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Politically Incorrect

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Daniel Pearl

February 27, 2002

The little brown tabby cat was curled up asleep in the back window of the red Ford Tempo waiting in front of me at the light by the Conoco station in Sandpoint. He looked pleased to be out for a ride in the car – at least, he looked as pleased as a sleeping cat can look right up to the point the huge semi-truck full of squealing pigs pulled up next to the car. In under a second, sleepy tabby transmogrified into a Halloween caricature and I don’t doubt that, should a single one of those pigs have attempted to move from the semi to the Tempo, that little cat would have beat the crap out of it. I laughed, right out loud, and then noticed the tears running down my face.

It was Thursday, maybe, or it could have been Wednesday or even Friday given how well I kept track of my days this week. (Right here, let me make a note – just what the hell is mid-winter break, anyway? And don’t those school district folks realize that having the kids home on Monday AND Tuesday just blows my schedule to kingdom come?)

Whatever day it was, it was the day I learned that Pakistani crazy men had killed Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl. Not just killed him, of course, but taped the killing and sent the tape to be viewed by the family and friends who undoubtedly had been making whatever deals with God they could if only this day would never come.

I don’t get much news here in my house with no TV. But my mother has satellite, and she keeps me up-to-date on what’s going on in the world around me.

I wasn’t over there when American networks carried the story of Pearl’s murder, but mother called to let me know. All the work I was in the midst of doing came to a halt and I cried. And cried. And cried some more. I felt a little silly for doing it – I didn’t know Pearl; had never heard his name prior to the day he disappeared off the streets of Karachi. But the tears continued to fall.

Was it because he was a journalist? Was it because I once lived for a short time in that very city where his pregnant wife sat and waited for word on the fate of her husband? Or did Pearl’s death somehow manage to scrape away that small layer of everyday life that’s built up over the grief of September 11th? I don’t know why it was; I only know that I grieved for Daniel Pearl, at least for a time, as if he were family or a very close friend.

I stopped crying eventually, of course, and went back to the work that sustains my family and myself. And I headed into Sandpoint, where the antics of a feisty little tabby cat tipped me right back into my grief. I knew exactly why. The world that includes fearless cats willing to take on noisy pigs is not a world that should include the fate of Daniel Pearl. “This is not okay,” I said to myself. “This is really wrong.”

Read a little history, of course, and you realize right quick that Daniel Pearl is only one more link in a very long chain of man’s inhumanity against his fellow man. What happened to the Neanderthal when Homo Sapiens Sapiens made his appearance? Did we breed Neanderthal into our lineage, as some scientists believe, or did our heavy-browed cousins become the first of many instances of genocide in the tale of human history? On my more cynical days, I know what I believe – I think we killed them, and I think we have continued killing throughout the eons since because that’s so much easier than actually learning to live together.

I have had my own problems with “living together” recently, so I know whereof I speak. I am angry today – angry at our school district after perusing the 61 pages of salary schedules that my friend Doris received; angry at our state legislature, who are stomping on the protections inherent in the promise of public information in the name of security; angry at the feds even more, with their attachment of the word “security” to each and every bill they want to write. I’m angry with some of my fellow men, who trash the concept of “innocent until proven guilty” as they call for the immediate execution of John Walker. Hell, I’m even angry that Intuit (the company that owns Quick Books) wants me to pay $10 a month just to update my payroll and doesn’t give me the option of doing it myself.

Angry. Every time I feel that emotion, I lose. "Angry" puts distance between me and the object I’m angry at and that distance can prevent solving the problem that’s brought me to this state. "Angry" puts me at their level, and that’s not the place I want to be.

I wish I could say those tears of mine were at least the beginning of washing away this anger I’ve been feeling, but that would be a lie. I’m not there yet. If I’ve learned nothing more in my years on this earth, I’ve learned at least learned this – it takes me some time to overcome anger. Luckily, I’ve learned even more. I’ve learned the best thing I can do when I’m angry is to shut my mouth (in practice, that’s something I still need to work on quite a bit).

I’ve learned one other thing, too. One of the most important things we all can work on is the creation of a world where feisty tabby cats and murdered fathers-to-be simply can not, and will not, co-exist. That is the goal that will lead me beyond anger, and into the world I want to live in.

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Author info

Landon Otis

Tagged as:

war, Daniel Pearl, Pakistan, anger

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