There’s a little girl who lives next door to me, about 5, and fully capable of walking and talking and waving to me on occasion, which is always mind-blowing because I remember her family moving in prior to her existence.
The family is, I guess, a good one, at least in the traditional American sense. They have a yard with nice grass and a back deck, an easy southern drawl on the rare occasions I hear them speak. They play country music on the radio on the weekend, host some sort of church get-together on Wednesday nights. They possess a comfortable façade of Americana, which I’m sure I could peel back quite easily, revealing a healthy amount of sordidness, but I won’t.
They also have the meanest dog I’ve ever met.
He’s a Boston Terrier, a breed second only to the pug in its tenacious ugliness. He despises me even more than he despises the rest of the world; whenever we’re outside together, he runs to the edge of his yard and threatens me in every way he can. He once chased a garbage man up a brick mailbox.
But today, as I tried to relax in my backyard, swinging languidly in my Hammock of Death–long story–I became aware of the little girl next door.
“That’s MY soccer ball,” I heard her say to someone in an imperious voice that sounded suspiciously like my own. “That’s not YOUR soccer ball!”
I realized she was talking to the dog, and looked up just in time to see her pick him up, pull him to her, and lug him from one end of her yard to the other.
The weirdest thing was that the dog wasn’t angry, snarling, incensed as he is at the very sight of me. He was docile, even a little nonplussed — ho-hum, my girl is picking me up again, what a blessing I don’t have to walk.
And it got me thinking: What may be a hideously mean and ugly attack dog to one person may be somebody else’s puppy. Once this thought entered my head, of course, it rolled around and marinated itself, seemingly at random, with other thoughts from earlier in the week.
Wednesday, I made the mistake of watching the 10 o’clock news, and caught a sad local interest story. You know the one I mean, it runs on local stations everywhere now. A hometown boy who graduated from the same high school as your boss’ son, knows all the good places to eat, like you, not like the college students who aren’t from here and think they know everything even though they never leave downtown. He became a marine, and now he’s dead, mortar shell or something to the heart. And he was only 21 years old, and he left behind a wife and baby.
I’ve never really been anti-war, not that I’m intent on “staying the course” or anything either. I figure that I don’t know anything about fighting a war, or even the middle east, and I try, as a rule, not to wax rhapsodic on topics I can’t discuss with some degree of education. So I’m not going to really have an anti-war moment now.
I’m kind of with A.J. Soprano on this one — he’s been studying the middle east conflict this season. While not assigning blame, he’s wondering: How can you not be depressed? How can you wake up in the morning knowing that all this is going on in the world and keep going day after day?
What the hell is wrong with us (and here I mean ALL of us, the human race at large) that we can justify taking someone else’s life? Is oil a reason? Is the fact that we disagree on what (imaginary) sentient being controls the universe a reason? What kind of bullshit reasons are those? When you get right down to it, is anything an excuse? Is there ever a good enough reason to take a life for a principle, to look at a person in front of you, and forget that maybe he’s someone’s husband? Someone’s child? Someone’s father?
Hell. He could even be somebody’s puppy.