Grasshopper Soup: Anti-rodeo bias ignores nature and choice
Special to the Sun
TRUCKEE/TAHOE and#8212; Condemning rodeo as a crime, and people who choose to eat meat as ignorant, in order to promote kindness to all living beings, is the wrong way to sell a good bull.
A recent letter to the editor said, and#8220;Kindness and compassion toward all living beings is a mark of an evolving society.and#8221; Cowboys are living beings too. The letter called for and#8220;awakening our empathetic response,and#8221; then voiced nothing but contempt for rodeo people, rendering the authorand#8217;s entire polemic impotent.
Out of love for all life, and the love I share with the author of the letter for a good argument, I will try to steer him onto a better trail. If just one more person can get things straightened out in his mind, weand#8217;re that much closer to being one big happy family.
Like cows, cowboys are living, breathing, sentient beings with individual hearts and minds. They deserve respect. If society is evolving (and that is debatable), kindness, not condemnation, for all living beings will naturally be extended to cowboys.
Instead, the letter said, and#8220;Racism and#8230; and rodeos are cut from the same fabric.and#8221; A cowboy hat is a far cry from a white hood and mask. To equate rodeos with racism is like equating skiing with attempted suicide, or singing with devil worship.
The letter claims there is a and#8220;cavalier spiritand#8221; in rodeo. Not true. If there is an ounce of truth to it, it is a meaningless ounce, an insignificant exception. Cavalier means a careless and arrogant lack of respect for something or someone. It defines virtually no one in rodeo. For their own safety, cowboys and rodeo clowns canand#8217;t afford to be cavalier.
The entire letter was an unfair indictment against millions of good people.
If and#8220;animal cruelty has largely remained unexamined,and#8221; as the letter claims, no cowboy ever cried when he had to shoot his critically injured horse, and no cowboy ever wrote a song or a cowboy poem about the natural joys, challenges, dangers, suffering, fortune and misfortune all life is subject to simply because of the nature of life and death.
If we take this compassion thing far enough, we could all go hungry. Vegan or carnivore, you have no choice but to kill life to live. You canand#8217;t blame cowboys for that.
I met a guy in 1982 who claimed to live on nothing but air. He called himself a and#8220;Breatharian.and#8221; Living on air alone could have made him famous, but he faded into obscurity. He probably got busted late at night eating at McDonalds.
Cowboy up! Danger, injury and suffering are to be expected in life, meat consumption and rodeo. The same can be said of skiing, sun bathing, even walking your dog.
Rodeo events are cultural entertainment because rodeo mirrors life. To mirror life is a key function of culture, and one of the reasons the world is rich with cultural diversity.
To say the historical roots of rodeo culture are based on nothing but violence and eating meat is a childish, disrespectful, gross over-simplification of a deeply meaningful way of life. It is pompous at best, and just as cavalier toward living beings as animal rights activists mistakenly think cowboys are toward animals.
I grew up with horses and rodeos. I obviously have a bias for that unique part of American culture. Working on a ranch, and caring for herd animals, breeds a sense of genuine, realistic respect for all life. I have seen cowboys perform instantaneous acts of bravery and love, and put their own lives in mortal danger, to rescue animals and humans. Cowboys have inspired millions of people to be tough, more compassionate and kind, and to appreciate and enjoy all of life.
When a cowboy wants to lift you up to the level of his heart, he starts by showing respect for your heart. If youand#8217;re lucky, heand#8217;ll buy you a cowboy hat and take you to the Truckee Rodeo. And donand#8217;t miss the barbecue.
Bob Sweigert is a Sierra Sun columnist, published poet, former college instructor and ski instructor. He has a B.A. and an M.A.T. from Gonzaga University. He has lived at Lake Tahoe for 28 years.