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Copyright © 2002 by Ralph Robert Moore.
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what if god is stupid?
january 26, 2002
We had to take Chirper to the vet this week.
Chirper's one of our cats. An orange and white tabby, the color combination causing us to call him, sometimes, our 'Creamsicle cat'.
About once a year, around about this time, his teeth start hurting him. We can tell when it starts, because he'll go to eat some food, or yawn, and suddenly lower his head and let out a squawk. Plus he starts rubbing his paw against the side of his mouth, as if his dental problems were something he could simply wipe away.
The problem of course is he doesn't brush his teeth, or more correctly, we don't brush his teeth for him. We've tried. We've bought pastes that are supposed to clean his teeth and have attempted, as the vet has showed us, to get our paste-laden finger up into his mouth against the moist warm fangs, agitating the finger around and over each one, but as you might imagine, especially if you're a cat owner yourself, no cat in the world is going to allow a human to stick a finger in its mouth, much less with a weird-tasting paste on it, and stand still while that finger travels over its fangs. We'd have more luck sticking a thermometer up his ass.
That's the thing about pet owners. Since our pets won't take care of themselves, we have to do, or try to do, all the least desirable jobs ourselves. I remember a scene in the Simpsons where Homer, in the process of scooping out a litter pan, stops to ask, 'Did we lose a war or something?'
Mary asked me once, I think while we were starting a fire in the fireplace, and apropos of nothing we had been talking about, just one of those things you have in the back of your mind, that you bring up out of the blue, because you've just remembered it again, 'Have you ever noticed how big Rudo's asshole is?'
In fact, I had. It's not like I was trying to see it, but one time, a few years earlier, he happened to be trotting by while I was lying on the carpet, scrubbing up their latest vomit stain (cat owners: Resolve Carpet Cleaner works great. Trust me), and I happened to glance at him as he went by, his tail straight up, and thought, Jesus, he's got a big asshole. I'll have to tell Mary.
Rudo is a large, long-haired black cat. Apparently there's some gene in long-haired cats that prevents them from grooming themselves. Chirper, a short-hair, is so clean that if he were a human, he'd be taking a shower every other hour, like Jerry Lewis does. He'll spend thirty minutes on the bed, meticulously licking his legs, gnawing at his claws, wetting his paws and passing them over the top of his head, then bend his body forward and spend another ten minutes, a long ten minutes, with all sorts of unsavory sound effects, cleaning his crotch (Chirper, not Jerry Lewis. Jerry Lewis has never been on our bed). Rudo, on the other paw, will occasionally deign to lick the ruff directly in front of his mouth, twice. That's it.
But what happens is that Rudo's fur eventually gets so matted we have to distract-pet him while the other snips away at all the fur clumps that have formed. This tactic, one of us distracting him, scratching the top of his head, telling him what a good boy he is, while the other secretly snips away, works for all areas of his body except his asshole. Like many of us, he gets a little sensitive when there's a strange hand around his anus, especially when that hand is holding a pair of scissors.
We have to trim the fur around his asshole because otherwise it eventually webs over. I won't go into any great detail about what we have to do to clean him up, because I know the people who read this column have vivid imaginations, and don't need a snip by snip description, but I do remember saying to Mary one Friday night, as we lay on our stomachs on the bathroom floor, surrounded by small black fans of under-the-tail fur, and crumpled Kleenex, don't look at them too closely, Rudo squalling, while we peered under his tail to make sure we had resolved the problem, 'Did you ever think the day would come when this would be how we'd spend a Friday evening, trimming the fur around a cat's asshole?'
Reader, she didn't.
But it's much easier to clean an asshole than it is to clean teeth (I firmly believe this is the first time that particular sentence has ever been written).
So we had to bring poor little Chirper into the vet's, to get his teeth cleaned. The upsetting thing about that is that Chirper's world is this house. Reality, to him, is safely contained within our home's 48 walls. It's like an alien abduction, as he's about to settle down on his favorite blanket for a long nap, to suddenly whisk him backwards into a cat carrier, bring him out to the car, drive down frightening streets, enter a huge building filled with strangers and noise and the ripe smell of dogs, and then seemingly abandon him.
We thought about him all day long. His surgery was scheduled for nine o'clock in the morning, so we both of us, Mary at work, me at home, prayed for his safety as he went under anesthesia. I think a lot about prayer. What if God is stupid? Like the old joke about the boy with one crippled hand, one strong, normal hand, who prays, Please dear God, let one hand be like the other, and winds up with two crippled hands. We know so little about God, it is possible the creation of the Universe is the least of his feats, way, way down on his resume, a little nothing he did one rainy Saturday morning in between summoning up truly spectacular wonders, no more memorable to him than for us, turning on a light. To where he doesn't really devote that much time to our requests, just relying on keywords for his response, like the customer service representative at a software company. Or what if he's overly legalistic, a real anal-compulsive, to where the ambiguous use of a term allows him to 'gotcha'? Sometimes, when I'm particularly stressed, my prayers sound like contracts: "Subsection (m), subitem (xiii): By the phrase stated herein 'live in peace', the petitioner and God understand and agree 'peace' (as hereinafter defined) refers to the general sense of such term as a state of tranquility or quiet, free from civil disturbance, and not a specific geographic location of a township or other such municipality named 'Peace'."
I believe there is power to prayer, though often I pray not to God, but to the dead, that array of silence taller now than me, that in life seemed to have my best interests at heart. Although we start off very selfish (there's nothing more selfish than a baby), we over the years place so much of our love in so many places outside ourselves, it's hard not to feel the ectoplasm stretch, stretch, stretch away from our hearts. Often, all we can do is pray. Often, too often, prayer is the only option left us, the last card dealt, face down.
The house was lonely without Chirper walking around in circles on the carpet while I typed, mewing to himself to be lifted up onto my lap. Although I didn't want to, naturally some thoughts crossed my mind. What if I called to check on him and the vet said he died under anesthesia? Or they discovered something horrible inside him, polluting his small pink organs, his bloodstream, to where no amount of meticulous fur-cleaning would help?
But of course that didn't happen. I called a little after twelve, the receptionist laid the phone down, clunk, picked it back up a minute later and said, 'He's doing fine. He's awake, but a little groggy still.'
We picked him up around five, the earliest they'll release an animal that's been under anesthesia.
Like you, I've been in all kinds of different situations where I've had to sit and wait. Airplane terminals, dentist offices, clothing stores, drivers license bureaus, repair shops, outside a woman's rest room, sites that use Flash. But to me, the worse place to wait is a vet's office.
For one thing, almost all veterinary staff, God bless 'em, are inefficient. They're talking to two people at the counter at once, with three unholstered phone receivers lying on their desk.
Plus you've got dogs barking at each other in the waiting room, little girls leaping onto the sofa cushion next to you, screaming, leaping onto it again, screaming again, leaping onto it again, screaming again, you get the drift, little boys tossing a ball across the room, adults with an animal named Binky retwisting their wrists up to their chests to recheck the time while they blah blah blah on their cell phones, etc. etc. etc.
But this time, the waiting room was empty, silent. Large tourquoise fish tank in one corner, white bubbles surfacing.
We paid for Chirper's cleaning ($203.00), then were led down a narrow hall and ushered into a small examination room. Enough time passed that we thought they had forgotten about us, then a heavy-set woman came in with a clipboard in one hand, our cat carrier, which we immediately recognized as a friendly face in the crowd of the room's objects, in the other.
And inside the carrier was Chirper, hunch-shouldered, belly resting against the bottom of the carrier, gray, membraned inside eyelids partially shut over his eyeballs.
He was safe.
The Bush-bashers are starting to shyly re-enter the national scene. You remember them.
In the early months of last year, they were complaining that Bush had somehow "stole" the election (for my thoughts on that, see my Lately column here), that Bush was stupid, he was incompetent, etc.
Much of that died down after September 11, especially after Bush showed just how smart and competent he in fact was, in assembling one of the finest cabinets we've had in the past half-century, in the masterful way he managed to rally the world's nations into a powerful coalition, and in forging a personal friendship with Russia's President Putin.
But now that September 11 is a bit behind us, we're starting to see a re-emergence of People Who Just Can't Stand Bush.
There are still a few lonely souls declaring 'He's not my President', but that bit of nonsense seems to have died down. Face it. He is your President. Let's stay in reality.
Most of the criticism now seems to be over petty items. As must be expected, there are some people who have decided to make use of the fact he ate a pretzel, got into a coughing fit, and momentarily passed out, as an excuse to suggest he was actually drinking that day. (I have to ask, in all seriousness: Does anyone, anywhere, really believe that this man who has shown himself to be so strong in this terrible national crisis, who struggled with a drinking problem and overcame it years ago, got drunk in the White House? I can understand people saying that as a sort of malicious, impotent little joke, but I question whether anyone actually believes that's what happened).
I have criticisms of Bush myself, although mine are based on specific stands he's taken, rather than his character, which I think is admirable (especially in comparison to Clinton). I favor the absolute right of a woman to have an abortion, so naturally, I don't agree with him on that issue. I also feel his handling of the stem cell research issue showed a lack of true leadership at that point (you might remember his speech announcing his decision, ninety percent of which was devoted to a weak-kneed attempt to show how balanced he was trying to be : 'but on the other handů' -by then, he was up to about forty hands). I also don't agree with federal funding of faith-based charities.
The determination among some people to try by whatever means to find something wrong with Bush, even as he demonstrates an admirable nobility in handling the war, and I think a far greater competence than Clinton or Gore would have shown (even Democrats, overwhelmingly, have stated in polls they're glad Bush is in charge, and not Clinton or Gore), does point out the power of the left.
I'm not right-wing or left-wing. I believe in freedom for the individual, which means some of my views are those that would be identified with the right, and some, with the left. Sadly, although both sides bleat constantly about how much they respect individual rights, neither truly does. Both extremes want a dictatorship. They just can't decide whether the dictatorship should be based on religion, or government.
There are some true intellectuals among the right (the right isn't entirely comprised of dishonest frauds like William F. Buckley, who hides behind mannerisms and obscure words), but among most intelligent people, and especially when they're young, the general consensus is that the left wing is the smart wing. All those professors, all those artists. Now often, historically, the left was indeed on the correct side of an argument. It was the left that pushed for freedom of speech, and civil rights. But the left also made tremendous blunders. One was its endorsement of communism, which it clung to long after evidence showed communism was unworkable. Eventually, the left abandoned communism, the last travelers to disembark from a bus that pulled over to the yellow curb and turned off its lights hours ago, but it still clung to a side-shoot of that belief, anti-Americanism.
Initially, the anti-Americanism was based on America's imperialism. It's certainly true America was in fact an imperialistic nation for a large part of its history (how do you think we got from thirteen colonies to an ocean-to-ocean nation?), but that tendency has fortunately long left us. Afghanistan is not going to be the fifty-first state, and I doubt anyone in the world thinks it will be.
Having to more or less abandon that position, the left has now decided that America is, at the very least, stupid. This source of criticism takes different forms (we're sometimes called na´ve, or clumsy, or meddling, or unsophisticated), but the basic idea is that the most powerful nation on earth somehow doesn't know what it's doing.
Witness the war in Afghanistan. Writers for The New York Review of Books, which is great on book reviews, but lousy on political writing, wrung their hands in issue after issue, just after September 11, over how humiliated America would become if it ever waged war on Afghanistan. We'd be drawn into a cave-by-cave battle that would ultimately defeat us, much like it had the English and Russians, we'd incur the world's wrath, we'd isolate ourselves from other Middle-Eastern countries, we'd get stuck in a 'quagmire', much like what happened in Vietnam, etc. etc. etc. What amuses me most about all these hand-wringings is that in subsequent issues, The New York Review of Books has not been honest enough to say, Boy, were we full of shit! We didn't having a fucking clue what we talking about! We must have had our heads stuck up our asses again!
No bother. But it does show how the left, and leftist views, can be as wrong as anything said on the right.
But somehow, among those who are intelligent, who are artistic, there seems to be a strong reluctance to take any stand that does not conform to lock-step leftist views. If you defend America, or defend Bush, you're seen as someone who is politically na´ve, or intellectually below average (or racist, or sexist, or elitist or any one of the numerous other sneers the left uses). If you don't agree with them, the right attempts to intimidate by suggesting you're immoral. The left attempts to intimidate by suggesting you're laughable.
There's really no difference between a dogmatic cleric on the religious right, and a dogmatic college professor on the left.
They're both wrong. They're both too rigid. They both have too much invested in their beliefs to ever re-examine them.
Don't be intimidated into accepting dogma, whether it's left or right. There are plenty of people in the world who want to tell you how to think, but it's not their mind. It's yours.
The answer is not with the left nor the right. The answer is with your own common sense.
The Link of the Week this time is to my favorite site on the Internet, and to a particular section of that site, Cats in the White House. Mary, my wife, has created a wonderful showcase for her talents and personality at Mary's World, and the most popular section of that site is the Cats in the White House section. There you'll see what happens when our cats get elected to the White House, and suffer the same intrigues, scandals, and machinations of any administration. Cats in the White House is a continuing story, which at the moment centers around the discovery that Chirper, the Vice President, a bachelor, has apparently fathered four kittens. I think it's funnier than The Onion, and more relevant than that shit show, West Wing.
A couple of months ago, I posted a picture of me on drugs, sedatives I had been given for some oral surgery I needed. It seems only fair, therefore, that I now post a picture of one of our cats, Chirper, on drugs. Here he is outside the animal hospital, me carrying him, as we're about to take him home from his teeth-cleaning. I chose this picture instead of the others we took, because in the others his ass looks really, really big, and I figured he had been through enough without that added indignation.