The right eloquence needs no bell to call the people together and no constable to keep them. ~ Emerson

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Too Much to Bear

A Different Take on Profiling and Run-Ins with Authority

NOTE – Although this post is a parody, the event it describes did actually happen, if not the subsequent reaction and debate.

Everett Skinner of Grants Pass Oregon was awakened by his daughter Nicole last Saturday night because she believed a bear was inside their house. Everett grabbed his shotgun and went downstairs to investigate. Sure enough, a black bear returning from a long trip spent foraging in chinaberry bushes had ripped off a window screen and climbed into the family’s den.

Skinner reports that he and the bear saw each other at about the same time. He said the animal stood up and headed toward him at that point, so he fired at it four times, killing the animal. Skinner and his family were no worse for their ordeal but he reported they no longer slept with the windows open and would have to replace the carpeting in their den, as the current rug was “a bloody mess.”

Skinner would soon find himself at the center of a bloody mess of a very different kind.

As the news services spread his story, groups such as People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals Civil Liberties Union (PETACLU) responded angrily. They charged Skinner with over-reacting as well as hunting out-of-season without a license. They noted the bear in question was elderly, graying, distinguished-looking, and walked with a limp. In their opinion, it was clear the bear posed no real threat.

Skinner argued that since the bear was in his home at the time, he was free to shoot it just because he felt like it.

PETACLU spokesperson Zell Ott conceded the bear was in Skinner’s house but countered, “Mr. Skinner built his house in the woods that were the bear’s home. We think Skinner is the real trespasser in this instance.”

Outrage was prevalent throughout the U.S. bear community but a few bears mildly stuck up for Skinner.

U.S. Forest Service mascot Smokey the Bear (semi-retired), interviewed by CNN’s Larry King, said the bear “might have come outside, talked to the human instead of growling at him, and that might have been the end of it.”

Smokey noted the bear was just back from the chinaberry bushes and exhausted. “All he wanted to do was hibernate,” he said.

However, “I think the bear should have reflected on whether or not this was the time to make that big a deal,” Smokey added.

On the other side of the issue, former cartoon star Yogi Bear believes Skinner is a speciest and his actions are symptomatic of a larger problem in Twenty-First Century America.

“That bear could have been in the house to use the bathroom or he might have mistaken it for a liquor store,” Yogi told reporters. “However, as soon as Mr. Skinner saw it was a bear, he immediate assumed it was dangerous and had to be put down. That is species profiling and it is hurtful and offensive to U.S. bears, who have suffered from it ever since white Europeans and other primates first came to American shores.”

Yogi then posed a hypothetical question. “Who here believes that Mr. Skinner would have shot to kill if he had discovered a black man, rather than a black bear, prowling about his house late at night?” he asked.

“I know I don’t believe he would,” Yogi continued, answering his own question and thereby causing most of the reporters in the room to lower their raised hands quickly and abashedly.

Smokey the Bear admits he too has been a victim of species profiling. “There is no bear in this country that has not been exposed to this kind of situation,” he said.

But, Smokey continued, “When you are faced with a human father trying to protect his family and get to the bottom of something, this is not the time to get in an argument with him. I was taught that as a cub.”

Yogi Bear rejects this line of reasoning.

“I respect him for his many accomplishments,” he told reporters, “but Smokey the Bear is what some of us bears nickname an ‘Uncle Teddy.’ He’s almost as big a suck-up as that goody-two-shoes little Boo-Boo I used to hang around with.”

Since leaving cartoons, Yogi has become a respected national authority and advocate on human/bear relations. He currently shits in the woods behind the Goldilocks and the Three Bears Tree of Ursine Studies at Jellystone National Park. Yogi said he was inspired to take up his new career to “advance inter-species dialogue, promote tolerance and cooperation, and . . . you know . . . make a little coin.”

He says Skinner was quick to feel fear when he confronted the bear but wonders if the man has ever thought about what was going through the animal’s mind.

“When he suddenly saw a human being standing in the doorway with a gun, that bear did not see a mild-mannered husband and father,” says Yogi. “He saw ‘Mr. Ranger, Sir’ and I can tell you from experience that carries a lot of emotional baggage and shame with it.”

Things got more complicated when Nicole Skinner held a charged press conference, where she fought back tears while denying she had labeled the household intruder over whom she first sounded the alarm as a bear. She insisted she had simply told her father “something big and hairy was moving around downstairs.” She insisted it was only after he pressed her to be more specific that she said it “might have been” a bear or possibly a Hispanic.

Yogi has since backed off some of his initial incendiary rhetoric. He now says he would like to use what happened at the Skinner house as a “teachable moment” to educate human being about the lingering problem of speciesism in America.

President Obama was asked for his thoughts on the incident. He replied that although he lacked all the facts and was biased because Yogi Bear was a personal friend, he still thought the whole thing “sounded specious.”

When challenged by a reporter that he meant to say, “speciest,” Obama replied, “I stand by my initial remark.”

Asked if he would like an invitation to the White House for a beer with Skinner and the President, Yogi was highly receptive to the idea.

“That sounds great,” he said. “But why stop at a beer? Why not some sandwiches and fried chicken too . . . maybe even a piece of chocolate cake . . . and maybe they could put it in a basket or something so we could take it out and have a picnic in the Rose Garden or the White House lawn . . . hey, I’m just saying.”

No comments: