Cats and Dogs

Cats and Dogs - June 24, 2018

State Representative David Perryman

A few weeks ago I ran across a 2002 essay written by Laura Miller called Cat People vs. Dog People. Ms. Miller’s humorous yet pointed message was that dog aficionados have little patience for cat lovers and vice versa.

This concept is based on the premise that dog people are bewildered by anyone who would have affection for an animal that provides little, if any, active entertainment and seem aloof or indifferent to humans. In the dog owners mind, there is a reason that a canine will star in a show like “Lassie” where the main “character” dives into a raging, flood swollen river to “rescue a small child.”

Similarly, contempt is heaped on dog people by cat people who theorize that instinctively and indiscriminately dogs lavish love and obedience on people who are undeserving and it is the dopey eagerness of a canine to please, and not its intelligence, that makes it willing to learn tricks.

The analysis of the antithetical relationship between lovers of cats and lovers of dogs seemed to me to be more of a lack of mutual understanding than an engrained animosity. In fact, it reminded me of the 1992 book by Dr. John Gray, “Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus.” Dr. Gray’s book which spent 121 weeks on the bestseller list and was based on the premise that most relational problems between men and women stem from fundamental psychological differences between the sexes.

For instance, men and women are each “engendered” to their own understanding of societal and customary norms. The author’s explanation that each sex is from their own distinct planet would explain the generalized assumption that men want to reach a quick solution to problems while women yearn for a complete discussion of the underlying problem. Similarly, women believe that the most expeditious means to reach a destination is to stop and ask questions while men may prefer to simply drive “aimlessly” with the apparent goal of “finding it.”

One of my most cherished possessions is a 1906 edition of “Washington’s Farewell Address” contained in a volume from Maynard’s English Classic Series. The book belonged to my grandmother and has been passed down to me. The Address was delivered at Congress Hall in Philadelphia and was first printed on September 21, 1796 in the American Daily Advertiser. Often the Address is said to be a condemnation and discouragement of political parties. However, that interpretation does not really capture the gist of George Washington’s message.

The theme of Washington’s letter as he moved from public life to final retirement was “Unity” and while he did address the dangers of what he called “the spirit of party” he acknowledged that it was “inseparable from our nature, having its root in the strongest passions of the human mind” and the manner in which he used “party” was not only political but also geographic, economic and many other potentially divisive elements that were dangerous to the “Unity” that was so essential to the preservation of the Union.

While Washington focused on a number of issues, his message was this: Defend the Union; Capitalize on the Nation’s regional diversity for the benefit of the Nation as a whole; Respect the Constitution and the Power of the People to Alter it; Maintain the Separation of Constitutional Powers; Protect the Public Credit; Beware the Wiles of Foreign Influence; Do Not Compromise American Independence.

Until the 1970’s Congress annually read the Address aloud. If you haven’t, you should. If you have, you might consider a refresher. Perhaps doing so would allow us to see beyond party or gender, or, most importantly, as Americans prevent us from fighting like “cats and dogs.”  

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