I distinctly remember half of the Bay Area exploding with anger when Michael Vick was found to run a dog fighting ring. Some of my arty friends opined that Vick represents everything football stands for. I sense that we might need an expert in the uber chic field of the anthropology of food to explain why is it OK to be a United States President and brag about eating dogs.
We have dietary taboos in this country; we don’t eat humans, for instance. Even then, a few years ago I saw a Discovery channel (I think) documentary that advocated cannibalism. They argued that if we admit that the practice is justifiable under special circumstances, like consuming the flesh of the recently deceased following a plane crash in order to survive, then we are hypocrites and unnecessarily squeamish about the issue.
Food taboos weren’t all that hip among anthropologists I knew in college. Although the general consensus was that we won’t eat a human or a monkey, everything else was fair game. Even them, it was generally agreed that while back in the day anthropologists would go out of their way to claim that cannibalism never happens, now we admit that it does, but we don’t pass a judgment on it.
I have to insert this trip down memory lane that my Russian readers might appreciate. This is “Why Had The Aborigines Eaten Cook? Or One Scientific Riddle” by Vladimir Vysotsky. The song starts at around the 1:30 mark. The expression “wild men” is used. Enjoy:
When I was growing up, if I were to make an argument like the one Discovery channel made about cannibalism, my mom would say: “Well, this is an exception that proves the rule.” If people act in a certain way under the conditions of total social breakdown, it goes to show how low people sink when there is no functioning society. The fact that there was cannibalism in the gulags only proves that the gulags were horrible, not that eating fellow humans is morally acceptable.
The left loves exceptions that prove the rule, only it doesn’t see them as such. Liberals find freaky occurrences and elevate them to the norm. See for instance, this wiki entry on gay marriage. Turns out, the history of same sex marriage goes way, way back as Nero married a male slave. Well, allegedly. And, according to the rumor, he castrated him beforehand. Maybe, just maybe, a fellow with Nero’s reputation should not define the new normal.
As much as we like smashing idols (while erecting new ones) it’s nice to know that at least some of us still have standards, and that we affirm our standards by not breaking bread with certain individuals and obeying dietary taboos.
Some of us let their pets lick plates and sleep in the master bedroom. Others are so unsure about who to consider family that they admit cats and dogs, and insist on calling themselves pet guardians instead of pet owners. Me, I’m not a pet person at all; DH was talking about getting a dog, but we shelved this idea, at least for now. Still, I recognize there is such a thing as four-legged friends. After all, we don’t take anything from pets other than the pleasure of their company. We don’t eat them.
Judging by TV programming, the entire country enjoys the spectacle of breaking dietary taboos. The Travel Channel has Andy Zimmern going around the world eating bizarre offerings. I never watched much of that show, and I don’t remember him eating a dog. It wouldn’t surprise me if he did, but from what I recall his staple diet were gross out creatures, like reptiles and amphibians.
That Barack Obama is proud of eating dogs confirms that he’s more interested in exotic street cred than being an American (or even, more broadly, Western) man. No wonder he seems so alien to so many of us. It’s healthy that this fact was met with great ridicule.
Obama is the son of a Kenyan Muslim father, the stepson of an Indonesian Muslim, and the child, most of all, of an American anthropologist who devoted her career to protecting Indonesian traditional life against the depredations of the global marketplace. Her doctoral dissertation, “Peasant blacksmithing in Indonesia: surviving against all odds,” celebrated traditional cultures hanging on desperately in the face of the global economic marketplace.
We laugh about it, but people in some Third World countries eat dog meat because they are poor — not only so poor that they will consume almost any source of protein, but so poor that they cannot afford to enjoy the natural bond between human and canine that began almost 15,000 years ago.
It really isn’t unfair at all to bring Obama’s canine consumption to public attention. The president isn’t really one of us. He’s a dog-eater. He tells the story in his memoir to emphasize that viscerally, Obama identifies with the Third World of his upbringing more than with the America of his adulthood. It is our great misfortune to have a president who dislikes our country at this juncture in our history.