I don’t deal with many men these days. I have no husband, brother, dad, son. When I left teaching I also left behind the good ol’ boys who had power over my life and the young’uns that were my students. There are a couple of men in the co-op but otherwise it’s just pretty much Dusty T. Dog, my friend’s husband and sons and a friend or two in another town. That’s fine with me. Sorry, fellas, but you’re an inscrutable breed and I’m happy to give you a wide berth at this point in my life. I’m sure it’s mutual.
I’ve never considered myself a “man hater.” Things just never worked out well between me and men, not in the love department and not in the professional world. I never understood why until my ultimate and most recent lover explained it to me. I don’t want to share that explanation so suffice it that it made sense; I had seen it play out over and over. I am seriously very grateful to, uh, we’ll call him Rocky T. Mulhawk for that.
A month or so ago I went to City Council and proposed an amendment to the city ordinance for dogs. The goal was to make it illegal to tether dogs inhumanely. I began my talk with the statement, “I’m not trying to make tethering dogs illegal. This is a proposal to establish boundaries for humane tethering.”
The proposal — which the city officials and the city council had had for a month before THAT — said in the very beginning, “This proposed amendment does not seek to make tethering dogs illegal. I understand that there are dogs who have to be tethered for their own safety…”
Last week there was an article in the local paper about my presentation at the City Council and the article began with, “…Kennedy does not seek to make tethering dogs illegal.”
That point was clearly made. And definitively.
So, nothing happened. I gave it three weeks, then, finally, sensing that I’d been “shined on” by the “powers” I contacted my city council member and made noise on Facebook.
It is the modern world after all.
The council member (who’s a great guy) pushed the city manager who arranged a meeting between me, the city attorney and the police chief. That happened yesterday. The meeting began with the City Manager saying, “I understand you want to make dog tethering illegal.”
I was furious, but self-contained.
So here were three old white guys (and, until yesterday, I DIDN’T share that “old white guy” thing, but now I’m considering there might be something to it) making sure I KNEW they had not read what I’d written and had not listened to me. The unspoken message was, “We’re only here because the city council member forced this. Your little proposal is completely irrelevant to us and our serious business as The Powers, and, frankly, we’re annoyed we’ve been compelled even to deal with this.”
Knowing that I was there to win, that anger wouldn’t help me, and that I’d written something I COULD win, I just said, “No, not at all. Making tethering illegal is not practical and it would be unfair. I just want to see something done to establish what constitutes humane tethering. I have two goals — first to educate the public and second to give law enforcement a toe-hold to cite someone who’s tethering their dog inhumanely.” I’d already read the code for my city; I knew it said a lot about animal abuse, but I believed it needed to provide for a situation in which an owner wasn’t intentionally abusing their dog by tying it out, but the result was that the dog suffered.
What had I written? I wrote a very detailed proposed amendment to the City Code that was 90% negotiable points. I knew what the powers would do with it, and they did exactly what I expected. I did my best to be cooperative, open-minded and friendly through the whole ordeal. The discussion went as I expected and the page and a half is now about 10 lines. They pushed it to the city council meeting in two weeks (there’s one tomorrow) because of the time it would take to write those few lines. Two weeks of cold and snow in which some dogs are now living chained to trees.
When this was over no one said, “We’re all done, Martha. Thanks.” No one stood up when I left or even said good-bye. I felt absolutely disrespected and, yeah, negated.
Confusing all of this is that it was clear to me that all three of them are nice guys and that, somehow, I made them feel awkward. I can imagine that in a different situation we would have seen each other differently. I wouldn’t have had my hackles provoked immediately or felt minimized. As the meeting wore on, I think I made my point and the police chief had good ideas about educating the public and the city attorney told about his dog and how much he loved him and the city manager kept the meeting on track. But the first few minutes had set the tone and it was almost impossible to turn that around.
I don’t want to generalize, but it’s very hard not to. I just wonder what the deal is? This is a battle I’ve fought all my life. I heard from my Aunt Martha about how hard it is to “make it in a man’s world.” I had a former colleague say, “You wouldn’t like Japan. It’s a man’s world.” I’ve heard men complain about women and their “game playing” but if that wasn’t game playing yesterday what was it?
As for the outcome of my small effort to change a minor bit of city code in a TINY city. I have never tried to do anything like this in my life, single-handedly, anyway. I had a big effect on establishing a large urban wilderness park in San Diego, but that had, by the time I joined in, a powerful infrastructure behind it. This is just a tiny law that needs — should not need — an army. I will not know until it actually DOES appear on the city council agenda and the city council votes on it.
Meanwhile I have to see, again, that it really doesn’t make any difference what I say; people will hear, read, only what they expect.