In essence, I am happy that you will soon be restored to a life that most poor Americans – especially the folks in the hood, in barrios, in Reservations, etc – cannot even imagine possible. If no one has thought of it, I will even suggest you spend a convalescent year at that famous Manhattan five star pet hotel where Hollywood royalty and America’s rich and famous check in their pets whenever they are in New York. Mr. Vick should, of course, be made to cover your expenses as part of his process of redemption. We can’t possibly expect your owners to pay, knowing that they also suffered terrible emotional pain when you got lost the last time they went strolling with you in the park, only for you to end up in Mr. Vick’s hound harem. Come to think of it, I ought to be careful using the word owners. The relationship between you and your human family in America is not exactly that of ownership. You are a bona fide member of the family, on equal footing with the children of your, well, human Dad and Mom. Sometimes you are more important than their children, your human siblings. At least it looks that way to anyone viewing that culture from the unimplicated location of the outside observer. Where they opt not to have or adopt children, it goes without saying that you are their child. It is not inconceivable for you to be the sole beneficiary of their will, in which case you inherit millions and humans act as trustees on your behalf. It is against this background that the enormity of Mr. Vick’s heinous crimes can be appreciated.
Everything happens for a purpose. I want you to consider your ordeal in the hands of Mr. Vick as the ultimate act of commitment to the cause and salvation of the American public. Your story almost follows the script of the life of Jesus Christ, the only difference being that he actually did die for the salvation of sinful man. If you look closely at things, both of you were persecuted and tortured and both processes were salvational in man’s behalf. You see, before your ordeal, the rest of the world had given up on the American public. If your human Dad and Mom are neoconservatives or fringe, extremist evangelicals, you must be familiar with the rhetoric that the rest of the world needs to have its head examined since America, by nature, can do no wrong. The rest of the world may have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God, America is the one perfect exemption. In line with a national fetish, I am sure you have not failed to notice American flags in every room, every square inch of your home. One is attached to the family car. I’m sure they did not forget to put a star-spangled banner in your kennel.
Have I digressed one last time? Sorry. I was talking about the rest of the world giving up on the American public. You see, in the last couple of years, hundreds of thousands of people – yes, we must keep insisting that the Other is people until the American public accepts that fact – have perished in Palestine, Lebanon, Afghanistan, and Iraq through policies and practices either directly authored and supervised by America’s rulers or approved and funded by them. I am not going to talk about Latin America and Africa. This mass murder of civilians is carried out with the tax of the American public in behalf of the American tax payer. Yet, the rest of the world has watched with utter amazement the seemingly infinite inability of the American public to be outraged by the mass murders committed in its name in the places I’ve mentioned. No one is spared. You already know how I got here. Women, children, and other innocent, non-combatant civilians whose only crime is to have been born in parts of the world blessed with resources coveted by American capitalism. The rest of the world has watched in disbelief and wondered how a people could go about its myriad quotidian preoccupations with so much insouciance, not a teeny-weeny thought is accorded the horrible fact that somewhere, every second, somebody is being bombed to maintain what American rulers like to call “our way of life”. So, the rest of the world concluded that either the American public has lost the capacity for human empathy or it is governed by conceptions of the human that the rest of us just cannot understand. We concluded that this public’s benchmark for the expression of collective, humanizing outrage is beyond our understanding. Or maybe the American public has ways of determining who qualifies to be a mournable human and such parameters that they have established exclude the Palestinian, the Afghan, the Iraqi, and so many Others. The American public’s insouciance has led us to a moral question we could never have imagined possible: in the event of death, especially violent and needless death, who is a non-mournable human? And we are not alone in giving up. Unable to snap them out of their slumber and insouciance, Cindy Sheehan, the American anti-war activist who got a taste of Iraqi life when she lost her son needlessly to the war, also gave up on her own people and retired from an apparently pointless conscientization cause.
Then comes your ordeal in the hands of Mr. Vick and we discover, to our pleasant surprise, that the American public is endowed with the ability to express public outrage and emotion in the face of the Other’s tragedy! Dear friend, your experience has bestowed on you the exceptional privilege of being the vehicle for the renewed faith of the rest of humanity in the ability of the American public to recognize horror and react to it the way the rest of us do. This letter is already looking like a dream. Dreams, I know, are not the exclusive preserve of the Reverend Martin Luther King, that great American who, were he not in the Christian paradise today, would have been horrified by his compatriots’ self-sedation in the face of civilian massacres in Iraq. Now that this somnambulistic public has shown so much outrage on account of Mr. Vick’s inhuman treatment of you, my comrade and friend, I dare to dream:
that one day, an Iraqi civilian life taken in cold blood by American bombs will elicit half, no, a quarter of the noise Americans have shown themselves capable of making on account of their maltreated dogs.
that one day, an Afghan baby’s life, wasted as collateral damage by American-controlled NATO forces, will elicit half, no, a quarter of the decibels Americans have supplied thus far in behalf of yourself and your fellow victims of Mr. Vick.
that one day, a Palestinian woman’s life, taken in cold blood by bombs bought with American subventions, will elicit half, no, a quarter of the noise Americans will continue to make whenever their pets experience trauma.
that one day, when the worth of these people’s lives has equaled a quarter of the worth of the lives of America’s dogs in the eyes of the American people, a future generation of Americans will arrive to increase that worth to half; and other successive generations of Americans will add gradual value to our lives until that generation of Americans arrives, hundreds of years from now, that will actually believe and be seen to actually and truly believe that the Other is people too.
Your human comrade,
Pius Adesanmi is a a poet and Associate Professor of English at Carleton University, where he is also Director of the Project on New African Literatures, PONAL.
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