(PETS & POLITICS/OP-ED)
Omar the cat died today.
A veterinarian came to our home, and with two quick shots, Omar was put out of his pain after 19 years of life. The vet said it’s better to be a day early than a day late, and that we seemed to hit the ‘sweet spot’ between Omar’s quality of life and a painful existence.
For the past two years, Omar got the best medical care possible, a daily regime the kept him frisky to the end. It was care I only wish was available to all people.
Omar was distinct in a household with two dogs and two humans – and he ruled the roost, lording over our terrified pit bull. A bon vivant, Omar made friends up and down our street, strolling through cat doors to visit friends.
He also continued to visit Jon, a 94-year-old guardian of a cat who was killed by coyotes. Somehow, Omar avoided the fate of two more of his cat buddies, eaten by coyotes ranging down from the Santa Monica Mountains in search of water during our never-ending drought.
At poker nights and dinner parties, Omar insisted on sitting on the corner of the table, purring, emerald eyes slit in enjoyment. He slept every night with his head on my pillow – and most mornings I woke to whiskers tickling my nose. The sheer physicality of our relationship was so intimate, so proximate. How long will it take to stop looking for his distinctive thumping down the stairs, tail high in salute, greeting me with a meow? I have no idea – I am still looking for him, still wondering where he is while I write this.
Omar, so named for his Omar Scharif-esque eyeliner eyes and elegant demeanor, always looked good. Even in his last hour, reduced to a sack of bones, he was charismatic (a word a veterinarian once used to describe him). And he was as good a friend as he was good looking.
Over the past 17 years, since I “rescued” him full-grown from the local shelter, he has rescued me – keeping me company while I published two books and wrote endless screenplays. He’s been with me so long he used to sit on my old square monitor, paws hooked over the edge, dozing while I wrote. He was there through bad relationships, lonely nights, and career highs and lows.
Omar always insisted on attention in the present moment, engendering a kind of cat-man-do-nothing dance of being between us, perhaps his greatest gift. Now the house, despite the dogs, is silent. Dogs bark to sound an alarm – but Omar meowed to issue an invitation: want to play string? Want to go for a walk down the street? Sit in the sun?
And so I mourn Omar today – in this time of Trump – and in my specific heartache, I recognize a larger grief. If you can compare a cat to a human, Omar was everything Trump is not: magnanimous, not mean; strong, not weak; elegant, not coarse; innocent, not manipulative.
In a week when Scott Pruitt, a climate change denier and fossil fuel shill, was put in charge of the EPA, I mourn the environment, in which a sixth mass animal extinction is occurring.
I mourn the election of a man being advised by his two sons, whose idea of a good time is killing endangered animals in Africa. Not hunting deer, but killing elephants and leopards – destroying our communal natural heritage for kicks.
And Trump himself seems hell-bent on making earth a hellhole – a veritable Potterville – in which everything is for sale and nothing has value. Not truth, not animals, not the planet, nothing.
Anatole France famously said:
“Until one has loved an animal, a part of one’s soul remains unawakened.”
She could have been describing Trump’s spiritual condition, for it’s hard to imagine Trump loving an animal. It’s not a “deal” or a transaction – it is unconditional. It takes love and care and attention and patience, especially when an animal gets old and needs twice daily subcutaneous fluids to help failing kidneys. It takes compassion. It is not about self-aggrandizement or money. It is about love and humanity.
Luckily, Omar had medical insurance and he got terrific care, providing a high quality of life for him during his waning years. It seemed the least we could do for a cat that gave us so much joy and needed nothing but kibble for his first fifteen years. But I believe Omar got the kind of medical care that every living being deserves. And as I mourn him, I can’t help but mourn the end of a healthcare system that Trump has sworn to dismantle. A system, that while not perfect, insured millions of people – including my wife, who has a pre-existing cancer condition that made her ineligible once her old insurance company declared bankruptcy.
[quote style=”boxed” float=”left”]So it is time to wake up, come out of our shock and denial, and see through Trump’s noxious cloud of lies and distraction. Like seeing through a dark magic trick, ignore everything Trump says and watch only what he does.[/quote]
Even before this time of Trump, Republican governors have already turned down expanding Medicare in their states and are thus are responsible for countless deaths. Their constituents don’t receive the care Omar received. Instead, they suffer under a horrible “get sick, die quick” ethos that is essentially murder; for when you know that people will die without insurance and medical care, and you don’t allow the expansion of it into your state, are you not responsible?
And now prepare for 20 million more formerly covered people to twist in the wind, vulnerable to suffering and slow death. All the while, those same governors enjoy the state-supplied healthcare they deny the constituents who blindly voted them in.
But let’s get real, most people don’t die quickly. They suffer. But Omar benefited from something else many humans don’t have and won’t receive under a Trump/Pence administration (especially theocratic Pence): a peaceful and painless death when the end of medical intervention is reached.
Last year, my twin brother died an agonizing and slow death in Florida, a state that won’t enact a euthanasia law. His death meant months of being bedridden, delirious, and incontinent. He died after every degradation possible to the body, mind, and soul. I used to say that my brother didn’t even have the luxury or dignity afforded to a pet when his time came. But Omar, asleep in his bed in front of the fireplace, hardly stirred when the needle finally went in. It was gentle and peaceful. I know which way I want to go when my time comes. Luckily, I live in California.
Like all animals, Omar was an innocent. Unable to speak up for himself, he relied on me to speak for him. Unable to take care of himself, he relied on medical care we provided. Unable, in the end, to lessen his misery, to even eat, he relied on us to provide a peaceful and painless exit.
Abraham Lincoln once wrote:
“I am in favor of animal rights as well as human rights. That is the way of a whole human being.”
In the election of Trump, it feels like this basic human impulse of decency toward each other and the natural world has died. It’s hard to believe a plunderer, a cheat, a narcissist, a liar, and a con man like Donald Trump will soon sit where Lincoln once did.
So this week, death is in the air and on my mind. The death of compassion, shame, health care, decency, the environment, and – as animals continue to go extinct at an alarming rate – the death of innocence itself.
Do I exaggerate? Am I being melodramatic? I wish. Every 20 minutes one animal species dies out. Gone forever. At this rate, 50 percent of all species will disappear by the end of this century. This will no doubt accelerate under a president who believes climate change is a hoax.
This is why we started started Global Animal, both the Foundation and the magazine. We aim to give voice to the voiceless during this sixth extinction caused by humans. Mankind has created so many billions of tons of carbon dioxide from burning coal and oil that scientists are calling it the Anthropocene, a new geologic epoch created by humans (anthro). Much more to come during the deranged Kakistocrasy taking power, as the head of Exxon Mobil becomes Secretary of State.
But enough handwringing. We must get focused. We must fight carelessness with care. We must counter lies – about the environment, about healthcare, about death itself – with meaning. And we must fight the kleptocrats who would steal our natural heritage for one more dollar. We must fight for the animals who can’t fight for themselves.
Make no mistake, Trump’s cabinet selections – whether a product of him or his far right wing man VP Mike Pence – show that they will have no mercy on the environment and the animals who depend on it, including the animal of man. Environmentalists Al Gore and Leonardo DiCaprio, who were summoned to kiss Trump’s ring and then made a mockery of by Trump’s selection of Scott Pruitt, had zero effect. They were mere pawns in a sadistic, ego-stroking charade for Trump. The rest of Trump’s cabinet is notable for how much they want to dismantle the institutions they were named to lead – foxes let loose in the henhouse. In an Orwellian turn, Rick Perry, who once famously couldn’t remember in a debate the third department he would banish, was just named to lead it (oops, it’s the Department of Energy, Rick).
[quote style=”boxed” float=”right”]Donald Trump doesn’t give a damn about the environment, animals, or you. A hungry ghost, his mindless grasping knows no satiation.[/quote]
So it is time to wake up, come out of our shock and denial, and see through Trump’s noxious cloud of lies and distraction. Like seeing through a dark magic trick, ignore everything Trump says and watch only what he does. Because it’s all right there if we are mindful.
Omar the cat died today. I am beginning to accept that. There is nothing to do but grieve.
Donald Trump is president. I am beginning to accept that. But I am done grieving.
We are all Global Animals and we must do everything in our power to stop a man who has made his intentions perfectly clear – he is an enemy of the planet. It is time to pluck the hopeful “give him a chance” appeasement from our tender hearts and steel our resolve. Donald Trump doesn’t give a damn about the environment, animals, or you. A hungry ghost, his mindless grasping knows no satiation. It must be fought tooth and nail.
America will survive Trump’s plundering and cronyism – fever dreams like McCarthyism and it’s ilk pass when good people stand in opposition. The planet will survive even Trump, for in geologic time, we are but a blip. But can the animal kingdom and humankind survive a vastly denuded planet, with hundreds of millions of climate refugees, droughts, and famine – along with rising sea levels that will drown coastal cities? No.
It is time to fully comprehend this is what is at stake: we are in a war that we must win. The animals of the world, including ourselves, depend upon it.
— Arthur Jeon, exclusive to Global Animal
Arthur Jeon is the co-founder of Global Animal and author of City Dharma: Keeping Your Cool In the Chaos.