Monday, July 05, 2004

Human Cruelty: the failure of violence as a punishment

O Great Mother, from where does our desire to do such cruelty come?

Last night being the 4th of July, and this being Texas, a lot of fireworks were being shot off illegally in our neighborhood. This sent our poor dog, Buzz (we adopted him from the shelter with that name) into a frenzy of barking and shaking. Buzz was about a year and a half old when we adopted him and we did not have an insight into how badly he was mistreated when we got him. He was terrified of white men with deep voices, of big trucks and any sudden noise that remotely sounded like a gunshot.

We learned that his mother had been shot and killed.

I owe Buzz some serious living amends. I was still drinking when we adopted him and he had to endure Andy’s hellish last year of drunken insanity followed by a very difficult and rocky year in sobriety. Things still are not perfect. In fact, back at the start of this blog I wrote about losing my temper with him (link) and hitting him for no real reason—and the shame and self-hatred I felt for doing so.

Yes, I owe Buzz some huge living amends. I have to do my best, one day at a time, to keep trying to be a good member of the pack. What is amazing to me is that he adores me. I do not know how much is instinct, how much is simply acknowledging me as the alpha, but Buzz watches me with those big brown eyes of his and comes over and leans against me. He grooms me as best he can, and I tolerate it as best I can; he’s doing his part for the pack, it’s not his fault that I am human and have bad manners.

Buzz is a great dog.

So anyway, I saw on that in Oklahoma someone found a bunch of dead puppies and a badly, badly burnt adult dog. It appears that kids put live fireworks in the mouths of the puppies and used an adult dog as a target for roman candles.

My initial reaction to that if those kids are caught, they should be doused in gasoline and set alight.

That is not a solution. That is an angry, irrational response to an inhuman crime. This is the beauty and the failure of our legal system—we don’t allow vengeance but we also remove the idea of swift justice.

I have learned over the years that people who torture and kill animals are often practicing. They have not yet developed the courage to go after human beings. So they are hurting animals as a step along the way to hurting people. This is not true in all cases.

In my adolescence I was exceedingly cruel to animals as well. I am not so different from those children as I would like to think.

So what do we do with children like this? How do we redeem them, if they can be redeemed? How do we teach empathy and compassion?

Goddess, it would be so much easier to determine that these kids are simply broken beyond repair, kill them as a consequence of their actions, as an acknowledgement that we, as a society, cannot fix them and as a warning to others who might do the same thing. But killing is violence and violence never heals. The families of those kids would be more broken than before and more pain and suffering would be the consequence. If I want an illustration of how this works, I have a variety of places and examples to look at, but Isreal and the Palestinians is the most consistently illustrative of the principle that violence, whether personal or state sponsored, begats violence.

Somehow, with Your aid, people loved me when I was unlovable, taught me when I was unteachable and led me to a new way of life. In order to do that, I had to be broken—shattered by addiction. I had to completely lose faith in self to gain faith in You, to trust You. I had to be honest, willing and open minded, and not perfect at any of those. Just willing enough to do the best that I could at all of them. That opened the door, so that I could invite You in.

What are the rewards? Well, even as I am typing, my wife has started to vacuum the hall. Buzz, who hates the vacuum has come to be petted and lay at my feet. What greater reward could I ask for? Is there even a greater reward out there?

My job is to carry the message. What message? That there is a better way.

Good Morning Goddess Brigit, I can see your beautiful sun through the blinds. My name is Andy and I am an alcoholic. You gave me the gift of sobriety on Imbolc of 2001 and I have been trying to be worth of it ever since. I am grateful for that gift. Today is a good day to be sober.

Please, Goddess of Poetry, Healing and Smithcraft, be with me today, all through the day and help me to stay sober all day long. Show me Your will for me and grant me the power to carry that out. Thy will, not mine be done! Inspire me to act and create in Your name. Be welcome in me and to me: body, heart, mind and soul.

Adjuva Brigitta! Thank You! Blessed Be!