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Does a Bear Vote in the Woods?
Posted on Oct 28, 2010
Given the state of environmental affairs, perhaps it’s time to revisit a president who rallied in a most crucial way to the defense of our land and the creatures that make it their home. That would be Richard Nixon, he of the sweaty visage and nervous demeanor, he who was not cool and certainly appeared to be out of sync with not just himself but his surroundings. It was Nixon who signed the Marine Mammal Protection Act, the Clean Air Act, and the Wild Free-Roaming Horses and Burro Act. It was also Nixon who established the Environmental Protection Agency—an outfit that the bogus grizzlies among us would like to dismantle.
Here is what Nixon said in his 1970 State of the Union speech, during an era when the thing that is now lost to noise was front and center, where it belongs:
Ah yesteryear ... and then yesterday ... Do you remember when Palin first invited the national media into her den? There she was surrounded by the wildlife of Alaska—all dead and stuffed. A king crab was perched on the coffee table before her, and she sat on a couch against the skin of a large grizzly, perhaps a mama one at that. In any case, a bear family was minus one of its members. If there were images or representations of a beautiful and living Alaska, we do not know, for she made a point to pose amid a field of carnage. Whether this was a conscious choice I cannot say, but a former beauty queen and communications major par excellence is likely to have known what props were in her close-up, and it means something that photographs of iconic Alaska—migrating caribou, majestic glaciers, leaping salmon—were not employed as a backdrop.
And here it must be noted that perhaps the girl can’t help it. During the 2008 presidential election, a reporter from the Telegraph visited Palin’s parents, Sally and Chuck Heath, in Wasilla. “Moose and caribou antlers are a common form of house decoration in the town of 9,000 people,” wrote Philip Sherwell. “But the Heaths have taken the custom to impressive extremes, with hundreds of antlers piled up in a towering pyre in the front garden and scores more hung around the property.”
Are we to someday have an Oval Office that resembles a trapper’s camp, fettered with antlers and skins, and haunted by the animals that wore them? Quite possibly, unless Mama Grizzlies are kept from power so that the real ones can endure—out there in freedom where they belong, making families, protecting their kin, taking what they need and no more, participating in the flow of things, loaning us their mojo, their sighs, their footfalls, their presence and, on certain rare occasions when we deserve it, their name.
Deanne Stillman’s latest book is the widely acclaimed “Mustang: The Saga of the Wild Horse in the American West,” a Los Angeles Times “Best Book ’08” and winner of the California Book Award silver medal for nonfiction. Her book includes an account of the 1998 Christmas horse massacre outside Reno, Nev., as well as the story of Bugz, the lone survivor of the incident. Her previous book was “Twentynine Palms: A True Story of Murder, Marines, and the Mojave,” the cult classic which Hunter Thompson called “A strange and brilliant story by an important American writer. It’s now out in a new, updated edition. Her work appears in the L.A. Times, Slate, Orion, National Review Online and other publications and is widely anthologized. Her plays, including “Star Maps,” have won prizes in theater festivals around the country. She is currently writing “Mojave Manhunt” for Nation Books, based on her Rolling Stone piece of the same name. Follow Deanne Stillman on Facebook.
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