Family pet, Lennox, is dead. He was executed this morning because he might possibly have had pit bull blood in him. Hundreds of thousands of people around the world begged for his life; people of good will offered their homes as alternatives to death and they were rebuffed. Why? Because a group of ignorant, small-minded individuals decided that a dog with no record of aggression was dangerous. He looked like a pit bull, he must have been dangerous right?
There is no such thing as a dangerous breed, only dangerous people. Dangerously ignorant people.
I’m not old enough to remember a time when it was common to see signs that read: “No dogs, no Irish” but I am old enough to remember segregation in my own country, and I take these lessons to heart because they speak to the human tendency to make flawed judgments based on stereotypes. The stereotypical Irish man/woman still exists today in cartoons, and in phrases which are spoken out of ignorance: “Shanty Irish,” “Lace-curtain Irish,” in descriptors such as “lazy” or “drunken.” Was there anything just about these stereotypes? To my way of thinking, the Irish are no better or worse than any other people on earth.
But this is different, you say, this is about public safety.
No it’s not. It’s about willful ignorance and scape-goating . It’s about people who refuse to look past their own ill-informed prejudices, who don’t want to be bothered actually thinking about a situation — my God, they had two years to educate themselves and they spent those years clinging to a stereotype of pit bulls. There is no excuse for willful ignorance. None.
Here in the U. S., the phrase “zero tolerance” is thrown about a lot. I hate it because it’s the same damn thing: stupidity and laziness tarted up as some kind of high-minded principle. It’s led to children being suspended from school for taking aspirin. (“Zero tolerance for drugs!”) and arrested for doodling on their desk with erasable marker. (“The rules are the rules!”) What “zero tolerance” actually means is “We don’t want to be bothered making decisions, so we’ll just create this rule and enforce it without thought or common sense.” It’s bad enough when 97 year old women are put in handcuffs and dragged to jail for failing to pay a parking ticket, but when it costs a life, even the life of a dog, it’s a sin and a shame.
People of Belfast, your City Council has shamed you in the eyes of the world. From this point on, your city will be known as the place where an innocent family pet can be executed for no more reason than his bloodline. Pet owners will point to Belfast as a kind of Doggie Dachau, and those of us who believe in common sense, common decency and mercy will think of Belfast as a place where none of those things are valued. Yes, I do know better; I know that there are many decent people in Belfast who disagree violently with the council’s decision. But Lennox’s murder proves the enduring quality of negative ideas.
So let me say this: Get rid of your council. Get them out of office as quickly as you can, and replace them with people who actually think. If you can remove that judge from his seat, do it. End breed-specific legislation as soon as you can. Do not let this kind of mindless authoritarianism become the symbol of your city and the people in it. Above all, don’t let these fools take more lives.