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09/28/2005 Archived Entry: "Too damned cruel to endure"

I CRIED MYSELF TO SLEEP LAST NIGHT. Then I woke up several times during the early hours, each time with the same unendurable image in my mind's eye. While researching for my upcoming Hardyville column, I'd run across a single paragraph describing an unforgivable cruelty to an animal and a human after Hurricane Katrina, and I just couldn't stand it any more. It was more heartbreaking than the images of that bloated, uncaring cop ripping Snowball from a crying little boy.

I can't even stand to describe it this morning. But I have to so you'll know what I mean:

Some stories are almost unbelievable in a civilized nation. One man survived for five days in a tree with his 16-year-old dachshund-Chihuahua. His rescuers would not let him carry the dog onto a boat. He killed his beloved companion rather than leave her to starve in the tree.

It's from this article. Maybe you already knew, but I hadn't heard about it until last night. This morning, I verified it and found details.

For me, that one spare paragraph, that one bland, banal, business-as-usual bureaucratic cruelty, encapsulated everything that's wrong -- and increasingly wrong, I fear -- with the human race. If "one death is a tragedy, a million deaths a statistic," then for me the single unspeakable refusal to rescue a tiny animal -- forcing a desperate man to kill the creature he'd loved and saved -- drew all the cruelties of institutionalized culture into one Goya-like image in my mind's eye. And I simply haven't found a way to go on conducting the ordinary business of life when I'm a member of a species that routinely behaves with such rottenness.

This one tiny horror built on top of a world of horrors and I'd had all I could bear.

Yet, once again, the utterly unnecessary ugliness of the world contrasts with the decency of my own world. Yesterday, as he did last week, my friend the Pyramid Man came over and helped me roof my garden shed. We got it totally done, except for a few small finishing details that I can easily do. A project that had weighed heavily on my mind all summer is done. Thanks to his help, it's safely roofed over before the fall rains come. I felt wonderful. I had a great, good day -- until I learned about that one tiny horror.

Pyramid Man also loves dogs and never, ever could I imagine him telling a survivor of five days of terror and torment that a chihuahua -- a chihuahua, forchristsake! -- is too much of a burden to rescue after a desperate man had clung to her with such love. He gave her so much -- as she gave him. But that bond of love mattered nothing to The Institution. Only The Rules matter.

I'm embarrassed to bleed all over you. I really am. And yet I'm having increasing trouble living in a world where government cruelty is becoming ever more dominant, while trying to live a live of personal peace and decency. I can't find a way to reconcile what is with what should be. I can't find my place; the world increasingly has no place for people like me. This is a world that would replace helpful, decent people like Pyramid Man with faceless, soulless bureaucrats. A world that would force a man to choose between dying himself and killing a beloved 10-pound dog because The Rules -- the Holy Fucking Rules -- require it.

The historic individual cruelty of human beings pales before the cruelty of humans who subsume themselves within institutions. And those are the humans of our future. Background checked, rule-ridden, numbered, stamped, chipped, tracked, surveilled, regimented, more loyal to The Institution than to their own conscience or their own heart ... and ultimately lacking in everything that makes human life worth living.

How can anyone bear it?

Posted by Claire @ 09:58 AM CST

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