There was a “straight pride” parade in Boston last week, maybe 50 miles from my house. I skipped it, and went out for pancakes instead. Then, I came home and did some laundry.
About 300 people marched in the parade. Maybe the other straight guys do their own laundry, too.
And several days later, my wife, Deborah, continued her effort to gain the trust of a stray cat who wandered into our yard, and has been getting fed by her for some time.
Much of gaining an animal’s trust is comprised of offering food and in the ability to sit still as a stone for hours at a time.
Every night, Deborah sits on our front steps, still as a stone, occasionally making kissing noises into the air.
At first, the cat would wait until she left to eat. Eventually, he would eat while she sat, still as a stone, just two wooden steps above the food.
A week ago, the cat was within two feet of her hands. She remained still as a stone. Last night, the timid cat leaned forward and sniffed her hand, and with one ringed finger, she touched him gently on the head. He walked away.
“I didn’t want to try to pet him just yet,” she said. “He’s still a little scared.”
The whole process has taken her a couple of months.
I thought about it when I was washing my hands before dinner.
“You know,” I said to her as we ate. “If this were the year 1230, people would have seen you offering the cat food, sitting still as a stone, luring the cat and wooing the cat, and they would have heard you making kissing noises at the cat and repeating the phrase, ‘Who’s a pretty boy?’ over and over.
“By now,” I said, “you would be burning merrily in the village square, setting aglow the happy faces of the peasants, who knew a witch when they saw one.”
“And did you speak with Satan in the form of a cat?” The inquisitor would have hissed at her. “Did you call Satan a ‘pretty boy’?”
With evidence like that, you knew they were going to burn the witch.
After all, they’d been burning witches for centuries, and Jews, and assorted heretics, and gay people. The smell of burning flesh was pleasing to God, who liked to know that his people would not suffer a witch to live. It’s in the Bible.
We don’t burn witches anymore, at least not where I live, and not in most other places, either. A woman is free to ritualistically chant, “Who’s a pretty boy?” over and over again to any yellow-eyed creature she sees.
The Straight Pride Parade in Boston attracted a couple hundred marchers in a city with a population of 700,000 or so, with many more in neighboring communities. It was, to be brief, a flop. Only a “We Love the New York Yankees Parade” could have done worse in that city.
I imagine the crowds for witch burning events got smaller and smaller as the centuries rolled by.
We stumble. We bumble. We take a step or two back, but we wobble always forward, on our way to something that may someday be peace.