Sometimes governments disappoint you with gargantuan miscalculations. There are wars that shouldn't have been fought. There are horrors committed against families and children that better minds should have stopped.
But sometimes government disappoints with small and needless heartlessness that reflects even smaller vision.
That's why we're disappointed at the Mundelein Village Board. We're not outraged. We're not angry. Even miffed seems too strident.
We simply wish they had shown more heart when civic courage was just what the moment offered them.
In a larger civic universe that seems populated with colder self-dealing arrogance than we had thought, what Mundelein's mandarins did was not villainous as much as venal.
It was the absence of meaningful values left clanging loudly in a vacuum.
They could have banned the horrific trade in puppy mills from making a profit in their town. Their proposed statute would not have solved the larger national problem of brutalizing pets for easy profit.
It would only have been one small step in one small village that announced what Mundelein's citizens wanted to stand for, and what they would stand against. It would have been a small step announced with a loud voice.
The board first voted unanimously to ban local pet stores from selling commercial puppy mill "products" and then changed its mind with a diluted law with no meaning. The board seemed first to vote on principle and then surrendered 4-3 to expediency and pressure.
The first try at the ordinance would have banned commercial puppy mills from supplying local pet stores at all. All the animals would come from rescue agencies or government programs. The proof of an animal's history would have been an automatic component of the sale.
The new law tells pet stores they must reveal the source of the animals if the prospective buyer asks. The law also promises all the federal and state rules were followed en route to the cash register. That's a promise pet store owners can't make credibly. The idea that Mundelein police can or will check on the veracity of pedigree claims is just short of preposterous.
If I told you a golden retriever puppy came from the Happy Paws Kennel and Country Boy Pets in Indiana, would you know if it was a reputable family kennel or a hellish breeding factory cited four years in a row by the federal government for animal cruelty?
The national Humane Society issues its "Hundred Worst" roster annually of the bleakest, more inhumane animal breeding operations in the country. The stories of what happens to animals inside those torture chambers are excruciating.
Of the 22 states in the report, Missouri reigns as the leader in problem mills with 22 of the 101 named. Kansas has 13; Nebraska 12; Arkansas and Iowa have six each; and Minnesota has five. Indiana and Illinois have a few, too.
Most of the Horrid Hundred have been cited by federal or state inspectors for grave or repeated animal care violations, but still they operate. The legal and investigative resources to shut them down are usually too thin to do the job.
As Mundelein leaders aptly point out, the scope of the inhumanity is national, and ultimately the solution must be national, too. You can't blame Mundelein for a black market that thrives across all state boundaries.
But we are entering a national political phase in which federal regulations even to solve obvious evils will become harder to enact and harder to fund. A national government unmindful of climate change and critical of pollution regulations will produce little energy to save pets.
Waiting for Uncle Sam to solve moral issues facing residents of Mundelein is merely fancy footwork.
Even the stated rationale for changing a unanimous vote on the tougher option to a vote for diluted bilge should be irritating.
As the mayor noted, somebody might have sued. Right. And Mundelein wants to maintain its "business friendly" reputation. Right.
And, of course, stopping puppy mills from profiting in Mundelein pet shops would just send customers and sellers to another town.
That's also true when towns ban prostitution, crack houses, and liquor stores with underage clientele.
Every town and village ultimately decides what sort of a place it will be, and what values it upholds. It can be courageous and lead. Or not.
Mundelein has done that.
People who love animals have some right to be disappointed in that message.
David Rutter was editor for 40 years at six newspapers.