Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Silence is not Golden

March is here!  Finally and at long last!  But wait a minute ... isn't everything still subzero and icy outside?  Isn't the greenhouse still hibernating under a blanket of snow?   Aren't some of the smaller bits of shrubbery still completely covered?
You bet!  But right on cue this morning, I heard my favourite kind of tweet .... the sweet sound of the robins greeting us for our first out.  
Gardeners are incurable optimists, eh?  While others only hold the bird actually in their hand, we are ever eying the 'ones in the bush'. 
Behind every beautiful bed .... before the backbreaking work ... all good gardens start with a vision.  Does experience make a better gardener?  Of course it does!  That vision won't ever amount to a hill of beans if it isn't accompanied by a real understanding of the practical bits needed to get it out of the gate.
Over the years, I have learned that almost anything is possible if one is willing to invest the time and energy.  There is ALWAYS a way to grow that delicate or difficult thing.  A little extra sheltering   An early start.  Extra winter protection.   Even to the extreme of burying the entire plant/ shrub/ tree below the frost line every winter.
The point I am making in my meandering way is that the only difference between the master gardener and the one who falls flat is persistence.  Kind of like anything in life, eh?
Thirty odd years ago, everyone knew that spousal abuse was wrong.  That a black eye was not a suitable response to 'not tonight dear'.   That broken bones were not an acceptable outlet after having a hard day.   That women weren't actually clumsy enough to keep falling down stairs.
Yet thirty odd years ago, priests were still advising women to be better wives.  Bosses were cautioning against complaints that would be "bad for a man's career".  In many instances, neighbours and friends deliberately kept the blinders on because they knew that (at that time) social services was long on good intentions and short on the legal ability to actually do anything.... and that things would actually be worse for the woman if they were asked to intervene.
I'm old enough to remember when "real women didn't pump iron".    When it was worth a woman's job to complain about harassment.  Worst of all, when even the women who were at real risk kept turning away from the solidarity of sisterhood.
Circumstances did not magically improve for women because people become kinder and smarter all on their own.  In a democracy, things improve because concerned citizens make it their business to lobby the politicians who make our laws about issues of importance to them. 
Sheesh ... doesn't that remind you of the plight of chained dogs? Its commonly understood within the animal loving community that it is inhumane and cruel to sentence any dog to life on the end of a chain.  
Chained dogs are out there for all the world to see, and I wouldn't be surprised if they top the complaint charts on our provincial animal abuse line.   does everyone who lives close to a chained dog complain?  Of course not!  Why?  Do they not care about the animals?  Of course they do. 
BUT .... concerned kind hearts who complain run the very real risk of creating animosity in their own neighbourhoods.  In some instances their own pets and personal safety can be put at risk. 
Coming out of the gate, that is setting the entire inspection process up for failure.  The inspectors cannot remove dogs from situations where they are getting the (very barely) minimum legal standards for care.   Given the risks, people generally don't complain until they are utterly frustrated.
At that point the last vestiges of any beautiful day in the neighbourhood are gone.   Everyone is going to have their knickers in a twist.  The person who had the SPCA van in their driveway will be annoyed.  The inspector driving said van who once again has to explain to a frustrated neighbour that there really is nothing wrong with the situation.   Right through to the person who complained who now has to live with the knowledge that he or she has created a lot of hard feelings without being able to improve anything for the dog.
The only one who doesn't get upset is the dog ... because today is just another of a long line of crappy days.  The dog might get moved out of line of sight of the neighbours but odds are pretty slim it ever will see the inside of the house.
Does that mean that it always has to be this way?  Of course not!   One of the best bits about being fifty six is having seen that society CAN change.  That it is possible to create safer and healthier environments for everyone in the community.  And before the keyboards catch on fire, I will be the first to acknowledge that there is much that is still more journey than destination.
Circumstances will not magically improve for chained dogs because people are going to become kinder and smarter all on their own.  Things will improve in exactly the same way ALL things do in a democracy. 
Things will improve when a sufficient number of concerned citizens in this province let their MLA's know that they want antitethering legislation.  Things will improve when our own society moves past their position paper and places a petition to provide focus for an actual campaign for anti tethering legislation prominently on the front door of their site.
How will this help?   It will allow the society to educate by clarifying the issue.  To explain that antitethering legislation will not affect the many dog owners who keep a yard leash by the back door for early morning pee breaks.  To reassure the field trial people that their safety tethers will still be acceptable.  Best of all, it would provided a wonderful opportunity for the society to garner tangible support by "speaking for those who cannot speak for themselves"
What time is it?  It is always time to remember that every good idea begins with a vision.  It may take time.  It may take persistence.  But it won't amount to a hill of beans without the practical bits.
We will have to repent in this generation not merely for the hateful words and actions of the bad people but for the appalling silence of the good people.    Martin Luther King, Jr.

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