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Ruminations of a Feisty Old Quaker

Of Cat Poop and Politics

We have two cats who graciously permit us to live with them. One, Rosie, is a Siamese-tortoiseshell mix with short, smooth fur; the other, Maggie, is a Norwegian forest cat with long, shaggy fur. Shaggy Maggie. The length of Maggie's fur is particularly striking in the muff around her neck - a characteristic of that breed - but it actually grows long all over her body. Unfortunately, that includes her rear end, where it occasionally intercepts poop on its way to the litter box. This causes Maggie to leave little brown smears on anything she sits down on, and her humans have to catch her, hold her down (she hates this process), and clean or snip the offending matter away.


Maggie also likes to sleep with us, raising the problem of what to do about the bed if she gets on it in one of her poopy states. In the daytime, it is relatively simple: we cover the bed with a sheet, which is easily removed and washed if it gets brown stains on it. Night is a different problem. Most of the bed can still be under a sheet, but the pillows must remain free, as they have our heads on them. Unfortunately, the pillows are Maggie's favorite part of the bed. So when Maggie joins us in the middle of the night - she does this almost every night - we have to wake ourselves far enough to prevent her from trying to lie down on the pillows between our heads, in case she is carrying extra, messy, baggage. This requires physical blockage of her route with our hands, plus several increasingly emphatic repetitions of the word "No" (she understands the word, she just doesn't like it) before she gives up and settles down between us on the sheet protecting the comforter. And sulks. Sometimes she sulks into the next day. Her small cat mind apparently cannot grasp the concept of having her behavior controlled in order to protect her humans: to her, it is simply her humans trying to restrict her freedom.


Sound familiar?


Far too many humans can't grasp the concept of accepting controls on our own behavior in order to protect others, either. Rules which do that are too often seen simply as restrictions on our freedom. That's a bad enough problem by itself, but it's made worse by disagreements over which types of freedom are necessary and which aren't - disagreements which are usually fueled more by likes or fears than they are by ethics or logic. Guns and abortion are obvious examples: though there is no clear causal pattern for this, those who demand restrictions in relation to one of that pair are almost always the same as the ones who complain most vehemently about loss of freedom in relation to the other. The definition of "freedom" each side uses obviously depends largely on what is being freed. That's an extreme case, but it's not the only one. A few more examples: those who lean on free speech rights to protect books about gay people in school libraries are rarely the same as those who lean on the same rights to protect racist rants; those who think businesses should be free to choose which customers they will serve on the basis of their gender relationships often complain loudly about other businesses which choose their suppliers on the basis of their reliance on the use of child labor or fossil fuels; and those who want to defund the police can easily get into a shouting match with those who want to defund the enforcement arm of the IRS. Loggers and environmentalists both commonly complain about rules governing what goes on in the woods, but the rules they complain about are usually complete opposites of each other.


We could all gain from a little tolerance for those who think, or act, or look, or love, differently than us. We should all be willing to accept a few rules we don't like in order to gain the benefit of those rules which we do.


America was founded on two very simple principles. The first is majority rule: the policies of a government should match what the majority of its citizens want, rather than just what those in power want. And the second, which is really a corallary of the first, is equality under the law: people you don't like have the same rights that you do. These are practical principles as well as an ethical ones. Over time, a majority may become a minority: for its own future protection, today's majority should always rule in ways which make sure that today's minority's rights are respected in the same manner as they will want theirs protected when and if the switch comes. This means protecting the freedoms of others as well as yourself, and accepting restrictions on yourself as well as placing them on others. If you're having trouble conceptualizing that, let me give you a simple , two-word mantra to go by.


Cat poop.

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