They’re both wrong

A cat typing at a computer.
Letter by Claire McElvaney
Illustration by Vanessa Lennon McElvaney

WOW. Just WOW. Your teacher seems to think I have nothing to do with my time. YES, I took a break from letter-writing, okay?

It’s lizard hatching season and those slimy suckers are trying to get into our house. You know how it is. One comes in when the door opens and I have to chase it, catch it, then release it again so that I can catch it a second time and show that lizard who’s boss. Your mom calls them skinks. Well, skinks stink and I’ll make them sink…into my jaws of rodent regret. They’re very crunchy but your mom is weird and keeps throwing them back outside. Clearly, she’s never eaten one or she would save it for later.

So, your teacher wants me to talk about the Will Smith thing and tell you and your classmates that he was wrong—not gonna happen. Everyone in the world is talking about it so why should I? Am I getting tuna for this? Probably not once your teacher hears what I have to say!

Okay, yeah, Smith was wrong to walk up and smack somebody (happy now?), but that Chirs Rock-head person was wrong too. He was MORE wrong than Will Smith. Rock slapped Smith first, even though it was a verbal thing. It was planned. Rock actually took the time to work on his introduction and his jokes and he thought, hey! Let me pick on someone with a medical condition! Not cool. Not cool at all. At least Will Smith reacted instead of acted. Reactions are sometimes wrong, but there’s no thinking involved, just gut instinct. What’s Rock’s excuse?

Is your teacher looking mad yet? I bet she is. She’s part of the institution I tell you, and the educational machine hates when anyone thinks independently. Too bad, so sad! I’m a cat, I control my own destiny, DUH.

I’m not saying Will Smith was right, but the outrage against him is unfair. Everyone is talking about what Smith did wrong, but a BULLY was picking on someone he loves. How come Rock isn’t getting punished at all?

If you step on my tail, I will whomp you. Claws of fury will be your doom! If it’s an accident and you give me treats to apologize I might—might—forgive you. But if you’re the kind of person that pulls a cat’s tail on purpose because you think it’s funny, then you really need some kind of life lesson (and psychiatric help).

There are certain types of boxes we don’t try to fit into, and cruelty for the sake of a laugh is one. The joke was mean, and that Rock even thought of using someone’s medical condition as a form of humorous entertainment means he needs mental help as much as anybody who laughed at it.

So yeah, Smith shouldn’t have slapped Chris Rock. Smith should have acted more like a cat and done something sneaky and less-witnessy. (Your teacher wants me to say walk away I’m sure, but her whiskers are too tight. It’s not easy to walk away from something that public and that messed up.) Maybe Smith could have publicly shamed Rock in return or filed some kind of complaint, but he didn’t have a cooling-off period because everyone was watching Rock use words to hurt somebody Smith loves. That would be hard for anyone to take.

But my concern–my very serious, fur-rasing concern– is about the guy who thought making fun of someone’s illness could be funny. Maybe that’s what we should be talking about instead.

Truth and tuna is my motto! Down with tail-pullers!
LuLu the Calico Cat


War=Because the world hates a bully

Letter by Claire McElvaney
Illustration by Vanessa Lennon McElvaney

Dear Ethan & Olivia,

You asked me to write about why the world is at war and what it means. Couldn’t you give me an easier question, like what type of fish I like best? (Answer: ALL of them!)

Okay, so I can give you a lot of different reasons, but there’s one that overshadows the others:

Our world hates a bully.

Bully is a weird word, am I right? Bully sounds like it should be a fluffy miniature cow that bounces around in a grassy field and butts head with the lambs or something cute like that, but instead, it’s a word that means a jerky person who claws at others for no good reason. We’re at war because right now there’s a world leader who’s acting like a bully.

When bullies are kids we wonder if it’s how they’re raised, like problems at home, or we wonder if it’s because they hurt and don’t know how to feel better without making somebody else feel bad. But an adult who’s a bully is different. VERY different. Especially this particular bully, because he has a whole army and an entire treasury of money and gold to do whatever he wants.

When a kid-bully hits you, then you or an adult can usually find a way to stop it. That’s because it’s one kid. A single kid can be moved or face some kind of corrective action because adults are still (in theory) in charge. When a world leader strikes out and hits everybody around him, he’s a lot harder to stop. He has a security team to keep him safe while he punches people. Putting him in time out or giving him extra chores like raking the yard or scrubbing graffiti off of walls isn’t going to work, because being in the government protects him from a lot of the punishments we would use with a kid.

We can’t send him out to clean up the rubble from a blown-up building or get him to wash the stains on the streets. I wish we could. Seriously. He’s so far removed from the mess that he’s making that he doesn’t see how much damage he’s done. That means that it’s harder for his brain to think about the people in the other country as human beings; right now he just sees a bunch of marks on a map. No faces are on those maps, so it really just a weird sort of game for him.

He’s what I would call a bully-coward. I know your teacher probably doesn’t want me to use the term coward, but what else do you call someone who picks on others and then stands behind an army so that you can’t hit him back? I mean, I get that sometimes we should walk away from an argument or a fight, but HE started the fight and then hops from foot-to-foot behind his guards just sticking out his tongue at everyone and saying “can’t catch me!” Talk about a punk! (It occurs to me that your teacher’s probably getting a little mad at me at this point, sigh…Well, if you don’t want to know how I feel, don’t ask!)

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t approve of jerky jerkface invading another country, but if he wants to get any smidgen of respect then HE should be on the frontlines. How about he goes and does the fighting and lets the soldiers who are just following orders stay home? How many people in his own country really even understand why they’re fighting?

That’s why other countries are joining the fight. Because this guy is a bully. He’s standing behind his military and throwing bombs at people just because he can. No one knows for sure why, although as a cat I would guess that he’s got a medical condition of some type or something. He’s like one of those people that knows they’re dying so they start breaking rules, because if they’re dying, who cares? They won’t have to face punishment because their time is almost up. And he probably won’t face punishment because his time is almost up.

WOW—this letter got serious quickly, am I right??? I guess your teacher wants me to say that “it’ll be okay” and “don’t worry” or some other mumble-wumpus garbage like that. Um, not happening!

You kids deserve to have me keep it real. And the REAL, in this case, is that a crazy man grabbed his army, gave them guns, and told them to go destroy a beautiful place. He’s beating up a country that should have been left in peace, and he is using his big powers to hurt a smaller nation. THAT’S why the world HAS to stand up against him. Because he’s a bully. And the sad thing is that this bully has an entire country with him, and they are going to suffer because of his madness. If his own people won’t stop him, the rest of the world will.

The rest of us in this world—you included—we are going to remember that bullies are sometimes in school, sometimes in work, and sometimes in government. It doesn’t matter where they are, they’re still bullies. If a bully picks on you and you need to defend yourself you can, and I won’t be mad at you. Being safe is your right. If you can get your teacher or another adult to help you, even better. Because we need to stop bullies when they’re young enough to still learn that it’s not okay.

Did you catch that part? IT. IS. NOT. OKAY.

If we don’t get bullies while they’re young, they turn into this guy, a world leader who is a bully and a coward. So, my little tuna-treaters, that is why the world is at war. In the 1930s and 1940s, we saw what happened when we ignored a bully for a little while. We can’t let wait this time. We need to stop him before he hurts anyone else.

Oh—and before you say that I am a bully for chasing the dog off the couch, I’m not. The sun was on that cushion which automatically makes it MY spot. She can sit on the couch later when I don’t want to sit there anymore.

This was a long letter, so I expect extra minnow or something when you get home! My paws are tired!

LuLu the Calico Cat

Bullies do NOT understand Love!

A dog sniffing a laptop and trying to type.
Illustration by Vanessa Lennon

Dear Olivia,

Last night your mom was sad because she read an article about folks who were mean just because someone was from a different place. I even heard that some people don’t like each other because they look different.

That’s dumb. I mean, I know people think I’m not smart because I’m a dog, but I know dumb stuff. I’m really smart about dumb stuff!

I’m a brown and white dog. Babbie is a tan and white dog. I’m big, she’s little. So what? We both chase our tails and bark when someone goes past our window, so we both know what is important!

I don’t care if Babbie is different! I don’t care if YOU are different!

I know some girl made fun of you because you are short with brown hair, but I think you are beautiful. Especially when you have bacon. Then you are EXTRA beautiful!

I think that human-people are kind of stupid. They get picky about what someone looks like or how much stuff you have, but seriously, how much stuff do you need? Isn’t it what’s in your lunch box that matters?!

For us dogs it’s all about smell. Other animals smell right or they smell wrong. That’s all there is to it. If it smells wrong, it IS wrong. And if someone smells like a bully, then they’re a bully. Listen to your nose. And your gut. Those are the truth-tellers in life.

You and your brother have had to deal with a LOT of bullies lately. Bullies are stupid. They’re also sad. Something is wrong with anyone who has to chew someone else’s chowder. Just sayin’.

I know that doesn’t help when they’re picking on you. It stinks. It stinks that I cannot be there to bite them for you. Maybe you should bite them instead? Biting teaches a lesson. A brilliant, painful lesson.

True fact: Bullies don’t understand love. They don’t understand that sometimes massive cuddle hugs smother you but make you feel warmer too. You need other people and dogs, and they need you too. So don’t stop loving.

You be YOU girlfriend! Oh–and offer bacon. Bacon makes everything better!