Before changing the world, we have to change the communities in which we live. Through small steps to accrue consensus and line up inevitable conclusions, the future we dream of falls in line. I recently had a hard fought encounter with my town’s legislature that strengthened my relentless resolve to challenge the status quo.
For many years, the local dog park has openly espoused speciesism and speciation with signs and nomenclature denying other animals the right to use public space as they wish. This is especially problematic for my cat Rockwell, who is very energetic and playful, often identifying as a dog, but not when oppressive leash laws are enforced or rabies vaccine documentation is required.
My cat enjoys the dog park most of all when not chased by other dogs, which obviously for public order suggests a comprehensive restructuring so that no animals are encouraged to engage in conflict or annoyance. Calm and peaceful interaction must be upheld as the norm, never aggression that creates an environment of fear and intimidation.
When you think about community planning, you realize it’s not intended as a dog park so much as a walking park. All that’s needed is for it to be renamed properly to reflect a more inclusive purpose serving greater public need. Though only some people own dogs, many people enjoy walking and sharing quality time with their pet, no matter the so-called species.
I collected my arguments and a map of the infringing area, and planned strategy with a friend who has professionally agitated by answering a Craigslist ad for protesters to hold signs and shout slogans at a rally. We began by making a presentation at my book club and then spent Saturday gathering signatures outside a grocery store until arrested for trespassing and public nuisance.
When you face entrenched power, they’ll always use nasty tactics like law and definitions to keep progress at bay. We were ready for it, and they weren’t able to take my signatures away.
We then called my District Selectman who advised us to reserve a speaking slot at the monthly town hall meeting. This was the big day where I would get to speak truth to power.
I was nervous when called upon, but looked down at my notes and began educating the board that the notion of a species was just a social construct, and an antiquated one at that. With my opening attack, I asked which of them wanted to look foolish by using ideas from debunked theorists like Darwin whose shoddy scholarship was ripe for being overturned by the brilliant academics of our present day.
Then I proceeded with a spotlight on the exclusionary aspects of the park, and bravely quoted community statistics about animal ownership, including rodents and ruminants to honestly pad the numbers in my favor.
I took the list of signatures out of my pocket, unfolded it, and laid it on the table to prove I was hardly alone. Almost a dozen community grocery shoppers had signed on in solidarity, and I added a few fake names to show still wider support.
The next wave of onslaught showed my vision for what an inclusive park would look like. I described how animals of all sorts could share space together in harmony, with none being denied or judged as unwelcome or undesirable. My friend Steve had illustrated this on a roll of butcher paper so everyone could see the future that was possible, as proven by his drawing.
I sensed I had drawn blood and now it was time for the finale. I told them unequivocally that this law must be stricken down and that the animals must be released from legal threats when using public land for which others had died. There were hundreds of us, people and pets, who could no longer tolerate be denied our right to use the dog park freely.
Having thoroughly dazzled them with this argumentation and my unwavering conviction, I felt like the culmination of my efforts was now about to be rewarded with victory, and maybe a statue so others would remember my fight for ages. The chairwoman looked quizzically at the other members and turned on her microphone to address me.
“I want to thank the sir/madam for their interesting presentation. As you might know, the is a community information exchange forum and no laws or resolutions are adopted in these sessions. We appreciate your comments.”
Though I wasn’t able to prevail this time, I’m working on a slogan and logo for next time to show them I’m dead serious about social change.