Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Great Bores of the Modern Age: Steve King (R-IA)

According to Cicero, the Hyrcanians thought that the best method of burial was to be torn to pieces by their dogs, and kept them especially for this purpose.  
                                                    Lucretius, “De Rerum Natura,” Bk. 3 (translator’s footnote)

Whenever they meet with a happy end, the dead of the Hyrcanians are devoured by their dogs . . . according to custom.
                                                    -  Plutarch, "Moralia," 499D

Back in 2006, showing fellow House members his idea for a border fence by actually erecting a model fence for them as he spoke (just in case you thought that our august House members were beyond third-grade show-and-tell), Iowa Republican Steve King suggested that "We could also electrify this wire with the kind of current that would not kill somebody, but it would simply be a discouragement for them to be fooling around with it. We do that with livestock all the time."

Border crossing, Cochita, NM

Yesterday King told a town hall meeting in his district that immigrants should be admitted to Iowa's storm-toss't shores on a (his words) “pick of the litter” model: "You want a good bird dog? You want one that’s going to be aggressive? Pick the one that’s the friskiest … not the one that’s over there sleeping in the corner.”

Bad dog

The good dog, in King's social Darwinist view, would be one who could contribute significantly, not to society at large but to King's reelection super-PAC. That would probably be any one of the drug lords who, on the Congressman's short-term-profits view, are the most productive members of Mexican society. But never mind why anyone from Iowa would be worrying about the national borders, and politics aside, King has sagely tapped into that mysterious animal-human bond we all sense when in the presence of "the Other" . . .

. . . well, I meant animals, like when you encounter a bear in the woods or a lizard in the laundry basket or a weasel in Congress, those almost mystical encounters with another world, another mode of consciousness. Frankly, it isn't like a Republican to hold this apparently New-Agey sensibility about our place in the natural world, but at this age Miguel has learned to enjoy his little ironies where he finds them.

Americans love animals - not the kind that could eat you if you wandered off the national wilderness trail, nor even the kind you can eat (although who doesn't love veal?). No, I mean like dogs and cats and ferrets - companion animals. We've introduced them into our homes and our hearts and our national culture, but in a restrained way. We still control them, at least to the extent that we don't allow them to take our faces off or chew the tires down to the rims or strip the ornamental foliage in front of the house.

But modern animal lovers can't hold a candle to the devotion the ancients showed their pets. I think the Hyrcanians loved their dogs more than do we moderns, in much the way that Steve King seems to love his Iowa bird dogs inasmuch as they differ from immigrants. I'm guessing they'll all be at his funeral (his dogs, I mean) when the time arrives, if not to eat then at least to mourn. But when it comes to love, dogs is one thing, as he'd doubtless tell you, and livestock quite another. I'm sure he means no disrespect to livestock - you don't have to love them to respect them.

(Here's the Congressman waxing sentimental about immigrants - or dogs, it's hard to tell which.)

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