Monday, March 21, 2011

Coexist, please

Have you seen those bumper stickers that say “Coexist,” with the letters made out of various religious and philosophical symbols?  I find them intriguing and even comforting.  It’s a beautifully simple statement of human solidarity; an eloquent wish for everyone to just get along.  In spite of our different faiths and our diversity of opinions, we can at least share the planet in peace. 

Well, that’s my take on it.  But when I googled “coexist bumper sticker” to learn about the origin, I was in for a surprise.  It turns out there’s a faction of people out there with really strong negative reactions to that particular message.  They find it preachy, smug, na├»ve, and annoying (to name a few of the nicer adjectives).  What upsets them the most is the inclusion of the Islamic moon and star, forming the letter “C.” 

“How dare you granola-crunching elitest hippies tell me to coexist with a terrorist?!” 

Never mind that there are more than a billion non-terrorist Muslims in the world.

Oh well, these same people also have a problem with the Toyota Prius.  As if trying to reduce your fuel consumption is somehow un-American….

What it sounds like, to me, is that some people feel threatened by the peace movement.  Some people resist tolerance like they resist change.  Some people, I think, are afraid. 

It’s kind of like with my daughter’s guinea pigs.  

As I mentioned in my last post, we recently added some furry little pets to our household.  And I dearly wish those three little piggies would just coexist peacefully.  Yet, some irrational fear is keeping them at odds. 

It’s ironic, really.  Before we adopted these little guys, I did my research.  I found out that guinea pigs are social creatures, much happier and healthier when they have a companion.  So, instead of just one, we let Sage pick out two little cuties from the adoption website.  As it turned out, the two she chose had been rescued with a third, and the three boys were living together in the same cage.  They were used to one another.

The thought of leaving behind that third orphan really pulled at my heartstrings.  (And Scott’s too… we’re both softies.)  So, we decided to bring home all three. 

And that’s how Dasher, Blitzen, and Comet (so named by their “foster parents”) became Joey, Petey, and Jackson (as named by Sage).  Sage, of course, was thrilled.

For adopted “brothers,” this trio is as different as can be.  Petey is multi-colored, mostly cream and tan, with crazy bed-head cowlicks.  He’s frisky and excitable, likes to cuddle, and gobbles his food.  Joey, smoothly brown with a little white patch on the top of his head, is calm and gentle.  He’s the biggest of the three, and more stoic.  He takes his time with his food and he’s the easiest to pick up.  Jackson has sleek black fur, with a white stripe down his forehead and face resembling a little skunk.  He’s a nervous fellow, skittish and likely to run and hide.

At least, that’s how their personalities were in the beginning.  Over the past few months, they have switched roles a couple of times.  In the first several days, Joey appeared to be the alpha male, always scaring away the other two.  Then something switched.  All of a sudden, Jackson found his inner-aggressor, and he started bullying the other two.  And then, a few weeks ago, sweet little Petey got sick.  He spent a few days at the vet, and we almost thought he might not make it.  But he pulled through and came home all better. 

However, now his behavior has changed.  Maybe it was the stress, but he became the new bully of the cage.  Naughty Petey picks fights and frightens the other two. 

I don’t like it.  And I don’t get it. 

I mean, there’s plenty of food to go around.  No need to fight over it.  And there’s no female to compete for.  And, it's not like they worship different gods....  Why can’t they just be friends?  At the least, why can’t they just coexist peacefully?

In this human household, you’d think the little critters would naturally bond with one another.  You’d think they’d appreciate one another’s company.

It’s frustrating.  But I’m not giving up.  I’m still holding out hope that they will mellow out and learn to get along.  In guinea pig years, I think they’re still just angst-ridden teenagers.  Maybe with maturity will come wisdom?  Plus, we’re continually improving their environment.  Happy surroundings, happy piggies?

I do hope so. 

I still have hope for all the silly, scaredy humans too.  I don’t have as much control over them, of course, not having them in a cage and all.  But (whether they like it or not), I can still send them a quiet, fervent wish to be tolerant.  To live and let live.  To coexist.  


They're not ALWAYS fighting.  In this photo, it actually looks like the three piggies are lining up, very civilly, at the water bottle:  

In this one, shy Jackson is in the hideout, in the shadow:

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