Thursday, January 20, 2011

On prejudice against cats and Muslims


We were all up in my study. High winds were predicted; so I decided we'd take a day off and stay away from the river. I was reading articles from an Olympus discussion group when we heard the yowling of a cat fight. Down we rushed. Cat fights are something my girls take very seriously. This one was occurring next door as it turned out. The owner who lives alone, or with his mother, or with his girl-friend was off at work so the cats had his back yard to themselves. Ginger seemed most interested. Her hackles were up as she rushed back and forth to watch the fight through the cracks in the fence. Sage was interested but not so intense. Duffy seemed not quite sure what was going on, but he barked at the strange sounds.

I boosted him up so he could see over the fence. He watched the fight with fascination, emitting a low growl from time to time, or a brief bark. The cats seemed tangled in some branches pruned from a fruit tree, and they were at very close quarters. Duffy seemed a little uncomfortable and squirmed a bit, so I set him down. He moved back away from the fence. Ginger continued prowling back and forth trying to see what was going on, but Duffy was done. That wasn't the reaction I expected. I expected him to bounce along beside Ginger looking through the fence-cracks. Why didn't he?

Two days ago we encountered a pit bull at the river. I posted some photos of him. Pit bulls have a reputation for being tough and aggressive, but aside from some dominance issues; which this pit bull readily surrendered, the girls and Duffy got along splendidly with him. The cats fighting in my neighbor's yard, on the other hand, were not creatures that could be gotten along with. I saw what Duffy saw: murderous ferocity. The girls had seen it before and were ready to chase it out of our yard should it try to enter, but Duffy was seeing it for the first time and he seemed intimidated.

Dogs are notorious for being prejudiced against cats. We used to have cats and our previous dogs got along fine with them. But we no longer have cats and Duffy is very likely to follow the girls' lead in being prejudiced against them. If all Duffy sees is their ferocity he is unlikely to ever expect them to be as friendly as the pit-bull he met day before yesterday. And if we are out walking in the neighborhood one day and he and the girls encounter a cat, they are probably all going to react in accordance with the profile they have formed in their minds: cats are ferocious alien creatures that need to be chased away.

Cats of course can't help it. It is their nature to fight each other. Muslims, perhaps, can help it. At least we hear that they can. But when read in newspapers and see on TV only their ferocity, perhaps we can be excused, as I excuse the girls and Duffy, for forming images of them based upon our experiences (for the Newspapers and TV reporting comprise our experiences).

Shame on our prejudices some say, but why bother saying that when what is needed is for the peaceful cats and Muslims to denounce their ferocious brethren, and for the reporting to stop fruitlessly saying "shame," and start describing an alternate Islamic reality (if they can find one). We only know the reality we have experienced. All we know is what we can see through the cracks in the fence.

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