Are we a generation of wussies? part 1
"It was silent in the woods, but something horrible happened everyday. Once the crows fell upon Friend Hare's small son who was lying sick, and killed him in a cruel way. He could be heard moaning pitifully for a long while. Friend Hare was not at home, and when he heard the sad news he was beside himself with grief."
The book is "Bambi, A Life in the Woods."
Yes, the book the Disney movie was based on, written in 1923 by Felix Salten. The author was born Siegmund Salten in Budapest in 1869. He was taken to Vienna by his parents as an infant, after Vienna admitted Jews to full citizenship.
He actually wrote two books about Bambi, and a few more where Bambi appears as a minor character. I understand they're all as dark as this.
Bambi was translated into English in 1928 and became a hit. Disney made it into a movie in 1942.
Salten's books were banned by Hitler (an animal-lover and vegetarian) in 1936, and in 1938 he moved to Switzerland, where he died in 1945. So I guess at least he got to see the smashing of the Reich.
This was a fortuitous coincidence, because a few nights ago I covered the 25th annual Buck Show, sponsored by our local Wildlife Federation.
There I was, feasting on chili in a crowd of families, many with small children, surrounded by tables laden with deer heads.
Awards were given for antlers in the categories of typical and non-typical, mule and whitetail deer, according to a complicated formula used by the national Boone and Crockett Club. There is a junior division for ages 14-17, and you could see the pride in their parents eyes as their boys, and girls, got their recognition for the bucks they'd shot.
I was aware of course, that a lot of city folk would think this appalling. Especially when I saw one curious youngster reach out and touch a buck's eyeball.
About that time, I saw the news reports about Michael Vick plea deal resulting in three-years probation. Vick is already serving a 23-month sentence for his involvement in dog fighting.
Dog fighting is illegal in the U.S., and cockfighting illegal in every state except New Mexico, Louisiana, and Oklahoma.
When I was travelling in Baja California, sleeping on beaches some years back, I camped next to a cockfighting arena near La Paz once. Very popular, with a big sign on the wall advertising, "Gallenas!"
Vick's case evoked a surprising degree of rage in people. My former roommate in D.C. knew Michael Vick, and pointed out Vick's numerous and significant contributions to charity were not getting any mention at all in the media, so great was the indignation.
Another NFL player, "Pacman" Jones, has a record of assaults, one leading to a man being paralyzed, and has yet to do serious time. Anybody who isn't a football fan heard of this?
There has been serious discussion that if Vick returns to the NFL eventually, his life might be in danger from outraged animal advocates.
I love dogs. There are people I'd rather see put down than some of the dogs I've known. But I still cannot believe the extent to which so many people want to take this man's freedom and ruin his livelihood - over a bunch of damn dogs!
So here's what I'm getting at. Some of us who've worked in the gritty jobs necessary to keep civilization running have been always been aware that Americans, and presumably all citizens of comfortably developed countries, seem to share certain unspoken assumptions.
They think food comes from a supermarket, clean water comes from a tap, and when you flush, sewage goes - away.
To put that breakfast bacon on your plate, a hog had to be killed and butchered.
Is it cruel?
Yes. Nature's cruel.
And you don't get a pass by being a vegetarian. Agriculture involves massive loss of animal life, directly from the process of plowing, planting and reaping, and indirectly from the loss of habitat.
Not to mention that when you wipe out, or severely limit predator species, you must become the predator to maintain nature's balance.
Only people insulated from raw nature by civilization can afford sentimental notions about it.
And, this seems to have consequences in the political realm.
Is it possible to be too civilized?