Thursday, January 31, 2013

"Too many children are dying"

 Gabby Giffords on Jan. 7, 2011, the day before she was shot in the head:

 Warning: Get out your hankies.

I am enamored with the way Mark Kelly's lips are moving as his wife reads her statement, just as an encouraging parent's lips would move when his child was reading aloud.

How much their lives changed the day Giffords was shot. How little has changed in gun control laws.

Some gun advocates say there's nothing that can be done to curb gun violence, between the current interpretation of the Second Amendment and the sheer number of guns already in circulation. The public is supposed to just "deal with it."

A country that survived a civil war and two world wars, that sent astronauts to the moon, does not just "deal with" problems. It solves them.

Giffords is absolutely right. We must do something about gun violence. Her peers did nothing even when one of their own was shot. If twenty dead children, buried for a month, are not enough to get Congress to act to curb violence, then the leadership of this country has lost its way.

Monday, January 14, 2013

Morality Relocation Program

In happier days

After Lance Armstrong won his third Tour de France, I was conditioned to be amazed. His story of surviving testicular cancer and competing in the Tour would have been inspiring enough, all on its own. Winning a stage would have been a great achievement. Winning seven in a row was the stuff of legend.

Rumors of doping hounded Armstrong, and I chalked them up to professional envy. I wanted to believe his victories were both good and true. If he wasn't using potent Texas rhetoric to swat those rumors away, he was filing lawsuits. The guy was a fighter and a champion. He meant business, on the bike and elsewhere.

On the victory stand after his seventh win, Armstrong aimed directly at his detractors. "I'm sorry you can't dream big. And I'm sorry you don't believe in miracles." No one wants one of the greatest champions in sport saying you dream small and discount miracles. Dreaming big and believing in miracles is what makes champions. So I, along with many millions, continued to believe.

Sheryl Crow, his girlfriend at the time, told CBS Morning News, "[Lance] is a cancer survivor, which we all know. And the thought of him putting anything into his body that could possibly hurt him is not even worthy debating."

Now that the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency has stripped Armstrong of his seven Tour victories and banned his participation in any competition, news of his appearance and anticipated admission of guilt on Oprah's show has been on the airwaves for over a week. Armstrong and his publicists, with considerable help from the Big O, are still conditioning us to be amazed. He seems to want our forgiveness.

No, forgive me. Forgive me for not being amazed. Forgive me for being downright cynical about your motives. Forgive me for not giving a damn whether you ever compete in any race ever again. Forgive me for calling you Mephistopheles. Because you sold you soul to the devil for some wins and the glory and fortune that went along with them. You need to tell us, especially the kids who are watching, that selling your soul to the devil is as unoriginal as it is stupid. Because you'll always get caught, and everything you stole will be confiscated. You'll have lost your integrity. All the money in the world can't buy it back. You'll need to create your own Morality Relocation Program, and chances are good you'll be all alone while you're doing it.

Speaking of kids, you need to tell them exactly how you doped. How it looked and felt, so that USADA has better insight into the process for future enforcement. How many people you lied to, how many people lied for you. How unhealthy doping and lying are, despite what your pretty and talented girlfriend said about you on a national news program, and how you never want them to risk their health and their standing with God for a few wins. How it feels to look into the eyes of the mothers of your five children, into the eyes of your girlfriends, and lie to them. How it feels, now that the truth is known, to look into the eyes of your children. And your mother. Please, confess all of it. Because you've always wanted us to believe, right?

Our sons, right around the time Armstrong won his first Tour. They've looked up to Lance Armstrong their whole lives.

And please don't insult us with the kind of lame apology that the disgraced yet unchastened offer when they're caught in a scandal of their own creation. "I'm sorry if what I did made you feel uncomfortable." That ain't an apology. That's going through the motions.

Here's what a real apology would sound like. "I'm sorry I lied to you all about doping. I wanted the wins more than I've ever wanted anything else, and I was prepared to do whatever I could to gain an advantage. All those years I told myself doping was the price of competing at the highest level, that everyone else was doing it, and those who weren't doping were chumps and losers. I knew it was wrong, but I thought the wins and the fame and the money would make it OK. I trusted in my own intelligence, and in the intelligence of my protectors, but it wasn't intelligence at all. It was lying, and it was cheating, and my mother raised me better. It's not worth it. I've lost more than I've ever gained. I'll be spending the rest of my life atoning for it."

Maybe this is how he can feed his kids, by publicly taking that fearless moral self-inventory so many other addicts before me have taken.

Then Lance might amaze me again.

Monday, January 7, 2013

What Tenderizes Your Heart?

"One can never have too many cats." Anonymous

I confess to latent Crazy Cat Lady tendencies. Though this box of cuties is tempting, I limit myself to two kitties, because I love my husband more. I believe this disqualifies me from being a true CCL, because a true CCL likes cats more than people. Don loves cats, too. It's cleaning litter boxes that he's less fond of.

Our two lugnuts, doing what they do best.
I love animals so much I volunteered at the Greenwood Wildlife Rehabilitation Center, feeding squirrels, birds and raccoons, this last much to the chagrin of my dear departed friend Jo Hansen. Jo lived in downtown Boulder, and as far as she was concerned, raccoons were the scourge of civilization. They pooped and mated and caused a ruckus in her back yard at inconvenient hours. No doubt raccoons are the juvenile delinquents of the animal kingdom. But they have a certain louche charm that gets to me. Years ago, I named one of my cats, a female tortoiseshell with rakish black goggles, Raccoon.

Simply irresistible

Our neighbors adopted a puppy after their dog died. I was looking forward to watching another puppy grow up. Then they got the news that he has a liver disease that will likely be fatal. They are taking it all in stride, especially Harley. He doesn't know he has a fatal disease. He's still playing, running around, being a baby, growing and loving life. The family is committed to riding it out with him. He's lucky to have landed with such a caring family.

Cutest puppy on earth. The name's Harley.

Because unfortunately, not every animals lives with high-quality people like the Prices. I receive Facebook posts from Hearts United for Animals, a no-kill dog sanctuary in Nebraska. One of their rescues has especially touched me and many others who receive these posts.

This is the first picture of Noah I saw. The sadness and weariness in his eyes is devastating.
Noah after a couple of weeks at Hearts United for Animals. Despite all he's been through, he looks really glad to be alive.
When I saw the first photo I thought, What on earth happened to this poor dog? You can read more about the circumstances of Noah's rescue here. Scroll down to the December 20 post for the complete story. His story is tenderizing my heart. I often say that our cats have better lives than many people in the world. Until Noah was brought to Hearts United for Animals, that was not true for him. The people there are literally loving him back to health. I hope you'll join me in making a donation to this worthy organization.

This afternoon Hearts United posted some very good news about Noah's prognosis. The tumors they removed from his abdomen were benign. His other physical wounds are healing, and judging from the photos and stories, he's doing well emotionally.

Gandhi once wrote, "The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by how it's animals are treated." On the one hand, our country is in great shape, with the angels in Nebraska taking such great care of abandoned dogs. On the other hand, our country is in poor shape, because people would mistreat Noah and other dogs in the way they did.

Another great humanitarian, Albert Schweitzer, wrote, "Anyone who has accustomed himself to regard the life of any living creature as worthless is in danger of arriving also at the idea of worthless human life." Amen to that. I confess there are days when I like animals more than people. Cats don't talk back. They don't tailgate me on I-25.

As I aspire to be even a scintilla of the humanitarian that Gandhi and Schweitzer were, I commit to holding the welfare of people equal to the welfare of animals. Here's to tenderizing our hearts!