Michael Vick's Dogs and Mass Murder in Baghdad

The New York Times has a story about the rehabilitation of Michael Vick's fighting dogs. Casual readers are strongly cautioned that the story includes explicit descriptions of Vick's cruelty to animals. Television coverage was uncharacteristically discreet about what, exactly, was done to these dogs. Let's just say that Vick and his accomplices deserve to be in prison, though whether prisons cure or incubate savagery is a topic for another day.

My tougher but tender-hearted friends will want to read he story for the patience and kindness shown by the people who are caring for the dogs and trying to rehabilitate them. The dogs, as always, inspire me because of their ability to learn tenderness once their torment is removed. As Whitman observed, "they do not sweat and whine about their condition"; a dog or a cat missing an eye or a leg can become as cheerful and un-self conscious as the most complacent show dog.

I have known a rescue animal who became, with care, as bold and cheerful as any fictional Tiny Tim or Smike, who did her best-- with crippled feet that must have hurt-- to leap with joy in her own modest way, to walk tall with giants as if nothing could ever hurt her again. I knew a cat who had been used as a football by cruel boys who was a trusting and affectionate pet, though never quite secure enough to be picked up without coaxing. These small souls teach me stoicism in a way that Marcus Aurelius never could.

Friday, two women wearing explosive vests were used to murder at least 100 people in two Baghdad pet markets, places dedicated to the gentler side of humanity. It is not enough, apparently, that the killer apes go off in the bushes and kill each other; they feel justified in forcing their sorrow on others. Places like the pet market are called "soft targets", because those are the places where you can inflict the most damage on undefended, happy people.

To the happy warrior, this seems counter-intuitive-- the cause would be better served by targeting the people directly responsible for our suffering, though they tend to be surrounded by bodyguards, barbed wire and presidential palaces. These are called "hard targets", and sadly, they tend to die in bed.

The terrorist's dream is that suffering and chaos in undefended places will result in more government control, which will inspire the people to rebel against their repressive governments. In this, al-Qaeda played Bush and the US Congress like a cheap ukelele. We have a panicked government that embraces torture, air strikes and the invasion of privacy and kisses the hand that takes its freedom.

For antidote, the same issue contains an article on Animal Planet's Super Bowl Puppy Bowl (with the traditional kitten half-time show).

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