Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Tardy vs. the Middle East

At one time I had a cat named Tardy.  Born 36 hours (to the minute!) after his littermates, his name suggested itself.  Of that litter, he was the one that we decided to keep, and keep, and keep.  We had Tardy for about fifteen years, and he was one of the most personable cats I've ever had.

Toward the end of his life, Tardy had become the grand old man of the house, disdainfully suffering the presence of a younger, rowdier Maine Coon named Simon, and an American Shorthair named Bonnie.  Eventually Bonnie found another home, but Simon was a good fit.  Where Tardy was an affably dense neutron star, Simon could be downright foolish.  But Simon was highly affectionate, intelligent under the right circumstances, and playful.

At the same time, we also had other pets.  We had mice - still do - a hutch full of sugar gliders, and below them, a hutch with a rabbit.

This was our second rabbit.  The first one had come to us as a castoff from a neighbor, clearly someone who had gotten smart.  We took that first one and kept him for a while, but he presently died of old age.  This new rabbit, Baggins Bunny, we got as a kit, a tiny little bundle of fluff and ears.  I would hold her in my lap, turn her over on her back and pet her between the eyes until she fell asleep.  When she was little, she was awfully cute, and I liked her.

Too many things don't stay cute.  Baggins got bigger.  Turned out of her hutch to wander the house and play, she would tussle with Simon, who would tussle back.  Baggins got aggressive and started really chasing Simon, biting and chasing and biting some more.  Eventually Simon would remember he could leap onto furniture, which Baggins couldn't, and escape her clutches.  One evening we found a wad of bloody hair and paw prints and went through the house looking for what we knew would be whatever was left of Baggins.

Not so.  Simon bore deep, bloody claw marks in his belly.  Evidently he had landed on top of Baggins and for some reason imagined himself the winner of this chase.  Baggins had flipped over and pumped her hind legs in that way you sometimes see rabbits do.  Simon walked a little spraddle-legged for a while after that.

The chasing went on.  Tardy would observe it with disdain as he always did.  At about fourteen years of age, Tardy's chasing days were pretty much done, but he still had the occasional burst of energy in him.  He could chase, he liked to wrestle once in a while.  Mostly he sat in my lap and slept, purring.  He was very good, and I still miss him.

Baggins tore through the dining room, hot on Simon's heels.  But wait! there's another cat!  Rather than try to chase down and nip the running one, Baggins opted to run over to the sitting one and nip at him.

WHAM.  I count it among my lucky happenstances to have been there to see it.  Nip, and Tardy was suddenly not fourteen years old, graying at the muzzle and slow of step.  He was the alpha male, the ranking predator in the household, and righteously outraged.

When Baggins sunk her teeth into his haunch, Tardy whipped around in a fine reenactment of his younger days, and batted Baggins clear across the dining room.  If he'd been a prize fighter, the blow would have been a stunning left handed haymaker.  Baggins bounced off the china cabinet, shook herself, and looked back at Tardy with dawning realization:

"That cat knows what he is."  Which is to say, an eater of rabbits.  Tardy's history of eating all and sundry varmints at our previous house was impressive - some animals he brought down nearly weighed as much as himself.  And in that moment, Baggins remembered what she was: prey.

Baggins made fast tracks back to her hutch and stayed there for the rest of the day.  We didn't shut the door on her, but she didn't come out, either.  She never got within ten feet of Tardy again.  She probably need not have worried but as life lessons go, it was a good one.

I look to the Middle East, at Al-Qaida and the Taliban, and I wonder - they bit us on the ass.  A few buildings here, a few airplanes there.  We've smacked them clean across the dining room.

Militarily, the United States retains the destructive power to render the Middle East utterly lifeless.  You thought a lot of that land was barrennow, you have no idea how barren it could become.  Having felt the biting varmints, we've swatted them back.

The United States finds itself in a difficult place.  The easiest thing to do, as far as threats are concerned, would be to utterly destroy each and every member of those factions.  Just crush them into powder.  Easy, I say, because having made the commitment to destroy them, you just blanket their domains with whatever destructive force you want to bring to bear.  Mission accomplished.

But that's the easy part.  Bombers, missiles, offshore strikes.  No, the hard part is mercy.  Coming from a position of religious equality, of human equality, the US's ideals are to honor the sovereignty of each and every human life, whatever its views.  Raise arms against us and take warring action, we strike you down but first we have to winnow you out from everyone around you.  They didn't raise arms.  We don't have anything against those other folks.  It's a particularly nasty sort of war, insurgents and rebels and whatnot, striking against Americans, then hiding among civilians.

You know those scenes in movies, where the bad guy holds an innocent bystander in front of him so the cops won't blow him away.  That's where we find ourselves.  We're the cops, trying to blow away the bad guys.  The bad guys are holding their own compatriots hostage, knives to their necks, bodies before our guns.  And we, being the good guys, lower our guns.  The chase goes on.  Bad guys live to strike again, and again, and again.  They take down our military forces, they take down their own neighbors.  Then they go hide some more.

They don't have the good sense God gave a rabbit.  WHAM and she never got near him again.  Didn't even threaten to do it.

We really do, as a nation, want to get along with everybody.  Stop fighting, stop biting us, and we'll stop knocking you into the china cabinet.  Don't force us to remind you who we are.


  1. It's also a good idea to let anyone in the house know that you are working on electrical items. I've had breakers flipped while holding live wires and it's definitely not fun.

  2. Well that comment was supposed to be on the blog about... well you can figure it out. Dang internetz.