Happy Birthday Sarah Palin
I’m very happy to share my birthday, not only with chicks such as Jennifer Aniston and Sheryl Crow, but also with a sweet child of mine, born seven years ago today. I also never fail to share my birthday with a respiratory virus, but that’s what you get for coming into the world in the middle of February.
This morning I checked out my favourite blog from Alaska, The Mudflats, which I came to enjoy in the few months preceding the U.S. elections. I keep going back, because the writer is funny, informative and regularly receives visits from a wild moose named Brian. To my dismay, I found out that I also share my birthday with wildlife enemy no. 1 Sarah Palin. Like much of the world, I was first perplexed, then developed a disturbing combination of amusement and anger as she campaigned haplessly and sneeringly through the months of September and October, and was finally relieved when she (kind of) disappeared from the (inter)national political scene.
Brian the moose and I have at least one thing in common: we do not like Sarah. In particular, we do not like the policies she represents for flora and fauna. Neither Brian nor I quite understand exactly what Palin was trying to say about polar bears in this New York Times editorial from January 2008.
So far, Palin has shown casual disregard or outright cruelty to at least three wild species in Alaska: wolves, belugas and polar bears. While her war on wolves is the most direct – allowing them to be shot from low-flying airplanes for the preposterous reason that they reduce the wild caribou herds that she wants preserved for human consumption (completely ignoring the fact that wolves usually cull the old and weak animals that aren’t prizes for hunters anyways), her battle against belugas and bears is more insidious, consisting of encouraging massive habitat destruction in the quest for more oil drilling and haphazard development.
Given Palin’s ideological background as a religious conservative Republican, it is unsurprising that she is both ignorant and dismissive of science, and views animals as subordinate, disposable creatures. After all, the Bible has told her so.
As a former evangelical, I am all too familiar with the doctrines and mindsets that motivate politicians such as Palin. When Katie Couric asked her which newspapers or magazines she reads, I suspect I know why she stumbled so badly on her response. While she might read some local non-religious newspapers, she’s likely a more avid reader of end-times prophecy literature and Pentecostal publications, and perhaps some radical right wing rags as well. She knew she couldn’t come out with these on prime time because most Americans would either not know what she was talking about, or would know all too well. She was not playing to the base in that interview. If she had been, she would have mentioned some of them by name, and she would definitely have mentioned that her daily Bible readings are a great source of inspiration and guidance in making policy decisions.
In the Bible, animals are even more disposable than certain groups of unlucky humans. Parts of the Old Testament are littered with the corpses of dead animals as payment for various sins, and notables such as Abraham, Samson and David got their start by eliminating lions from the Middle East. Things start to get better with Jesus, who was born amongst the animals of the barn, and he is never portrayed as dominating animals or killing any (OK, except for the fish, but usually he was just watching or multiplying). But that was during his brief life on earth. After that was over, he returned to Peter in Acts chapter 10 as a commanding voice in a vision containing all kinds of four-footed animals, as well as reptiles of the earth and birds of the air, presented to Peter on a sheet. This voice of Jesus says “Get up Peter. Kill and eat!” Peter protests, because of course he is Jewish and can’t eat just anything in any random way. Jesus rebukes him, and the vision comes back three times, to make things perfectly clear. Such a handy way to pass from Old Testament attempts at restraint, and Jesus’ relatively peaceful stance towards animals, to an all-out holy war against every species on earth.
So not only does Palin have financial and political interests behind her decisions to force through laws and policies on wolf-shooting and polar bear and beluga habitat decimation, she also sleeps easy at night because the Bible told her it’s quite all right by God, in fact he commands it: Kill and eat.
Yes, I know that most of us kill and eat, at least indirectly. But it would be great if we could leave some species alone, their habitats relatively untouched, and even better if we could find leaders who will encourage preservation, conservation, ecological development. Palin is only the most obvious leader who disregards all creatures other than babies in the womb, and it’s great that she was stopped before she reached the White House. I hope that this focus on the kinds of wildlife policies she pushes will also shift attention to other cruel and questionable ones.