Thursday, July 3, 2008

How Much is That Doggie in the Window?

Just about $8 billion dollars, but let me tell this story from the beginning.

When I was a little boy, my mother took my brother and I to the local SPCA. We walked down the rows of dogs in cages and picked out a black Labrador mix that was to be our first pet. I liked that dog; I've always liked dogs. Sure, I never really walked him and only played with him sporadically, but when I did interact with that dog I loved it.

Unfortunately, the dog needed more attention than my T.V.-addicted family wanted to give it, and soon began digging holes in our backyard to entertain itself. This drew the ire of my father, who gave the dog a "whipping" with his belt, and eventually brought him back to the SPCA. That made me sad, but, as is the habit of children, I got over it and went on to live my life.

Some of y'all may be wondering why I just told you that story. Well, I wanted to make sure all of you knew that I don't hate animals, in fact I'm quite fond of dogs. However, some of the comments I'm going to make in this post may imply that I have a dislike of animals, and I wanted to clear that up.

Leona Helmsley was rich. She was very, very rich. She was also mean, nasty and possibly a little crazy. Why do I think she was crazy? Well, according to the NY Times, she left $12 million to her dog, and then asked that another $5 billion to $8 billion be given to the dogs of the world. Yep, that's what she did.


Just when I had convinced myself to stop getting all outraged by the ridiculous things people do, something like this happens. Really y'all, I like dogs, but come on. Did she really have to give all that money to dogs with all the human beings struggling to survive in this world? I know it's her money, but this just seems foul.

I respect that in a capitalist society the accumulation of wealth is viewed as a God-given right, I really do. Like most folks, I'm trying to live the good life myself. Yet, when your wealth skews your perception so much that you think canines deserve billions of dollars, well... Really, why didn't she think this money would do more good in inner city schools, or drug treatment programs? What about HIV research or ending global hunger? Did she really believe that helping dogs was more important than helping humans?

You know, one Christmas, my mother-in-law gave me a book about injustice. In the book, the guy talks about the economic conditions in America and compares them to some place in Central America. He said that in the Central American country, the economic divide is so wide that all the wealthy people must live in giant enclaves enclosed by walls and patrolled by private security firms armed with machine guns. He said that when they or their children want to leave those areas, they take an armed guard and travel in armored vehicles.

I could see that happeneing one day soon in America.

Really, unless we address the wealth disparity, the kind of disparity that would make a woman think it's ok to leave a dog millions, then eventually anarchy is coming to our country. Even with the opiates of television and drugs, poor people are eventually going to get fed up with being fed this false vision of America and decide they want the good life no matter what. And when that violence comes, the only hope for the rich will be using their money to shield them from danger in military compounds. It's not that far-fetched, most gated communities in America are on that path already.

What is the solution? I don't agree with the judge's decision to try to get around Helmsley's wishes and avoid giving the money to dogs even if that move serves the greater good. It doesn't seem right that people would ignore her wishes for the wealth she acquired. However, she is dead, and dead people really don't deserve to have much sway over a world they no longer inhabit.

I would prefer if we as a country came together and agreed that something is wrong when 1 percent of Americans control a lion's share of the country's wealth. I think we all need to stop aspiring to be in that one percent. Then, we need to work together to make sure that future generations do not face the same wealth disparity by closing tax loopholes, establishing more rules about passing wealth from generation to generation and improving the education and quality of life of all citizens. Those may seem like lofty goals, and they are, but you have to set the bar high if you ever want to find out how high you can jump.

Dogs are cool, but people are better.


Deacon Blue said...

I really keyed in on your thought about walled conclaves for the rich in America. Have you ever read Octavia Butler's "Parable of the Talents" and "Parable of the Sower"? (I forget at the moment which novel came first). That's precisely the kind of scenario played out in a very nasty fashion in the first of those two books in particular.

WNG said...

When you're right, you're right.
Here's another idea:
No/Low interest small business loans in the poorest communities (my church in Chucktown has a loan program) because we need to take ownership of our neighborhoods back. It's great to tackle the passing of wealth...but we also need to build the wealth.

OG, The Original Glamazon said...

I think America is already close to that look at the homes of the rich almost always surrounded. I have a friend who is a body guard and that's all he does is guard these CEOs of major companies while they fly around and hang out at strip clubs. In fact he abandoned celebrity security because he says they never want to pay.

Of course I think you're dead on.


Big Man said...

The loan idea would be great WNG.

Christina Springer said...

You've been working hard Big Man!

I understand your sentiment about the dogs. On the other hand, accepting responsibility for a pet means agreeing to be responsible for a life. If you have the means, you ought to provide for that pet after your death. That means shelter, food, handlers, vet bills. What she did was very responsible. (Albeit excessively responsible.) As to the dogs of the world - billions? I agree. Come on!

WNG - the loan program is a great thing your church is doing! So many people think that only people in other countries are poor and need economic assistance. is a great program which is tackling this exact issue.

My final thought is it seems that many African-Americans are not web savvy regarding finding opportunities. I see very little representation on sites like Ideablob.

Even sites like where folks expect other folks to send them snowboarding have very little representation.

Torrance Stephens bka All-Mi-T said...

thats why i opened my store for dogs shop

Raving Black Lunatic