Cats die. Especially when we let them wander around outside, roam the neighborhood and do as they wish.
I own a cat now and I have owned cats throughout my life. It is not uncommon for a cat to disappear for weeks at a time, not return home at all; be found dead in the yard or along the roadside, killed under suspicious circumstances.
But if your dead cat is found on your front porch with a single word scrawled on its body, that changes everything.
This past weekend Jacob Burris found exactly that on his front porch. Or rather, his five-year-old son did. The word scrawled on the cat was "Liberal."
Burris is the campaign director for Ken Aden, a Democrat who is running for Arkansas’ 3rd Congressional District seat.
Just one word changed the death of a cat, perhaps from some cause other than human hands, into a felony animal cruelty charge. The police in Burris' community, Russelville, Arkansas, have increased patrols in the neighborhood and say they are committed to finding the person or persons responsible.
The Humane Society of the United States is now offering a $2,500 reward for the arrest and conviction of those responsible.
Burris and Aden have both said this only increases their commitment to the community and to the election, using the death of the cat as a rallying point.
All of this because of a single word. One word, scrawled on the body of a dead cat. If the cat had simply been found dead someone might have called the death suspicious, but with little evidence other than a dead cat. With one word scrawled on the body, the entire situation changes. Now there seems to be little doubt the cat died as a result of the politics of its master.
I am fairly certain the cat had never voted in its life or expressed any interest in politics at all.
Nevertheless, its death has become a poignant political statement. With one single word a simple election to find the person best able to represent their community changed dramatically into something altogether different; it's now about animal rights, intimidation, animal cruelty, criminal activity, dirty politics and "liberals" versus "conservatives."
The power of a single word is an awesome thing.