When my dad died in 1974, my mother was at loose ends. We cleared out a spare room so that she could stay with us. She came with Coco, my father’s dog. Our cat Clancy (The Gray Menace) took an automatic dislike to Coco. Their relationship developed a pattern; Gray Menace unsheathes claws, Coco reflexively yipped and bounced out of reach.
One day I came home early. Letting myself into the apartment, I heard regular yips from my mother’s room. Standing by the door, I watched the cat and dog engaged in an activity that appeared to have been practiced. Coco was spinning in place. Once in a great while, the cat gently reached out to swat the dog on the rump. The dog would yip, and the spinning would increase in speed. Every time Coco slowed down, the cat would reach out and swat the dog’s rump again. The spinning went on until they noticed me. When they did, there was a sort of embarrassed reaction, and they walked away. I felt as though I had invaded their privacy.
Coco was not the smartest poodle in the world. The Gray Menace, on the other hand, took great pride in manipulation. He’d been successfully managing my life since he was a scruffy kitten found on the streets of Ottawa. His mastery of Coco should not have been much of a surprise. But when my mother decided to return to Virginia, I’ll swear that the cat was sad.
Over the years, I thought nothing much of this anecdote except as a family story to tell my kids until a few months ago. I knew that our politicians loved to confuse and confound us. But they also like to spin us. Yes, we’ve always gotten spun. But, now there seems to be a sort of manic nature to the spinning. It’s used to distract us from what to needs to get done; like voting or taking reasoned stands on important issues. It encourages divisive behavior, mistrust, and hate. It’s in the disinformation toolkit along with gaslighting, and rumor-mongering.
The memory of the Gray Menace, reaching out and swatting, the dog yipping and spinning comes to mind. Are you dizzy yet?