Monday, June 15, 2009

So How Does THAT Concern Me?

So many of us today would just like to live our lives in peace without having to fuss with anyone over property boundaries, the volume of the neighbor’s music, the color scheme the neighbor chose for his house and garage, the number of pets or children running amok among our flower beds, the little things like property taxes, the price of fuel, the price of food or medical services. No, those are not the most earth shattering things, but we really would like to be able to just ignore them and enjoy our favorite hobbies or otherwise be able to quietly go about our lives. But such is life that we are constantly brought up short by some ‘problem’ with a capital P.

One neighbor has caused property values to plummet by parking dilapidated cars all over his yard. So we ask the city offices to ‘do something’ about it. Another neighbor has decided to plow up his front yard and plant a garden of cotton, okra, and sunflowers. The neighborhood children have discovered they can hide there and throw things out at people passing on the sidewalks. Oh well. It is HIS yard and kids will be kids.

Some things are just not worth our concern. It is pointless to complain or worry if things will change in three months, a year, or two years. My favorite grandmother used to say that no one would know the difference in a few years anyway. And that is so true of many things that irritate or otherwise grate on our nerves. But some things do actually matter now—and will matter in years to come.

Animal abuse has probably been around in some form since mankind discovered his ability to chain them up or even eat them. But seeing abuse of animals hurts the spirit of those who can make a difference. So, that is one concern that can and should be addressed by everyone. But is child abuse? Our youngest son reminded me of an incident that happened when he was little. He wanted a toy while we were at the grocery store and I said we could not do that. He threw a hissy fit and got an immediate response from me—a paddling right then and there in the grocery aisle. If I had done such a thing today, I might have been arrested for child abuse!

Animals and small children need to be corrected immediately to help them associate the behavior with the response. The response does not have to be terrifically painful, just definitely unpleasant. Just as we give rewards immediately for good behavior, we have to be able to respond to wrong behavior immediately. A good parent doesn’t just ignore bad behavior.

Somehow I feel a bit like a neglectful parent when I see our government running amok among our civil rights. But I will be dipped in kerosene for fleas if I can figure out exactly how to ‘correct’ our government’s behavior. Voting or not voting doesn’t seem to make a whole lot of difference these days—if it ever did. I can remember that our city government planned years ago to build a convention center and events complex. The citizens of our fair city voted it down numerous times, but somehow it managed to slip in there on a ballot and get built anyway. Now a convention center might be a pretty expensive item for a fairly small city like ours, but some of the ‘items’ on our government’s list are so big that they defy imagination. Three commas in a figure just about top my ability to imagine an amount.

Even if the government were not spending as freely as a child who stole his brother’s piggy bank and found his way to the candy store, something about the way things are being done—even in the open and semi-above board—makes me suspect that citizen rights are far from being of first consideration these days. Oh, I have already written to the Texas governor about Bill 1440 that gives Child Protective Services the right to invade and kidnap our children just like a SWAT team on a mission. But what about government agencies that MAKE money off of taking away citizen rights? Whether it is the local drug enforcement people who decide we MIGHT be druggies or CPS who think we are too strict with our children, who gives these people the right to force their way into private homes?

Today we saw that the government has decided to tax 25 percent of the cost of business cell phone use because they have somehow decided that the normal person (?) uses a business phone for personal use about 25 percent of the time. Now, when will the government decide it can tax my playing Farm Town because it is an unnecessary addiction similar to alcoholism? Makes sense to me! Being concerned somehow is just not enough when civil rights violations are so ubiquitous and so idiotic. Some things were never meant to be taxed. Some rights (ownership, privacy, and self-defense) were never meant to be seized.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Unto the Least of These


No, animals are not our brothers in the sense that they are not born of men; but we share this earth with them, and in many respects, share the same fate.  What happens to them eventually happens to us in ways we might not even consider.  If we poison our planet, we poison life that is sustained by the planet.  If we show little regard for the small creatures of this place we call home, can our disregard of life not quickly extend to the lives of people as well? 


Today our neighbor’s daughter took four little kittens to the animal control facility.  When she spoke to me about it, she said that she regretted having to do it, but the kittens were ‘feral’ and unhealthy.  No one had ever taken the time to show any attention to the mother cat, so the kittens’ relationship with humans consisted of staying just out of reach.  The kittens were undoubtedly euthanized this morning shortly after their arrival at animal control.


Each day thousands of kittens, puppies, cats, dogs, and assorted critters are killed one way or the other.  We have agencies that try to prevent cruelty to any animal, but the fact is that the animals are in an overwhelming majority.  Even if every family in America took in two dogs and cats today, thousands would still be out there roaming the streets and alleys.  And the outlook for their survival—much less their healthy existence—is pretty dismal.


Horses were once the treasure and pride of kings.  Today it almost takes a king’s financial backing in order to keep a horse.  So what happens to the thousands that are not in stables and beautiful green pastures?  They die of neglect.  It is just that simple.  An animal that carries its pride in its head and flying mane can become a bedraggled carcass just as quickly as the dogs and cats roaming the streets unless someone cares for it.


Now the little child that roams the streets is no different than an animal—and almost as dangerous.  It may grow up to become a vicious killer.  It needs loving care, attention, and someone to teach it—to tame it.  The child may belong to a neighbor, but we pay attention if we want to reach out to tame a little heart.  We teach by example.  The child sees how we treat our cat, our dog, and our neighbors.  And the child becomes tame.


None of us can prevent abuse or neglect of all the animals.  And none of us will ever overcome the crises of child abuse in this world.  But each of us can take responsibility where we can, in whatever way we can.  One kitten, one old dog, one little boy at a time can be loved.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Things Remembered

One summer spent in Arkansas gave me memories of fireflies that can’t be reproduced for the grandchildren. Oh, Arkansas is still there even if the farm has long since been sold and the grandparents gone to glory. But the summer nights were special for a particular reason. Granddad Kennedy didn’t believe in lighting up the entire farm with those night lights up on huge electric poles. Certainly the chicken houses were well lit, but the front lawn and the horse trap out in front of the barn were pools of darkness lined by huge trees. And they sparkled at night with the flashing of fireflies.

In Texas it always seemed to be too dry to think about fireflies, but northwest Arkansas was almost juicy with moisture. The fireflies seemed to like it, anyway. We would catch them—probably mostly males—and put some in a jar for a while before we turned them loose. They could never have produced enough light to show a path or anything of that nature, but they were purely fun to catch and imagine as our own personal lanterns.

Years ago our children were able to catch some fireflies out in the backyard or down toward the lake on the Fenoglio’s lawn. Mrs. Fenoglio found their attempts as amusing as we did and let them run around all over her hill. And the fireflies were great fun to chase. But something has happened to the fireflies. At first I thought it might have something to do with the spraying for the mosquitoes that has caused them to disappear. But a little research has given me more things to consider.

According to an Associated Press article, fireflies have declined as much as 70 percent in some areas. Part of the reason is due to loss of habitat—housing projects built in creek beds. Part of the loss is due to lights—yes, lights. Fireflies need darkness to find their mates. Well, duh. That makes sense. But if one of these huge, oversized, overpriced houses has 32 big lights shining to show off its ostentatiousness, then the firefly doesn’t have a chance to be even a tiny bit of a showoff for his potential mate. If insects like the firefly don’t mate, we lose another species.

Ok, so the loss of one species of firefly out of 2,000 may not sound like a big deal in the overall picture of the insect world. It only matters if one is a member of that species, I suppose. But if we are so callous as to ignore our responsibility to the survival of the smallest things, what does that say about our stewardship of the larger things of life?

Oh, and I plan to find a book to explain fireflies to the grandchildren. Otherwise they may never have any idea of what they have missed.