On a Side Note

The only name that could possibly be more Illinois than “Roland Burris” is “Orion Samuelson.”  (pronounced, for those of you not from Illinois as Or-eee-on, not O-rye-en.)

Edited to add: I wonder if you could make a general rule about good Midwestern names–like one part vaguely literary or historical figure, one part seed brand, and one part Scandinavian/Polish.  Like, my name almost works because I’ve got the whole “Flag-maker” first name, the Scandinavian middle name, and a brand of gas for the last.  But, if I were really going to be midwestern, I would for sure change my last name to Burris.  Or Yoder.  Which I guess is neither Scandinavian or Polish.  But I like saying it.  Yoder, Yoder, Yoder, Yoder.

Yep, you’re for sure in the midwest when the Yoders are bringing you sweet corn.

Good Enough

So, I finally finished the Sports Illustrated story on the Vick dogs and I sobbed the whole way through it.  And I swear I’m not going to turn this blog into all anti-PETA all the time, but I’m struck by this part at the end–

Still, it’s Jasmine, lying in her kennel, who embodies the question at the heart of the Vick dogs’ story. Was it worth the time and effort to save these 47 dogs when millions languish in shelters? Charmers such as Zippy and Leo and Jonny Justice seem to provide the obvious answer, but even for these dogs any incidence of aggression, provoked or not, will play only one way in the headlines. It’s a lifelong sentence to a very short leash. PETA’s position is unchanged. “Some [of the dogs] will end up with something resembling a normal life,” Shannon says, “but the chances are very slim, and it’s not a good risk to take.”

–and to that, I say, “Fuck you, PETA.”  Why, if the people taking those risks are fully informed about them and take them on willingly, is it not a good risk to take?  Who, in fact, is to say what a “normal life” is like and who is to say that having a normal life is the only good life for a dog?

Plus, let’s talk about the 47 v. millions argument.  If Vick’s dogs had not come along, it’s not like all the money and time expended on those dogs would have gone to other, I guess, more deserving dogs.  The money and time and homes came available for those dogs and it seems utterly vile and reprehensible to suggest that, because those dogs aren’t the right kind and because their lives aren’t going to be good enough to meet PETA’s standards, they shouldn’t be able to benefit.

I normally hate conflating animal rights with human rights, because it leads to jackassery like PETA degrading and exploiting the suffering of humans in order to try to improve the lives of animals, and I say that up-front because I am about to conflate animal rights with human rights a little bit and it may turn out to be just as wrong-headed and vile, but this morning I read Michael Bérubé’s post about his discussion with Peter Singer and Singer’s nonsense about how people who have babies with Down Syndrome must come to accept that their children will just never have real rich and rewarding lives like, you know, normal people.

And I’m sitting here wondering if there’s some gross strain of animal rights thought that is hung up on privileging normalcy.  I don’t know what to make of that.

I know that, as a practical matter, every being–person or animal–cannot get the time, attention, money, and care that he or she deserves.  And it is true that there are going to be beings that get time and attention and money and care while other beings don’t.  And it is even true that it will seem (and often be true) that there are beings who get all that stuff when there are others who seem to or actually deserve it more.  In face, that stuff may have gone to the being who’s gotten it at the expense of other beings.

But often beings get time, attention, money, and care that would otherwise not exist.  Suggesting that it’s wrong to give it to the Vick dogs seems to me to overlook the fact that it’s not like that stuff would otherwise go to other dogs.  So, if people want to give them that stuff, why shouldn’t the dogs benefit?  Life isn’t fair.  They got lucky, in every sense of the word.  But so did the people who open up their hearts to those dogs.

And that seems true to me with Bérubé and his son.  Not only does Jamie have a full and rich life that has intrinsic value–though it’s not “normal”*–but Michael’s life is profoundly enriched by his son.

That’s enough.  It’s justification enough.

So what if it’s not “normal”?

It’s not like these beings are stealing the life that should have gone to a more deserving, “normal” being.  But that strikes me, reading both of these things, as an underlying current in this strain of animal rights thought–that because there’s not enough to go around, the beings capable of “normal” life should get the resources.

And that’s ugly.


*Though, really, what a bullshit concept.  It’s his life.  It’s normal to him.

My Only Two Questions about the Whole Saltsman Thing

1.  Was there some Tennessee Republican summit in which a list of dumbass racist things to do or say was passed out so that they could compete to see who could pull off the most outrageous?  Like I said over at Kevin‘s, this is getting to be hilarious and embarrassing.

2.  Okay, so we have Peter Yarrow’s somewhat bizarre take on the “Barack the Magic Negro” parody.  (Puff wouldn’t like it?  A. Puff’s friend deserted him; he lost his scales; and sulks in a cave.  I’m sure that can turn a dragon mean.  B.  Puff’s not real!  C. So that song wasn’t about pot?)  But who’s going to ask Spike Lee?  Isn’t he the one who came up with the super-dooper-magical negro in the first place?

This is what I find hilarious about the whole thing–and I’m going to say up front that the humor, for me, comes in part from the fact that I’m a nerdy girl–is that listening to “Barack the Magic Negro” is about on par with watching Karl Rove put on his best hip hop persona.  Is it racist?  Yes.  But, in both cases, worse than that, it shows a complete and utter cluelessness about the very thing you’re parodying.

And there is a very funny parody to be made of white liberals hoping for that in Obama in Lee’s sense of the Magic Negro, that he will come along just when they/we need him and use his powers to fix everything for us all while wanting nothing for himself.  And now that Obama’s started to piss folks on the left off, it might even be funnier, because it would poke fun at white hopes and expectations of Obama.

But this parody is just so fucking square.  It’s like “Oh we heard this phrase and it sounds like an insult and it has the word ‘negro’ in it, so it must be something black people call each other so let’s write a song in which Al Sharpton calls Obama a magic negro.  That will be swell.”

Does it show the Republicans’ racism?  Yes.  But a bigger problem than that for the Republicans is that it reaffirms their inherent out-of-touch-ness.  I mean, conservatives can complain all they want about Republicans kowtowing to the Religious Right, but at least Evangelical Christianity is a vibrant culture.  Without the conservative Christians to give some liveliness and cultural relevance to the Right, it’s like they’re Omega Theta Pi.

(Ha, it’s always good to end a post with an Animal House reference.)