Man’s beast friend

Friendly-looking dog. Picture taken about two minutes after event described in story.
Friendly-looking dog. Picture taken about two minutes after event described in story.

I’m gonna say something REALLY controversial here: large, powerful dogs are not safe pets in an urban area.

This dog and its owners were seated outside a coffee shop in my town. During the half-hour they were here, it gave the pavement a good washing-down with drool, but that wasn’t the interesting part.

During its visit, many people stopped by to greet the dog, pet it, and ask its owners questions. The dog was friendly to all of them, happy for the attention, right up until it wasn’t. A young woman in a dress greeted the dog, reached out to pet it just like six other people had, and suddenly it SNARLED AND SNAPPED AT HER. She dropped her book and jumped back, losing her balance; her boyfriend caught her.

The owners were shocked. “Are you OK?” (to her) “What the HELL?” (to the dog) “Why did he do that? Maybe he didn’t like her dress?” (To each other). They left right away.

Dogs are pack animals; they are deferential to the leader of their pack. Since that’s you, you might be inclined to think your animal is not capable of violence. Indeed the owners assured one person “He won’t bite!”

You might think you know when your dog will snap or bite, but you don’t. This dog had no obvious reason to snap at the young woman. It is probably true that a big dog is no more likely than a small one to bite without warning. But if it does bite, the big dog packs a much bigger punch. The result is like comparing a .357 magnum to a .22 short; there’s a lot more cleanup on aisle 3 if the animal happens to connect. And if that big dog decides to keep up the attack, are you really sure you can control it? Be realistic.


Josh Duggar and the sick, child-abusing Duggar cult

Why this awful post

This started out as a Facebook post, which no one liked and which received no comments. So either I missed the mark by a mile, or, really, none of my friends wants to talk about the Duggar cult. I’m posting a longer version here, because I wanted to focus on the awful effect of QuiverFull culture on growing children of both sexes. This IN NO WAY reduces the crime committed against the girls, but it means more people are responsible for it than just Josh Duggar.

Josh Duggar is an unapologetic rapist, isn’t he?

Yep. I don’t want to defend Josh Duggar, but I do want to put the spotlight on the cult that programmed his developing brain, and on the “responsible adults” who failed to act responsibly. They were, themselves, deluded by the cult to the extent that they wouldn’t get qualified help for their obviously disturbed teen (and no help at all for his victims). Then the kid grows up and positions himself as an avatar of morality, joining some very predictable company, and they’re only too happy to lap up the positive attention until it hits the fan.

We’ve learned a lot about how human brains develop*. If the family is screwed up, the kid will most likely be screwed up, and there aren’t many families more screwed up than the Duggars. Their kids are fed a steady diet of misogynistic lies from infancy. And not just your usual societal sexism-type lies. These are extra-strength, religious-fanatic lies with a side-helping of religious psychobabble lies. Washed down with truly weird family pathology and… media-fueled celebrity.

A more toxic family environment is difficult to imagine. If a kid’s parents added a little PbCO3 lead chromate to his breakfast every morning, we’d be a bit less likely to put all the behavioral blame on him alone.

Duggar defenders do make two valid points: a 14-year-old is not an adult*, and he hasn’t re-offended (other than his relentless focus on what a tragedy it all was for HIM never mind his victims. That’s gotta hurt.) But then they throw both those points out the window with their praise for the cult that spawned him. This is supposedly a model for America? For humanity, anywhere?

Summary: I would rather judge a culture than a person. Because no way is this limited to just one person. And yes, we do have do make judgments, because we have to make choices. We have to choose what culture to align ourselves with.


That’s (us) in the spotlight, losing our religion

jesus-trash-2A recent Pew survey says a lot of Americans now respond “None”. Of the 22% “unaffiliated” about 7 percent are “atheist” or “agnostic”.

Once upon a time, I might have thought that was a good thing. But it’s important to distinguish the baby from the bathwater.

The traditional distinction between “moderate” and “extreme” religion may not really be all that useful. There’s nothing moderate about pacifism, or faith-based economic justice, or faith-based environmentalism, and in a violent, polluted, capitalistic world, that’s all to the good.

A better distinction might be “pro-human” vs “anti-human”. Does a religion work for a world that humans can live in? Or does it look with eager anticipation to the apocalypse, in favor of a mythical new world? Religious oppression  often finds its support in the notion that this world is bad, and the mythical eternity is good.

I’m not that keen on “faith”, but I do like “community”. It’s fashionable to say that religion does community very well, though religion’s track record of inclusiveness isn’t anything to write home about. The tendency to exclude people who are “not like us” is a human trait, which emerges in any endeavor, including religion. You can find evidence of human cussedness among the non-religious. The atheist community has its share of anti-feminists, social Darwinists (which has nothing to do with Charles Darwin or evolution), and outright racists.

No external philosophical marker that I have found confers decency and community on the people who claim it. Individuals decide to include their fellow humans, or not, in the circle of community. This goes for Christians, for Muslims, for atheists, and for all I know, probably stamp collectors.

How easy it is to be surrounded by people who are just like us! The comfort of social homogeneity is a trap: it leads us to think in terms of “us” and “them”. We should be choosing our enemies more carefully than that.