A Yellow Lab for President

I have a friend who has two young children and four dogs. One of these dogs is a pit bull. Captain Chuck, as my friend is known, is quiet and gentle, well educated, and upper-middle class. He's hardly the sort you would think would own a pit pull. I asked him if he trusted the dog, and Chuck became uncomfortable, telling me the story of how the pit bull, tired of being poked and prodded by Chuck's nephew one day, had become aggressive with the child. Otherwise, the dog is sweet and playful and a joy to be around. Sort of like George W. Bush, I thought. "We're trying hard to figure out a way to keep him," Chuck says of his tenuous relationship with the dog. Sort of like America trying to figure out a way to keep George around. I held my tongue. We know what happens with pit bulls. The story could end very badly.

No, it's not about the guns. And it's not about laws. It's about a society, led by the nation's first pit bull president, that attacks first, and asks questions later, leaving innocents to pay the price.

Yes, we are horrified at what happened in Blacksburg -- horrified and fascinated and amused at the same time, as we incessantly watch ourselves in the mirror of 24 hour cable news. Records are broken, the deadliest in history, and we watch and watch. The spectacle grinds on, with perpetual death, perpetual wars and countless enemies.

Our pit bull culture manifests itself in many seemingly disparate ways. In education, George W. Bush conspires with gutless Democrats to "get tough" on schools by passing an Orwellian law known as the No Child Left Behind Act, which attempts to improve education by punishing schools that don't measure up on high-stakes tests. In the aftermath, teachers, schools and children are left to deal with the consequences of this technocratic violence.

In foreign affairs--well you know that horrific story. George W. Bush conspires with gutless Democrats to get tough on terrorism by attacking first and facing the consequences later -- consequences that innocent Americans and Iraqis will pay for generations to come in blood and treasure.

The Iraq war and No Child Left Behind and the massacre in Blacksburg are epistemological cousins, sharing the same DNA.. Yes, it's all of a piece.

America can be terribly beautiful. Great wealth breeds greater wealth and beauty for some and terrible envy of those left behind. In his college writing classes, Cho Seung-Hui wrote of his hatred of rich people and women, the iconic objects of a deranged young man who felt left behind.

What does the pit pull society teach him? To lash out, to attack first, and to the beat the enemy into submission.

I don't know how we change our DNA. Maybe it starts with something simple, like going to the Humane Society and bringing a boundlessly enthusiastic yellow lab home for the kids. You can trust a yellow lab.

Take one of my yellow labs, Diego. He's going on 9 now, but he's still fit and lean because he runs and plays and chases balls every day. He's a joy to be around, but he's no party boy, like his sister, Sadie. He's strong and silent, and his bearing is regal. He's and boundlessly enthusiastic with life and his love for humans. But Diego is no pushover. He will defend his turf, and he'll fight if provoked. Yet, when children come over to play, they can prod and poke and bug him and twist his ears and he'll never, never utter a sound of complaint. He's a good dog, and he's got all the qualities for a great president.

Come to think of it, when we are ready to make a bigger step in changing our DNA, we could do a lot worse than finding a human to run the White House who has the qualities of my yellow lab. Boundlessly enthusiastic, strong and regal, and can always be trusted with children. A good dog.