front lines because the battle for women’s rights is far from over and in fact, we are in danger of actually losing ground that had been gained thanks in large part to the activists of the 70s and 80s.

Standing with women in defense of their rights is as necessary as standing with gay, lesbian and transgendered in acquiring their rights, and as necessary as standing with African-Americans and Latino-Americans in defense of their rights. We owe the women of this country our support and respect, the latter of which seems to be eroding by the minute.

I’m not advocating tax-funded abortions or contraceptives here – only that women who elect to get those things are able to get them without the interference of state legislatures, moral crusaders or politicians looking to appeal to the Christian right. It is that right that Roe vs. Wade granted women forty years ago – and a right that is in danger of being dismantled by a determined opposition.

Common Threads

We are more like than unalike. We have so much in common that we actually take it for granted. We dwell instead on cultural differences, lifestyle differences, gender differences. We spend more time looking for the things that divide us than we do celebrating the things that unite us.

I suppose that’s only human. We have a need to feel unique and we look for ways that emphasize our uniqueness. Unfortunately, we tend to do that the lazy way – by asserting that those who are different than us are inferior, making us feel better about ourselves and our many faults.

Being unique doesn’t make us better. It just makes us ourselves. We’re not perfect – but we don’t have to be. Honestly, it’s okay to be flawed. You’re overweight? That’s okay – just try to eat better and exercise more. You’re a terrible housekeeper? No problem – hire somebody or just do the best you can. No time management skills? You can always take a class or find methods on the internet to help you organize your time better.

But even if you don’t ever correct your flaws that doesn’t make you a bad or even a weak person. It just makes you a human. And that’s one thing we all have in common – our humanity, both good and bad. We have a tremendous capacity to do horrible things to one another – and an equally tremendous capacity to transcend those base instincts and do the right thing, or even better.

The genocide in Rwanda is one such example. On the one hand, horrible atrocities were committed and thousands upon thousands of lives were brutally lost. On the other hand, the Rwandans are now trying to unite, reconcile and forgive one another. They are looking to live as one people rather than two artificially constructed tribes. They share a common language and a common heritage. More importantly, they share their basic human values – they love their families, hope for a better future and want to be loved.

We all share those values, even those we despise. The 1% share those things. Racists share those things. Homophobes share those things. Now, there are always exceptions; certain sociopaths lack the ability to love, the desire to be loved and have instead a desire to inflict pain. Those are not the rule, however and they are pretty rare.

Our humanity stretches across cultural lines. We all value our children and take great steps to protect them. That’s true in the most primitive circumstances as well as the most sophisticated urban environments. It doesn’t matter your skin tone or which plumbing you have, nor which religion you observe (if any) or what political party you belong to. Push comes to shove, nearly every human being alive will do about anything to protect their children, even lay down their lives if need be.

So why is it when we have so much in common that we spend so much time trying to tear each other apart? Not just in this country but everywhere? Why can Arabs and Jews find any common ground? Why not gays and straights? Baptists and Atheists? Why must we find reasons to ridicule, to fear, to hate? Why is accepting the differences of others so bloody hard?

Because we have it in our minds that accepting the differences of someone else makes us somehow less important, less special. That’s a mistaken concept however; accepting those differences makes us more special. It gives us more importance in the cosmic scheme of things. It brings us closer to perfection. If someone is a black lesbian Atheist pro-Choice from Senegal, I believe that in the heart of the creator I believe in they are no less loved than a pro-Life Baptist housewife from Texas. And vice versa. Those who disagree with me, are different than me, are even repugnant to me are still as human as me. As long as they do no harm, they deserve all the respect and dignity that I can afford them.

Delivering on that idea is often difficult and I’m no more adept at it than most of you. Sometimes, I gnash my teeth when I hear Sarah Palin talk about the need for drilling, or the President of Iran shouting about how America is Satanic. There are times I find it hard to hold to my heart those who discriminate against women, gays, African-Americans or Jews.

But if God loves these people no less, doesn’t following that example please Him? There are lots of people who say “Love the sinner, hate the sin” and while we might quibble whether homosexuality is a sin or not, the sentiment is at least understandable although it’s very difficult for me to hate the sin. Loving the person while not condoning their actions is easier for me to wrap my head and heart around and that’s where I tend to be more successful.

I may consider Rush Limbaugh to be a lot of things and I disagree with his politics and most of his opinions whole-heartedly but I don’t hate the man and I certainly don’t think he shouldn’t have the right to air his opinions. After all, you have the right to change the channel if you don’t like what he has to say and sooner or later if enough people do that he will have to find other means to communicate his message. I also consider Bill Maher to be a lot of things and I agree with his politics and most of his opinions whole-heartedly, but on a human level I give Rush Limbaugh the same consideration and respect I give Bill Maher, even if I think Maher is smarter and his politics more closely align with mine. That’s because at the end of the day Bill Maher is no better and no worse than Rush Limbaugh, the same as George W. Bush is no better and no worse than Barack Obama or my Uncle Jerry is no better and no worse than my Uncle Alex.

We are all made up of the same chemical components, the same physiological structure. We all travel through time in a linear fashion, from the beginning of lives to their ends and we all hope and dream of something better or at least different. We all reach out in some way for the things we need, be they other people or solitude. We all walk the Earth – some in wheelchairs, some in scooters but we all travel this land in some fashion. We all laugh, cry, despair and hope. We all have the capacity for love and for forgiveness as well as for hate and for vengeance. We all have the ability to choose the right thing, although we don’t always do it.

We all are one species, given one lifetime to figure things out. How much better would this world be if one of the things we figured out was just that? What could we accomplish as a people if we spent more time helping each other instead of finding reasons to hate? There is a dream worth aspiring to, one voiced by many of our most revered and beloved people, from Martin Luther King to Gandhi to Christ. A dream where we live together not in suspicion, fear and hatred but in acceptance, love and tolerance. Rodney King may not be the kind of thinker those men are but he may have put it the most articulately; can’t we all just get along? Well, can’t we?

Compromises

I’m not sure when it happened but compromise has become a dirty word. Somewhere along the line our political leaders have decided that working together is tantamount to giving up on their ideology and that winning elections was more important than governing this country. But it isn’t only in politics that we see the change in attitude.

It is in our own lives as well. We have become geared to a “my way or the highway” attitude. More and more people seem to have the impression that the world exists so that they can life the way they choose to.

You can see that in their ideologies. More and more these days, people adopt a political, religious or philosophical stance and from the time it’s developed until they die, there is no changing it, no reasoning with it, no arguing with it. You can, for example, argue persuasively that climate change is occurring on this planet, show them the raw data, tell them that the great majority of scientists on the planet agree with it – and they’ll still refuse to believe it because Rush Limbaugh told them that it was a bunch of hoo-hah.

When did we grow so inflexible? Why is it that we have become so sure that we are right that there is no other option? I can’t figure it out, but that seems to be more and more the case. People actually listening and debating, discoursing on the various topics of the day, that doesn’t happen very much anymore. People are more prone to sloganeering (“The Bible said Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve”) rather than stating a position with any sort of reason or rhyme. We’ve become our own sound bites, and we’ve actually begun communicating in them.

Part of this is a by-product of our shorter attention spans. We can’t be bothered to think – it requires too much effort – so having our opinions handed to us in short, easily digestible sentences is preferable to developing one of our own. We are content to take the easiest course of action in nearly every case – a course of action that allows us to sit at home and surf the net or watch cable. I shudder to think what would happen if a Nazi-like menace would appear now – I doubt this generation would have the stones to sacrifice the way our parents and grandparents did back in the 30s and 40s.

But then, those were children of a Depression, used to making do with less. We are children of prosperity and plenty, used to instant gratification. The idea of sacrificing for the common good has become as archaic as rotary telephones. We are the Me Generation with a vengeance; We’re Generation RFN and God help anyone who takes away our cell phones.

We have become culturally unable to balance our own personal needs with those of society as a whole. We are unwilling to compromise and accept things that are uncomfortable to us for the sake of others. That is the kind of thinking that the executives who thought it was OK to milk every dime out of this nation’s economy so that it could all go to the super-rich have had for years. It is that kind of thought that allows them to accomplish what has been the economic rape of this nation.

We live in the time of Louis XIV; we just don’t know it. The balance of personal wealth hasn’t been so skewed towards the wealthy since that era. Even the robber barons had the sense to preserve the middle class; the super-rich of our era are relentlessly making dinosaurs of that social stratum. It is conceivable that our current wage slavery will become so severe that we become literal slaves, making only enough to survive and unable to leave our jobs or do anything for fear of being fired.

The riots in Britain are symptomatic of the growing unrest in the lower classes. People are feeling pushed against the wall; people who are desperate and have nothing to lose will turn to violence. That happened in Egypt and Libya and in Britain. The writing is definitely on the wall. If things continue to deteriorate here, I can’t imagine that we won’t start to see rioting here and bloodshed.

Those who have power and wealth live in fear of losing it. Those who are greedy with both face the consequence that if they push the people too far, the people will eventually push back. It is a lesson that the rich haven’t learned in 2,000 years and happens in nearly every society periodically – it just hasn’t happened here. Yet.

But it will if we’re not careful. Those who sit at the top of the ladder have the furthest to fall. If they aren’t willing to compromise, if they aren’t willing to allow the rest of us to live our lives in peace. The lesson of history is one that those who only have room in their heads and their hearts for greed seldom learn.