Saturday, November 04, 2006

Unknown suffering

If you knew that your next-door neighbors had cats, and realized they weren't home and then noticed an obituary, what would you do?

I know what I would do. I would call the police, ask for their help, and follow their directions. I wouldn't rest until I felt confident that someone who knew, cared, and had the authority to enter their house if necessary, was aware of the problem. Even then, I'd follow up in a day or two.

The thought of helpless animals starving or dying of thirst would weigh on me too much. I'd have to take action.

On the other hand, I've heard horror stories of people leaving an apartment, and leaving their pets locked in the apartment behind them. Now, it's bad enough to abandon pets outdoors; there are a lot more tragic endings to this than happy ones. But leaving an animal locked in a place where food will run out, and water will almost certain run out, with no further climate control, and no guarantee that anyone will notice the animals plight, is a lot worse.

And yet, it might be happening someplace near you right now. It could be happening next door. I live in a block of apartments, and there are twelve apartments in the same building. It's entirely possible that it's happening within twenty feet of where I'm sitting right now, and I wouldn't know.

That's the kind of thing that gives me nightmares... that something terrible could be happening, something I could, and should, do something about, without my knowing. What makes it a bit worse is that I don't even have a chance to feel bad about it. It's invisible; if it's happening right now, if a poor animal is suffering right now, I can't tell. It seems like it would be just a bit better if I knew, so I had a chance to do something. Even if my best efforts to help weren't enough, at least I could have tried.

Um. I guess you realize that my "pets locked in an apartment" is a metaphor, right? Because I can't imagine a situation where I couldn't get the police and the humane society to check things out if necessary.

Well, it is a metaphor for a lot of things.

Some 600,000 people have died in Iraq, people who probably would have lived if we hadn't invaded. People have acted as if it couldn't be true, because it's so horrible to contemplate that this could happen, and we wouldn't notice... but it did happen, and we didn't.

For a smaller issue, people are being held prisoner by the US in abominable conditions, conditions that would be considered cruel and unusual punishment if inflicted upon the most brutal convicted murderer in US history. These people have no rights to do so much as ask one of our courts to prove that there is cause to hold them.

If you've never suffered long term, intense isolation, with every aspect of your life controlled by nasty people with guns, you might not be able to imagine this... but it is horrible. Infants raised in such isolation die; adults live, but suffer. These people have only been accused, not tried, and not convicted, yet they suffer horribly, and it's happening right under our proverbial noses.

It's so easy to look away; just think of other, happier things. Assume that things couldn't be as terrible as they are in Iraq or someone would know, and that person would tell us. Assume that prisoners can't be treated so badly, not for accused terrorists, because someone would know, and that person would tell us. Think about, oh, I dunno, the economy. Bush just halved the deficit! Of course, he was supposed to have a half trillion dollar surplus this year, and instead halved the very deficit he created, but that proves that the economy is doing better than it was! Think of the good things going on!

And let people suffer, and die, quietly, without thinking about them.

No. Not an option.

Let me pound on my metaphor for a moment. Bush might be the person who put the pets in the apartments... but the Republican Congresscritters and Senators are the ones who locked the doors, and didn't bother to check. They haven't investigated; they won't investigate. They'll let the animals die. Ooops, I mean "the Iraqis and the prisoners". Or, then again, maybe I mean "the animals".

During hurricane Katrina, if I'd been able to perform rescue missions, I'd have rescued people, and if that meant letting some animals die, well, it'd hurt, but if I have no choice, people come first. If I had to, I'd shut out the suffering of the animals to help the people.

Has the Congress stepped up to help the people? No. They haven't investigated; they haven't taken control. They've given George W. Bush everything he asked for, and didn't just lock the apartment doors, they let Bush put up the equivalent of police tape, "do not enter, do not investigate".

It's time for a change. It's long past time for a change. We have to make the change, this Tuesday.

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