Sunday, May 14, 2006

Dinner and a Show

Gorgeous and I went to dinner with some friends last night. The weather was perfect for eating on the porch. Which, here in Savannah, is a special treat. Most of the year it is too hot to even think straight, even as the sun is going down, and you can forget about enjoying an evening outside.

Of course we were on a screen porch to fend off the gnats.

The steaks were grilled to perfection. The conversation was lively and wide ranging. All in all it was a wonderful evening.

Their two cats provided the entertainment.

Actually the entertainment was provided by the ones that were abusing the cats.

Now before you get all upset, let me give you my disclaimer: No cats were harmed in the course of research for this post.

But they were pretty much abused.

And no, it wasn’t by the pair of dogs the hosting family had either.

The cats stayed in the back yard and on the patio beyond the gnat filtering screen the whole evening. They appeared to like the smells coming off the grill. And the whole time they were out there, a pair of mocking birds thought it would be good sport to harass the cats.

I never saw them hassle the dogs. Or the grill chef. Just the cats.

The show started even before the cat’s arrived on the scene. A bowl of dry cat food was set out about 4 feet beyond the screen. One of the birds landed on the patio, hopped up to the dish, grabbed a kibble and flew off with it.

I thought that was a pretty brave maneuver on his part. And you could tell by the way that he would stop to look around as he was hopping up to the bowl that he was probably thinking, “This is stupid. Where’re the cats? Oh man, is this dumb.” But he did it anyway.

When the cats came on the scene I figured we’d seen the last of the birds. But I was so wrong. For the rest of the time we were out there, until after it got too dark to see, the birds made continual slashing attacks on the cats.

It was pretty amusing. You could tell the cats were a bit peeved by the whole thing. They had their ears back and the tails would go flick, flick, flick. But for some strange reason they never stuck a paw up or pounced when the birds would hit them.

It got so bad that I almost began to whish they would. I started to picture a bird making a low pass over a cat and disappearing in a cloud of feathers, forever cured of feline harassment syndrome.

I’m guessing that the birds didn’t start out so rashly annoying. I bet they were much more careful when they started harassing the cats. But over time, with no reaction from the cats, they just got bolder and more troublesome.

The cats would have been better off if they had been a little aggressive at the beginning to get the birds to back off. In the long run, the birds would be better off too, I think. As it stands now, the only way the birds are going to stop aggravating the cats probably will be by dying.

How much does that carry over into our lives? How often do we let bullies badger us until we explode because we didn’t deal with them early on? How many people do we hurt far more by being “nice” than if we dealt with the conflict in a healthy way early on?

The Bible has a bunch to say on the subject. Here’s one from Proverbs:
Physical punishment cleanses away evil; such discipline purifies the heart.
Edmund Burke said it this way:
All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.
How often do I look the other way when bullies are hurting others?

I need to think about that for a bit.

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