Did you hear the one about the Canadian peacekeeper who arrived in the middle of a conflict between two long standing national enemies? Hurling both insults and ammunition at each other, over historical grievances sometimes too old to remember, the Kanuck Keeper jumped between the adversaries, introduced themselves and shouted, “hey everybody, let’s be friends.”
Some days at the dog park (I visit at least three each week) this is what it feels like, at least to this two-year-old Labradoodle heart. My breeder described me while a puppy as “sweet and sassy” and this remains my emotional goal most days. I love to run and chase and play and bark and . . . well you get the picture. Most other dogs, larger and smaller, older and younger, outgoing and reclusive participate in this way with me. I leave the park most days tired though satisfied.
Sometimes however, especially where balls or sticks are concerned, enmity ensues. Why oh why does an inanimate physical item cause such distress for some? Why can’t we simply share? If one barks, we don’t need to bite; if I chew a stick, why can’t another continue the decimating process. Rarely, though occasionally, a competitive spirit emerges, sometimes in extremis causing upset, even injury.
The dog park is a lot like a human political convention, where wrangling–over procedures, timing and scheduling, foundational documents and detail (where the devil is said to lurk)–such maneuvering can displace other important discussion.
Ken assures me that all human political parties face similar challenges. In Canada, look at the Conservative Party of Canada, where some hanker for the disappearance of their present leader having recently dispensed with his predecessor. And the Greens, at least nationally, still linger close to organizational self-destruction. Today Ken is attending the online BC Provincial NDP convention which itself is no stranger to its own version of wrangling.
Returning to my initial question, can’t we all just get along? Well politics of all sorts and conditions is murky and messy at times. It is a complex conversational process involving both head and heart, drawing on logic, experience, philosophy and ideology, all tempered through the lens of privilege, opportunity, education and gut-hunch. Re-reading this sentence makes me glad that I am a dog.
In the human world, if you need an extreme example of wrangling to the point of outright lying, just look at Boris Johnson, the UKs recent public policy gong show. How do such buffoons get elected? Well a first-past-the-post British colonial electoral system ensures that smaller numbers of constituents elect them. Bad structures, a diminished ability to truthfully debate in a civil manner, a lack of preparation, all these combine to frustrate an evolution towards maintaining or recovering what is often called the Common Good. For more, read Rabbi Sacks (I wonder if he had a dog!).
Truth be told, wrangling does occur in my world; it is a fact of canine life–there are dogs and there are balls. I will strongly advocate for possession, repeatedly, though within the boundaries of respectful engagement. I will stand up for myself though roll over on occasion if expedient to do so. (Take one for the team!) I continue to respect the rights of other dogs to play, even with my ball. I will pass the ball (not the buck) on occasion. I will take at least one ball from the park when I leave knowing that it may not be the ball I arrived with (what was your dating life like back in the day?). I will respect advice given by my humans (and my vet) though sometimes will attempt to run from my humans if I feel I have not received adequate time for exercise and restorative play.
If you’ve read this far, well done and thank you! One final point. Friends and adversaries argue! A bereaved spouse once told Ken that her late husband “never raised a voice in anger.” Really? Don’t believe it! Here’s what I can believe: Where friendship runs deep compromise and resolution are possible, even probable. Where co-workers, intimates, rivals and strangers alike can converse in a trust-centered environment, good and great things can happen. If there must be wrangling may it be fair, brief and reconciling. Best of luck everyone; see you at the dog park.
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