COMPARE AND CONTRAST: Benazir Bhutto and Tatiana the Tiger.
Both beautiful and beloved by many.
Both powerful and dangerous.
Both enclosed (entrapped?) by institutions for human reasons, maybe political reasons. (Aren’t zoos political, created by the popular will of the people?)
Both capable of killing.
Tigers and political leaders gather our attention through their glorious appearance and family relationships and become symbolic of certain aspects of the world. We think we are managing them, using them to our own purposes, but in fact they react almost instinctively, using strategies and private convictions to overcome the barriers at least temporarily.
We severely underestimate them. Surely a tiger can’t leap more than twelve feet? (The experts recommended A sixteen foot wall. Why wouldn’t any sensible person add a margin in case of error?) Surely a woman, no matter how well connected -- even if she was Harvard educated -- could not keep nuclear proliferation out of Pakistan, especially since it had already begun by the time she had any power. What good did it do for the CIA to take her aside and show her their evidence that Pakistan was already making bombs? Did they think she didn’t know and that if she DID know, it would make a difference? Were they trying to force her to accept their worldview?
We pretend we know all about these two powerful females when in fact we are singularly short of facts, so that as new “facts” arrive, new theories develop and people’s opinions go this way, then that way, until finally they become bored and confused and just turn away. The three boys outside the tiger compound were teasing her, inviting trouble. She would never have tried to jump out otherwise. There was a bloody shoe and blood on the wall of the retaining pit. No, there wasn’t. The three boys outside the tiger compound were innocent victims. No, one was a hero who tried to save his friend but then was attacked and killed. The zoo employees had a tranquilizer gun and were about to immobilize the tiger, but the police took their gun and insisted on shooting the tiger dead. No, the tiger charged the cops and they had to shoot her in self-protection. People grieve for the tiger. People are indignant that a tiger should attack innocent boys.
Benazir Bhutto was killed by her rival, Mousarraf. No, she was killed by Al Quaida and the Taliban. No, she was killed by an accident, struck in the head by her own armored security vehicle, thrown off balance, not careful enough, struck by a protruding lever. No, there was a suicide bomber who took twenty other people into death with him, so who can say she didn’t go with them, almost voluntarily. No, there was a gunman and it was shrapnel caused by his shooting that killed her. No, you can’t do an autopsy -- we’ve already buried her. What does it matter? She knew she would die a martyr. Her whole family died martyrs. She expected it. There was no shame in it. (But she should have been more ashamed of her family’s bad behavior.)
Better a tiger should be shot to death in the midst of aggression -- a tiger is by nature aggressive, it is built for attack and killing, not for living in a concrete phony environment no matter how many toys and growing plants are provided. Tatiana was never more a tiger than in the seconds before the bullet hit her. How to justify a tiger in a fake compound when the real tigers in the wild are not being protected? Let this be the beginning of closing down all zoos. This one was bad anyway. This tiger had ripped ragged the arm of a keeper because of bad confinement design. This zoo has allowed two elephants to die -- if they can’t protect their elephants, how can they be expected to protect either their tigers or their tourists? Yet people love zoos and don’t want to give them up.
Pakistan is a “democracy trying to struggle its way into being from inside a dictatorship.” The only way the leadership changes is if it dies of old age, is convicted of bad behavior, or is assassinated. How can anyone expect orderly elections, orderly public events, progressive leadership? The autocratic leaders impose hardship and suppression until the people are inflamed and then the people overreact in riots and killings, so that the autocrats feel more justified.
What can anyone expect from a country ripped from the side of India? What can anyone expect from a huge hunting cat so totally displaced from the jungles of India? Why can’t we leave things as they are instead of constantly introducing more division, more hatred, more violence? How can anyone care about Pakistan when we know so little about it? How will anyone ever protect wild tigers if they never see one in order to realize just how magnificent is really is? You can transmit PBS and the History Channel constantly, but you can’t make people sit down and watch -- much less think about what they see. Anyway, all those video images just make the reality unreal.
It is the fate of Pakistan to be constantly in uproar. After all, they are located right at the juncture of two tectonic plates that cause repeated violent earthquakes, destroying their little mud huts and cutting off villages that were never really connected anyway. It is the fate of all the charismatic megamammals to become extinct. They simply exist in a time of extinctions that cannot be changed. If overpopulation doesn’t get to them, climate change will. Should a tiger be more cherished than a polar bear? Or a human.
Why do we care more when something beautiful is killed than when something ugly is wiped out. Who decides what is beautiful or ugly anyway?
Is there oil in Pakistan? Might they use their bombs on us? Might they export their bombs to our enemies? Why not just bomb them into rubble now and prevent any problems? But why are we meddling in their problems anyway? If we leave them alone, why would they bomb us? Containment, that’s the ticket.
How much are tigerskins worth? What will happen to Tatiana’s skin? Will she be mounted? Isn’t taxidermy just a macabre extension of a zoo? Why not a rug? We could present it to the next worthy Prime Minister of Pakistan. (We might have it a long time.) Who decides?