before have I written a political commentary based on an
animal video, but I suppose there’s a first time for everything.
I was touched by the recent
news coverage of two
dogs suffering in the midst of the debris and devastation
left by the Japanese earthquake and tsunami. Trembling
and apparently afraid, a spaniel wearing a collar leads
reporters to another dog that is injured. The dog is standing
next to his sick, prostrate friend, as if to protect him.
And in a few minutes of footage of these canine creatures—
struggling to survive under circumstances we dare not imagine—
we see the essence of humanity, more humanity than can be
extracted by some humans who walk upright. And so we, as
people, can learn from pets a lesson in compassion, in protecting
the vulnerable and the suffering, as we fail to exhibit
those qualities in our daily and political lives as Americans.
With over 18,000 estimated dead and countless displaced in
Japan, a great deal of humanity is needed. And it is clear
that the needs of people must and will take precedence over
profit motives. The importance of community in hard times
is on full display in japan, as even the Japanese mafia,
known as the Yakuza, are providing
tons of crucial goods in the relief effort. The word Yakuza
is a self-effacing term which loosely translates as “loser”
or the “losing hand” of society, a reference to a Japanese
card game. “There are no yakuza or katagi (ordinary citizens)
or gaijin (foreigners) in Japan right now. We are all Japanese,”
said one Yakuza member. “We all need to help each other.”
And yet, it would be hard to imagine organized crime in the
U.S. - specifically, the banks - displaying such acts of
charity and selflessness. Recently I wrote that if a reconstruction
effort ever came to the U.S., America would stop all efforts
in their tracks, due to greed, a shambles of a political
system, and the legalized bribery that finances our politics.
I want to take it a step further and speak to the humanity
which is in such scarce supply in American political discourse
and public policy. America could use some humanity, a big
smoothie made with the milk of human kindness.
In the U.S., we worship and honor those who have plenty,
yet steal more when many others go hungry. Reality shows
such as “Secret Millionaire” attempt to change the subject
by depicting undercover rich people who go into impoverished
neighborhoods and give away some of their money. Meanwhile,
in the real world in which we live, the stewards of American
government give tax breaks to millionaires and billionaires
in these tough times, even as greed caused our recessionary
problems in the first place. Conservative governors, appendages
of the corporate interests who bought them with cash, preach
as a stern parent to the common folk about the need for
austerity. They lecture us on shared sacrifice, and cut
social programs for poor and working people, funding for
public schools, and collective bargaining rights for union
workers. This, after they just rewarded the banks, big
oil companies and other industries that bankrolled their
campaign. And in the process, they would wreck the economy
for no other apparent reason than as a 2012 election year
ploy to change the occupant of the White House.
In a nation with so many millions unemployed, the unemployed
are barely an afterthought. With all of this talk about
the urgency of creating jobs, the Tea Party Congress takes
their opportunity in the sun to hold hearings on radical
Islam, as state legislatures, captured by the forces of
insanity, pass legislation banning Shariah law.
Humanity is lacking because the good thinking people have
surrendered their authority to the morally bankrupt, those
whose priorities are warped and perverse. In 2011 a majority
of Americans favor
same sex marriage, which is astounding, given that most people
opposed interracial marriage when it was legalized by
a “liberal activist” Supreme Court in 1967. Further, back
then nearly half believed such marriages should be prosecuted
as a criminal offense. Yet today, our public discourse
is controlled by homophobic
hate groups and their elected enablers. The religious
right claims to care about values, yet values to them is
such a narrow term, curiously limited to a discussion about
banning abortion, criminalizing gay marriage and upholding
A nation short on humanity in its public policy fails to
ask certain questions on purpose. For example, how can
we sustain democracy when the top 1 percent takes home 34
percent of the pie (they only took 9 percent in 1976),
more than the bottom 90 percent? How does this nation justify
paying CEOs 300 times more than their workers, when they
only made 30 times more in the 1960s?
Why are black and Latino boys in urban neighborhoods more
likely to attend the penitentiary than the university?
Why is it so easy for a child to acquire a gun, but so difficult
for him or her to get a quality education, or a balanced
and nourishing meal? And why do our lawmakers ignore the
epidemic of gun violence across the land, responding instead
to college shooting sprees with legislation that would allow
students to pack concealed weapons on campus?
How can the quest for dollars consume some individuals so
as to justify nuclear power as a viable energy source, in
the midst of the nuclear disaster in Japan?
Animals teaching humans about humanity is a novel idea.
And yet, unfortunately, it is rather “human” to dehumanize
the “other,” to depict groups as different, as animals,
as a pretext for the humiliation and suffering inflicted
upon them. It happened to black people under slavery, Jim
Crow segregation and apartheid. Nazi Germany conjured up
images of Europe’s Jewish population as subhuman in order
to enact laws to marginalize and eventually annihilate them.
The U.S. depended on dehumanizing cartoon images of Asian
people to justify the internment of Japanese-Americans and
the nuclear bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Genocide
in Rwanda was facilitated by the Hutu referring to the Tutsi
as cockroaches. And even today in the U.S., we are witnessing
the racial and ethnic scapegoating of Muslims, people of
Arab descent and Latino immigrants through measures designed
to strip them of their civil rights and their dignity.
Right now, America is a cold-hearted place, and in our midst
is an anti-democratic movement allying the uber rich and
the super greedy with the plenty ignorant. Without question,
they are cruel, callous and brutal, and we must resist them.
But comparing them to dogs would be an insult to dogs.
Editor, David A. Love, JD is a journalist and human rights
advocate based in Philadelphia, is
a graduate of Harvard College and
the University of Pennsylvania Law School. and
a contributor to The Huffington
Post, the Grio, The Progressive
Media Project, McClatchy-Tribune
News Service, In
These Times and Philadelphia
Independent Media Center. He also blogs at davidalove.com, NewsOne, Daily
Kos, and Open Salon. Click here to contact Mr. Love.