by Commentary by Mark Morford /San Francisco Gate Columnist –
(January 23, 2004) — So then about a month ago the vice president of these beautiful and deeply confused United States, he of the struggling defibrillator and the shockingly nefarious wife and the gnarled calluses from working Dubya’s puppet strings, he of the thin-lipped sneer that makes babies cry and women wince and foreign policies crumble like feta cheese in the freezer, well, Dick goes himself a-huntin’.
Not just any ol’ regular, camouflage-wearing, man-versus-nature hunt out in the wild, mind. Dick is far too fragile and unskilled and spoiled and scared of the open woods and icky furry monsters for that. Assumedly.
Nossir, our man Dick, he has himself flown over, in Air Force 2, on the taxpayer’s tab, accompanied by his most favoritest shotgun, to the exclusive Rolling Rock Club in Ligonier, Westmoreland County, in rural Pennsylvania, to have himself a nice, cushy “canned” pheasant hunt.
This is what it was: Dick and about nine other overfed white guys sitting in a comfy luxury blind with their manly shotguns, waiting for the Westmoreland guy stationed behind them on a hill to release clusters of stunned, fat, tame game birds from a net. Then they shoot them.
Lots and lots of them. And then they slap each other on the back. And they grunt and say nice shot as the birds drop like flies as dogs race back and forth hauling dead or dying birds into huge piles. Whee what fun.
It’s Easier than Shooting Sitting Ducks
More than 400 birds were killed in one lackadaisical afternoon. Dick himself blasted the living crap out of 70 birds, all by himself. That’s right, 70. Plus an unknown number of mallard ducks. Then they had them all plucked and vacuum packed and sent back home to show off to the staff. Dick was driven back to the airport in a Humvee.
Are we not all impressed? Are we not all sitting here saying, wow, that Dick Cheney guy, he of the massive alleged Halliburton corruption scandals, he is one studly dude, slaughtering a small mountain of docile, stupefied birds that had no chance of escape. What a guy.
And what a display of prowess and skill, using his day off to kill almost as many pheasant and duck in an afternoon as all those notions of progress that have been slaughtered by his inbred cronyist pro-industry energy policy since the beginning of this sentence. Gosh.
Even real hunters cringe at canned hunts. It is not a sport. It is not man versus nature. There is no nobility, no honor, no sportsmanship, no instinct, no luck, no tramping through fields and crouching in blinds and waiting for hours as you coddle the barrel of your shotgun and dream of J.Lo and tell jokes about homos and Hillary Clinton, just so you can shoot a few wild birds.
It Was a Slaughter, Not a Sport
In other words, Cheney’s canned hunt had none of the ostensibly sporting characteristics of true hunting. Cheney’s was essentially a slaughter, a bloody target practice for aging over-pampered white males who never have sex and have desperately zero outlet for all their pent-up misanthropic energies. In short.
Yes, there are far more pressing issues for us to care about than a bunch of dead birds. And, yes, there are roughly a billion chickens slaughtered every damn day in this county by giant pollutive industrial farms in far more inhumane and brutal and disgusting and inbred and feces-thick and imminently liquefied and reconstituted and resold-as-McNuggets ways than Uncle Dick’s little afternoon birdie bloodbath.
And, yes, indeed, canned hunts happen far more often than anyone probably imagines. There are private ranches all over the country, most offering manly trophy hunters a “guaranteed” kill of some overbred, tame, exotic animal, such as antelopes, deer, cattle, swine, bears, zebras and sometimes even big cats.
Texas — A Canned Hunt Paradise
These ranches, most operating in — you guessed it — Texas, service lazy fee-paying trophy hunters who want a giant stuffed antelope head for the den but don’t want to deal with any of that nasty nature or travel to Africa. God bless America.
So Dick’s little hunt was not all that rare. Which of course makes it no less stupid, no less of a brutal blood rush. It was a taxpayer-supported trip taken solely for the sake of … what? Not sport. Not gamesmanship. Not food. Just the little thrill that comes from killing something that never had a prayer? Is that it, Dick? Kick up the defibrillator a notch? Must be.
Hell, we taxpayers could’ve saved a fortune in Secret Service time and Air Force 2 gas money had Dick simply have one of his lackeys — Colin Powell, say — tie long strings to the feet of 70 ducks and tether them to the White House lawn. Then Dick could just sit in a nice leather recliner and shoot them at will.
Simpler still, aides simply could’ve nailed the birds’ feet to the floor with a staple gun and Dick could’ve put on a pair of army boots like the kind he avoided wearing during the Vietnam War, and as the birds squawked Dick could’ve jumped around like a human pogo stick and stomped on each bird, popping it like a balloon. Yay Dick!
And, finally, there is the patented Dubya hunting method, wherein you make a little gun shape with your thumb and index finger and sit back and “aim” at each bird and shout “Bang!” and someone smashes the bird in the head with a baseball bat. Same difference, really.
You know what? It’s not a big deal. It’s just a bunch of dead birds, right? Over 400 of them spread among 10 guys who simply could not shoot fast enough to kill them all. Again, it happens all the time.
Except here, here in the land of obvious and tragicomic analogy, where you simply cannot help but transfer Dick’s little aggro mind-set — this numbly violent attitude of “just line ’em up and shoot ’em and pretend you’re actually a manly hunter when all you are is rather heartless and inhumane and small” — over to the government itself.
The Bush/Cheney Approach to Hunting, Politics and War
Which is to say, this is the worldview we are up against. This is yet another perfect example of the American agenda as set forth by the CheneyRumsfeldRove Triumvirate o’ Pain, very much the way this administration attacks the world. No competition. No sportsmanship. No fairness. Zero respect. No reverence. And no actual talent required. Just kill at will.
Because it is, in the final analysis, all about how you approach and engage the world, nature, yourself. It is all about with what degree of sacredness and veneration you walk the planet, treading lightly or stomping heavily, in awe of the interconnectedness or working to crush the beautiful and the weak for profit and hollow thrill. It is, after all, your choice.
Do you, as Dick Cheney obviously does, see the world as your personal blood-sport playground, where you can take anything you want, kill whatever you like, respect nothing nature has to offer, suffer no ramifications, and do it all on someone else’s tab? Well then. You have made your choice. The GOP wants you.
Mark Morford’s Notes & Errata column appears every Wednesday and Friday on SF Gate, unless it appears on Tuesdays and Thursdays, which it never does. He also writes the Morning Fix, a deeply skewed thrice-weekly e-mail column and newsletter. Subscribe at sfgate.com/newsletters.