It’s been a wonderful and strange week in this world, hasn’t it? The US government’s still shut down. In the UK, legislation was passed to make landlords, banks and GPs participate in the xenophobic witch hunt called immigration control. And the Spirit Moose in Canada was legally killed by non-indigenous hunters.
Then Alice Munro won the Nobel Prize. We chuckled over David Gilmour showing his narrow minded ass. The White Hats win and they’re worn by women. Canadian women. If Munro had been gay and Chinese, I would’ve gone back to church. Having said that, it’s here where we move a little too close to the self-destruct edge.
Let me tell you about a cat. Stray Eddie. A pot bellied, one eyed, scrofulous, geriatric stray with hair like an American opossum. In other words, icky. We very kindly brought him into our home where he promptly savaged the Butler, terrorised the much smaller females, urinated in all the wrong places, jumped up on the table during meals with the expectation he could eat from our plates.
What an ingrate. He had to go. The Butler rang round and was told by cat rescues that the only solution was euthanasia. Okay, our home had been taken over by the North Yorkshire Monster, but euthanasia? You do know what that means. Kill the monster. Kill. The. Monster.
We weren’t going to do that. Fortunately, our vet explained cat behaviour to us and we realised we’d been making Stray Eddie more and more stressed out. Here we had an elderly cat with a collar mark still in his fur who apparently had never been let outside and seems to’ve lived alone with one person who treated him like a human companion. Now he’s been turfed out only to find shelter where he's under siege by other cats and the new humans have no manners. On the plus side, he seemed to like the Big Nosed Dog.
So we’ve implemented the vet’s attitude adjustment plan (to the humans) and immediately, things’ve calmed down. The cats aren’t merrily skipping round a May Pole, but the reign of terror is over. Stray Eddie and our calico are in the kitchen together watching birds as I write. I’m certain they still hate each other, but you can’t have everything.
The same tactics apply to the human world. In his interview, Jon Stewart asked Malala how she reacted to learning that she’d become a Taliban target. She said her first thought was that she’d take a shoe and defend herself. Then she thought, if she used violence, she’d be no different than her attackers. She decided that she would tell them how important education was – for their children, too – and then say, ‘Now do what you want.’
I doubt she had time for dialogue before she was shot. However, even after the attempt on her life, she believes that we can only bring change through dialogue and peace. How wow is that?
We have the power to be wow, too. Or to be Monsters to someone else. Writers tweet, blog, express more succinctly and thus more convincingly than most. Therein lies the strength and the danger. We can be the GOP holding an entire nation hostage – not just Democrats but children, cancer patients, veterans, the elderly – or we can be Malalas who put down our weapons and recognise the humanity in each other.
Today is National Coming Out Day. Today there will be children as young as Malala and adults as old as myself who take that step, who hope they will be met with dialogue rather than weapons. Some lives won’t survive today. But the reason the possibility exists for a Coming Out Day is because of the belief that dialogue and communication can win out over weapons and hatred. When they do, it takes our breath away.
My hand is up to say I’m guilty of all sorts of –isms. I know they’re more naughty fun than being Malala. But you and I are the communicators. We have a huge responsibility to do no harm. After you’ve been shot, after someone kills your Spirit Moose, after the opposition passes a bill you dislike, don’t pick up a gun, don’t shut down the government, don’t kill the monster. Don’t deride, don’t ridicule, don’t alienate.