Where I Attempt to Explain Humanity to a Dog

Mimsy is only truly content when she knows her humans are nearby. She doesn’t feel the need to be right next to you, she’s not a velcro dog but wants to know that you are nearby. Mimsy is a Japanese Chin. They were bred to be companion dogs and Mimsy is true to breed.

My daughter was gifted an Australian Shepherd puppy. The dog was beautiful and smart, but my daughter had to find a new home for it because it kept trying to herd the kids by nipping at their heels. This dog had never seen a sheep and I’m willing to bet that you would have to go back generations and generation in this dog’s linage to find an ancestor who actually herded sheep, yet she was hard-wired to herd. She was true to breed.

Humans don’t come in breeds. We come in different sizes, colors, and shapes, but we don’t come in breeds, we are not hard-wired to any behavior. Instead, we are given this terrifying thing called free will. We can be taught behaviors and attitudes directly and by example, but we have the choice to keep or abandon those behaviors and attitudes. There are individuals who were taught to be racist and intolerant, but have abandoned those attitudes and chosen to be tolerant and loving. It works the other way also. You may have been taught to be generous and caring, but make the decision to be selfish and self-centered.

We humans have a tremendous range in which we can operate, we float between angels and demons. No one is 100% good or 100% evil, but history provides examples of those who have gotten pretty close to either extreme. We have examples of those who have sacrificed their lives to save others and examples of those who have destroyed lives with no thought given to their victims.

Every day we are provided opportunities and scenarios, interactions with other travelers where we make decisions which direction on that angel-demon scale we want to move. Most of us will never come close to either extreme, but there is a lot of latitude in which to engage. We can respond to a sleight or insult with equal rudeness or choose to offer forgiveness and care.

Terriers were bred to hunt and chase vermin, they are true to breed. If I see an Airdale terrier, with good accuracy I can predict how that dog will respond if a rabbit runs across its path. I can identify most dog breeds on sight and knowing the characteristics of that breed can make predictions on how that dog will respond to certain situations.

Since humans don’t come in breeds, I can’t predict any potential behaviors based on how someone looks. I have to get to know them. After time spent with them, I may discover that they are much closer to the angel side of things than I am, or I may discover the converse, but I can’t tell on sight.

In the beginning, God made one version of humans and we are still on 1.0, you will find no examples of people operating on Humanity 2.0 or even 1.3, we are all equal and operating on the original software, no one has gotten an upgrade that others haven’t. Some of us are smarter or dumber than others. Some are more caring and giving than others. Some are crueler than others, but in God’s eyes, we are all equal and all his children. I would be well served if I could get to the point where my first thought, upon seeing a fellow human, is to think, “Oh look, another child of God.”

Mimsy quivers with excitement when she sees someone coming toward us on our walks. Bred as a companion dog, Mimsy loves everyone she sees and assumes that they will return that feeling in kind. I can’t explain to Mimsy the complexity of humanity. I can’t explain that while most people will pet her and tell her how pretty she is, there will be others who will view her as a dirty animal, a carrier of germs and dander.  I can’t explain to Mimsy, though as small as she is, there will be people genuinely afraid of her.

I can’t explain humanity to Mimsy and in truth, I don’t understand us myself.

Poppy

 

Remembering Maurice

Mimsy and I went for walk tonight. There was nothing unusual about that, it’s a daily occurrence. Tonight though there was an abundance of thunder and lightning, but very little rain. A big production, lots of special effects, but at the end, nothing of substance. Shakespeare said it best in Macbeth, “sound and fury, Signifying nothing”. Lots of commotion, but very little good came of it.

Tonight in St. Louis we have another round of protests over the not guilty verdict of officer Jason Stockley in the 2011 death of Anthony Lamar Smith, a heroin dealer who was fleeing the police. I’m not here to pass judgement, I don’t know what happened. There are only two people, only one of which is alive, who knew the details of what transpired.

As a 30 year resident of Ferguson, Missouri, this brings back a lot of painful memories. It also brings back memories of Maurice, whom I wrote about in, “Having Skin in the Game.”

Maurice was a young black man who I had the privilege of knowing for a  few moments. The intersection of our lives was brief and I’m pretty sure, I’ve thought about him more than he’s thought about me. When he told me what high school he was entering, I knew what part of town he lived in. I knew the odds weren’t in his favor. Maurice is now at an age to be looking for a job. I wonder if those protesters that are hoping the kill the economy of St. Louis are thinking about Maurice. Are they concerned that Maurice has never been taught how to fill out a job application? Are they concerned that Maurice is more likely to be killed in a drive by shooting than any other cause of death in his part of town?

Whether Anthony Lamar Smith was innocent, I don’t know. I do know that Maurice and others like him are truly innocent. Where is the outrage for the Maurice’s of St. Louis who are trapped in a cycle of poverty? Where are the protests that address the lack of basic life skills being taught to Maurice. Where is the acknowledgement that our economy has changed and that good paying blue-collar jobs are rare? Where is the acknowledgement that Maurice has little opportunity? Where is the national/state/city/individual will to change this?

Protesting is easy, posting on social media is easy, being politically correct is easy, and I’m as guilty as anyone.

Do we have the will to have painfully honest discussions on race? Can we accept that there is enough blame to go around on all sides? Do we really want to solve this?

Mimsy and I head back home, the thunder is crashing, the lightning flashes, but we are barely damp.