Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Dog is My Co-Pilot

Katie and I were discussing what we'd like to draw on our Christmas cards. A Christmas tree! Santa! A snowman! A star!

"A baby Jesus in a manger!" I suggested.

"What's dat?"

"Jesus' mommy gave birth to him in a stable with all the animals around, and she placed him inside a box called a 'manger' which was used to store the animals' food."

"It's a good thing the animals didn't eat baby Jesus!"

I laughed. I didn't have the heart to say aloud what I thought, "Yes, but I bet Jesus ate them."

Or maybe not. I have no proof of what Jesus ate or didn't eat. I recall my mother telling me that Jesus' last meal before he was executed by the state consisted of bread and wine. Now I'm as much a fan of fresh, warm homemade bread as the next person. And a nice glass of wine among devoted friends, hells yeah. But for my last supper? I'd ask for something a little more substantial, like the veggie combo at my favorite local Ethiopian restaurant.

Although it looks like Jesus had connections since one of the Three Wise Men was probably Ethiopian, I don't think the veggie combo would travel well in the desert, so I can see why they brought gold, frankincense and myrrh instead. And why Jesus stuck with bread for his last supper. Who wants to be up all night with vomiting and diarrhea before saving humanity?

But just because he chose bread for his last meal doesn't prove Jesus was a vegetarian. Even though a big symbol of Christianity is the bread and wine, the body and blood of Christ, I'm pretty sure he dabbled in fish too, as is evident from the minivan bumpers driving around my suburban neighborhood. If nothing else, Jesus encouraged the eating of fish flesh when he fed the multitude.

I found this interesting article while I was doing some research to make sure I wasn't feeding Katie a line of bullshit about the whole baby Jesus in a manger story. It argues that Jesus probably wasn't a vegetarian. The weird thing is, Adolph Hitler probably was. Here's someone who sits at the opposite end of Jesus on the compassion spectrum, yet he followed perhaps a more compassionate diet.

Some say Hitler would wince and avert his eyes while watching movies with scenes of animal cruelty. This person who, because he viewed their cultural and religious differences to be so different from his own, oversaw the extermination of 6 million people who shared more DNA in common with him than the animals he could not bear to see suffer.

The creepy thing is I can kind of see his point. God, no. Not the murdering my fellow human beings or segregating groups of people and taking away their human rights based on prejudicial assumptions. But I find myself aghast when I encounter acts of cruelty against animals, and yet I've become rather blasé when the violence is directed against my own species. I was watching "Apocalypse: World War II" with my nephew and Will last night. It's a documentary with actual footage of the war. Gruesome, bloody, horrifying. Everything you'd expect to see.

Except for one scene which about did me in. The scene where Soviet soldiers line up and release their anti-tank dogs. These war dogs were specially trained to run under tanks, detonating the explosive devices attached to their bodies. Kamakazi dogs. Oh wait, I'm mixing up my sides. So let me get this straight? Soviet soldiers fought German tanks using German Shepherd dogs to perform suicide bombing acts similar to their Japanese Kamikaze enemies? Oh my, people are so mixed up.

But look:

Dogs are not mixed up. Which is why I love them so.

With dogs, their paws are muddy, but their morals are not. They bite their enemies, yes, but they're also loyal beyond compare. They'll lick your face and make you laugh, expecting nothing in return but to feel like they're a necessary part of your pack.

I'm a born-again dog lover, so my love for them is fierce and unswaying. I came into dog loving late in life, at age 30, when my girlfriend at the time convinced me to adopt a dog from the pound. We had a family dog when I was a kid, but he lived on a chain next to his dog house the first four years of his life. When we moved to a house with a fenced-in back yard, he at least got to run around outside, but still, rarely with us inside. People live inside. Animals live outside. Those were my dad's rules. He'd bend them slightly if I whined enough, "But Daddy it's sooooooo cold outside," I'd say with my nose pressed up to the sliding-glass door leading to our back yard. We could let the dog in the basement overnight if it was particularly cold, but never in the family room. Dogs are not family.

Yeah right. It's my house now, and when my dad visits I seldom tell them to get down when one of my dogs inevitably ends up sitting right next to Dad on the couch, leaning on him as if to say, "You may pet me now."

I love pack animals, and yet what I respect most about people like Jesus is their ability to get people to think critically and not follow the flock. A liberal Facebook friend of mine posted something about how he's sick of his conservative friends comparing President Obama to Hitler. It got us talking about Godwin's Law, which, because I had seen that documentary about anti-tank dogs, reminded me of the whole Hitler was a vegetarian thing.

As a flexitarian animal lover myself, I find it fascinating that the person modern humans tend to associate with pure evil was a flexitarian too. Actually he called himself a vegetarian, but it sounds like he liked his sausages and caviar a bit too much to abstain from meat entirely. It just baffles me that someone who so willingly promoted the genocide of fellow human beings would turn up his nose to eating animals.

This lead to another Facebook friend, a big Ron Paul supporter, asking, "What's evil?"

I personally think evil is an idea made up to control people into doing what they're told by people in power. I recommend reading Nietzsche's "Beyond Good an Evil". Very mind opening. But I'd better watch out or people will start comparing me to Hitler.

Conservative Friend went on about how US citizens who are deemed threats or sympathizers are subject to getting shot these days.

These days? Not just these days, all days. Shepherds are just as insecure as us sheep and they feel threatened when we don't blindly follow the herd. Just ask Jesus. People in power kill people for espousing radical ideas about loving your enemy.

And then my Facebook friends and I encountered Carleton's Law, the one that states that all good internet discussions must end on a k.d. lang note. In this case, I simply cannot think of herd mentality without this wonderfully goofy song getting stuck in my head. k.d. lang knows how to put it into perspective for us. Remember her? She's the one who got in trouble for her support of those pesky vegetarian proselytizers PETA.