I don’t remember much of my first 10 years, spent in a little white house with black trim on the corner of the block in a little town in central Texas. I remember helping to scrape the house every year when Dad mobilized his junior army of painters–my six siblings and I–to freshen the trim. I remember all of us, at some point, being banished to the back yard to pull weeds as punishment for one transgression or another. I remember hordes of scab-kneed, sunburned children massing in the street for hours-long games of dodgeball, scattering for the occasional car bringing its owner home from work.
I remember walking to and from school, waiting for the day that a pomegranate growing on the other side of some unknown neighbor’s fence got big enough and red enough and close enough . . . just a little closer . . . to snag it and break open the rough skin to get at the ruby sweet inside.
And I remember dogs.
Our “backdoor neighbor” had two big lanky dogs–they might have been greyhounds, for all I know or remember–that had run a barren, dusty track around the perimeter of the chainlink fence that enclosed their yard. For hours in Texas sun these dogs would race, stopping only to drink or eat or occasionally snap and wrestle each other to the ground.
And as they ran in circles . . . I remember that they barked and howled, almost as if it was hurting them. But they couldn’t seem to stop–they just kept running, and howling. Even worse, their ruckus would get the neighbors’ dogs going on either side, and then they would upset the dogs next to them–and soon the entire block was in full roar. Worse, each new contingent of doggie madness would enter the fray at a higher volume, more shrill and frantic than the others.
I also remember that Dad was always mad; but now that I think about it, I don’t blame him, if he had to listen to those damn dogs all day long. I could block my ears and run inside the house to escape the maddening clamor when it got going, but Dad was a gardener and outdoorsman, and the back yard was his refuge. He couldn’t escape.
I’m remembering all this today, because lately I’m getting the same feeling that I remember from being a little kid: wanting to put my fingers in my ears and crawl away from all of it.
The ridiculous Chick-Fil-A posture-fest. The political games and one-ups-manship. Faith, government, education, work, the environment–in every circle, it seems as though the best we can offer each other is an extended howl of outrage about the latest sound bite–which invites someone else’s bellow in return, ad infinitum, until we’re whirling around each other, snapping, surrounded by cloud of noise and dust and hate.
It’s not just the noise, then, that spiraling competition to out-bark the other dogs. It’s the bared teeth. The hate. The reduction of our brothers and sisters, neighbors and co-workers to ‘them’–whatever the group is currently under fire. There’s a violence there–violence in and to the spirit– just as surely as in the streets of war half a world away.
I stopped watching broadcast news because I hated this growing tendency (and because of the atrocious grammar); and then had to give up reading online news because of the trolls frequenting the comment section. Everywhere I turned I saw the worst of people, no matter the issue or which side, yammering away and not changing anyone’s mind–not even trying to change opinions, really. Just get the skewer in. Reach for the throat. Get the dig in. Wrestle them down to the dirt.
I didn’t want to feed that particular dog anymore.
And I’m about to give up on Facebook, too. One of my sisters already has, and I don’t blame her a darn bit. She reports being happier and having more time for real reading and other essentials–and who wouldn’t want those things?
So here’s my howl for the day:
I’m one of the last Timeline holdouts–shhhhh, FB hasn’t found me yet. But when it does find me and slap that monstrosity on me–I’m outta there. It’s just one of the howling dog tracks, but it’s a way to start turning the volume down somewhere. Shut the dogs of war up already.