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8418_home-alone-macaulay-culkin_200sThe following is an official commentary that appeared on a politician’s Facebook page recently:

“The Food Stamp Program, administered by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, is proud to be distributing this year the greatest amount of free Meals and Food Stamps ever, to 46 million people.

“Meanwhile, the National Park Service, administered by the U.S. Department of the Interior, asks us ‘Please Do Not Feed the Animals.’ Their stated reason for the policy is because ‘The animals will grow dependent on handouts and will not learn to take care of themselves.’ Thus ends today’s lesson in irony.”

Oddly, irony is not the main lesson I derive from this. Nor is a stunning lack of empathy. To me, the most outrageous illustration of humanity blinded by political polarization is the complete disconnect from reality. The simile (animals = poor people) falls apart at the most basic level when you apply a moment of thought about the practical differences between the life of an animal in the wild or a national park and a human being in any setting.

Wird BirdAt the risk of insulting the intelligence of my readers, an animal living in a park has food available for a reasonable amount of effort. A bear can go to a nearby stream and fish. A deer can forage. A fox can run down rabbits. A bird can peck whatever is peck-able from the ground.

There is no basis for comparison. A human being living in the inner city can’t forage for food where food is available unless he or she has money. To do so is considered theft.

Animals, you may have noticed, do not use an official tender for making their food “purchases”. They simply take the food—and do so often at the expense of another animal lower on the food chain. The parallel suggested by this absurd commentary is that a man or woman in need of food walk into a grocery store and simply take items from the shelves or perhaps catch dogs running loose on the streets and barbecue them.

Even in the rural south and Alaska—which are on the receiving end of much welfare—simply walking out your front door and taking whatever food animal or plant presents itself is infeasible for a number of reasons, not the least of which are the laws against it.

Animals, you will have noticed, do not abide by laws pertaining to theft of property, nor to they post ‘No Trespassing’ signs.

chp_homeless_1296676324Digging further into reality, what do the authors of the above statement expect a poverty-stricken parent to do?

“Look for a job, dammit!” Is the response I hear the most often. I heard it during the recession, when even highly trained professionals found jobs unobtainable or resorted to taking the jobs that many of these welfare recipients might have gotten in flush times.

What does the family eat in the meantime? What do they eat if the parent is disabled in some way?

But I digress. Let’s assume that a couple with two children is seeking work and not finding it. The fridge is empty. The parents are foregoing meals themselves to feed the kids whatever they can. (Not inventing this, by the way. It’s a fairly common scenario.) What do the kids eat while the job search goes on? And assuming the parents take the first jobs that present themselves regardless of what they pay, how do they cover their expenses, including childcare?

image012Animals, you will have noticed, do not have to look for work. The hunt or the forage IS the work. Animals, you will have noticed, do not have to hire someone to look after their young while they are working. The animal kids go with them to see how the work is done so they can carry on the family business as adults.

If this is the way we propose to “care for” those of us who are out of work, food, and money, then we need to change our perceptions of being human to allow them to behave like the animals the authors of the above proposal compare them to. After all, bears aren’t arrested or ticketed for fishing without a license; foxes aren’t cited for destruction of property or burglary or murder when they break into a duck’s nest to eat the eggs.

Therefore, why don’t we eliminate laws that make it illegal to walk into a store and take food, to eat your neighbors dog if you find it running loose in the street, to fish and hunt without license? Why don’t we make it legal for a parent to leave children of any age untended while out hunting or foraging?

In other words, if we are going to compare the lives of human beings to that of animals for the sake of a political sound bite, we need to be ready to give those humans the same level playing field that animals enjoy.

526520042_ID6633563_web-crematorium_164014_H38V2P_0While I can pick this nonsense apart on several other levels, I’ll stop with one last observation about an important difference between animals and human beings. When animals die in the woods, other animals eat them. No one has to mourn or hold a funeral or bury the bodies. But such policies as suggested by the Facebook post above could make crematoriums a hot new cottage industry that could be subsidized by the government.

Huh, I think there’s a story in that.

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