Just spent some time reading an opinion piece in the New York Post from Matthew Bershadker of the ASPCA (American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals) entitled, "Why we can't forget Michael Vick's dog-fighting past," and comments about that post. <http://nypost.com/2014/03/26/why-we-cant-forget-michael-vicks-dog-fighting-past/>. This was generated by Michael Vick being signed to the New York Jets football team for a large sum of money.
Interesting points and emotional responses. Some commenters brought up race and offered examples of white men who received less punishment for raping or murdering people. Some brought up the hypocrisy of people who eat meat but decry abuse of dogs. Other commenters argued for second chances or wiping the slate clean after society's punishment is served. Still others wrote disparaging comments about the intelligence of those commenting.
But no one mentioned that cruelty to ANY being should not be acceptable.
So what started out as research on a post about Prevention of Cruelty to Animals month has taken a different turn. How do humans evolve to the point that cruelty of any kind against any being is not acceptable?
Is race a factor in our decisions? Pretty much anyone who has lived a few decades in this culture has some experiences where a person's color--or gender or religion or taste in clothing--did make a difference.
Do people accused of similar crimes receive different punishments? I've seen this over and over--and some people seem to get away with no punishment at all.
On the issue of hypocrisy, I have seen this up close in my family and, quite frankly, though I have moved away from eating meat, I still struggle to find an answer to the hypocrisy of feeding it to my dogs.
Then there is the multi-faceted issue of forgiveness, second chances, wiping the slate clean--whatever you want to call it. How can we know if someone else has truly changed or what is in their heart?
Which brings the focus back to ourselves. Wiser ones than me have said we can only know what is in our own hearts. That we can only make choices for ourselves. By doing that to the highest good we know and asking the Universe for guidance, we free others to do the same.
I also pondered the scope of what could be considered cruel. Physical torture, certainly. But how about "lesser" shades of cruelty such as unkind words that shake a person's confidence? Anger at another driver who dodges in and out of traffic? Ignoring someone who offers a gesture of friendship because we are busy?
Many of our every day interactions bring opportunities to not only prevent cruelty, but to offer kindness. Kinda changes the scope of things, doesn't it?
I'm still not completely comfortable with this free-falling, make-it-up-as-we-evolve type of living. I'd rather have a solid, "right" answer to everything. However, that hasn't necessarily brought the results I want in the past. So I'm taking a deep breath and putting one foot in front of the other. Or perhaps I just stepped off the abyss and am praying I learn to fly before I hit the bottom!
Until I fly or crash, April has broadened for me to be "Prevent Cruelty--Offer Kindness" month. Not just to animals, but to any being. Take my hand, Universe, I think I'm going to need a lot of guidance!