This is supposed to be a blog about Middle-East politics and counter-terrorism. Why, then, am I writing my second post in less than a week about hunters and their weapons?
The answer, I suppose, is that sometimes one has to focus precisely on one’s “official” subject matter, while at other times a shotgun approach works best. (If you found that last joke lame, you may want to stop reading now. It won’t get any better. Even I’m frightened of reading the rest of this post, and I haven’t even written it yet. As I seem to be saying more and more these days, don’t say I didn’t warn you.)
So – Dick Cheney, the Vice President of the United States, accidentally shot his hunting companion, a 78-year-old lawyer and Republican “stalwart” by the name of Harry Whittington. The unfortunate Mr. Whittington took a charge of birdshot in his face, neck, and chest, leaving him with as many as 200 small pellets lodged in his body – including one close enough to his heart to cause heart complications. Other than to draw the obvious conclusion that one should avoid being near Mr. Cheney when he’s carrying a loaded firearm and has that gleam in his eye, what can we learn from this incident?
- If there isn’t already a policy in place to prevent the President and Vice President from going hunting together, perhaps there should be. In fact, it would seem to me that this and future Veeps should be strongly discouraged from going hunting with anyone higher in the government hierarchy than Second Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Department of Agriculture With Special Responsibility for Elementary School Earthworm Appreciation Programs. White-water rafting with high officials might also be problematic. Badminton would be OK, I suppose, as long as the President wears shuttlecock-proof body armor.
- The circumstances under which poor Mr. Whittington was shot do not give me warm, fuzzy feelings about the possibility of Richard Cheney’s becoming Commander in Chief of the world’s most powerful military. There are certain situations in which one’s true personality inevitably manifests itself: for me, it’s when I’m confronted with a large portion of really good lasagna; and evidently for Dick Cheney it’s the sound of a covey of quail taking flight in an attempt to avoid becoming his dinner. Both of us seem to have a little restraint problem; but I’ve never actually stabbed a dining partner with my fork, nor is there any significant likelihood that I’ll ever be in control of a major nuclear arsenal.
- I can hardly count myself as an opponent of firearms, considering that I’ve got a pistol at my side as I write, and two sniper rifles (mine and Vaguely Sinister Wife’s) next to my side of the bed. However, there is something I find a bit troubling about recreational hunting. I can’t complain about the morality of the pastime (at least as long as one eats one’s kill), since I’m far from being a vegetarian and I’m rather better at identifying hypocrisy than Dick Cheney is at distinguishing between birds and barristers. What bothers me is more a matter of culture: in my life, guns exist in order to kill people – hopefully only in self-defense or in defense of the innocent, but killing is killing even when it’s necessary. Practice (under tightly controlled conditions) is important and even fun, but for me firearms are never really recreational. I’m always aware that in an emergency I may be called upon to make life-or-death decisions very quickly, with no chance to change my mind. Using firearms purely for sport seems strange to me – almost sacrilegious. (Don’t bother arguing with me about this – it’s just my personal “gut” feeling, not a statement of general morality.)
- What ever happened to golf? I know Dick Cheney’s from Wyoming, where golf may be considered a bit tame. But then again, the Vice Presidency of the United States is perhaps the tamest job in America; if Cheney can handle the challenges of that position (which consist largely of looking appropriately lugubrious at funerals of people one didn’t know and wouldn’t have liked anyway) surely he could maintain his concentration through eighteen holes with some well-heeled defense contractor and a cute administrative assistant or two. Sure, golf looks silly – but as I can attest, it’s actually a difficult and challenging sport. And is hitting a little ball into a small cup really any more pointless than shooting quail (who may even be Republicans, for all we know) when there are perfectly good supermarkets nearby?
Besides which, golf needn’t disappoint the man who requires a bit of danger to keep him interested: It’s perfectly possible to injure the innocent while golfing, at least the way I hit a golf ball.
Ah well… time to return my thoughts to my home in the Middle East, where my firearms are ready to hand and my golf clubs are tucked away in the back of a storeroom. Sigh…