June 05, 2002

Fighting Cockfighting

“Think hunting’s a sport? Ask the deer!”—George Carlin

Terrorist al-Qaida forces have wreaked tyranny on the United States like never before. However, that pales next to the fascist havoc and tyranny perpetuated by the Bush family and its oil connections. These connections to terror networks and rogue nations date back generations, and…

Just kidding. While I don’t doubt the awful truth of that at all, I think it’s imperative to explore other fronts of the strange non-fiction that is today’s world. My name is Ian, and I will be your columnist this year. That’s Cheramie on the other side; she’s quite the loudmouth. But so am I—that’s why we’re columnists. And now for something completely different…

Any time George W. Bush and animal rights activists agree on something, you know it has to be either a universal truth (nope) or a public relations coup. I’m going with the latter on the new measure to curtail cockfighting, a provision of the otherwise atrocious farm bill Bush signed into law May 13. Specifically, it outlaws the transportation of gamecocks across state lines. The purpose of this law is to prevent aspiring Don Kings from smuggling their prizefighter Tyson chickens into one of the three states that allow combat for sport and returning home with nuggets.

Take a close look at that word, COCKFIGHTING—such a perfect name for a “sport” of its nature. Who besides its practitioners could possibly take pride in something with a name like “cockfighting?” It’s such a negative and self-suppressing, if not outright homophobic, term: “I’m a professional cockfighter!”

That’s exactly the phrase used by a veteran cockfighter from New Iberia when a jury-selection panel asked him what he did for a living (That’s one way to get out of jury duty). His brand of competition, he argues, is a valuable part of Louisiana heritage. You know, like Klan TV and Britney Spears.

Coming from inner-city Lafayette (an arbitrary term if ever there was one), I admit that I have not become wrapped up in the whole business of cockfighting as “heritage.” Lest anyone think I was sheltered, however, we did have a few neighbors who inexplicably kept chickens as pets in their yards. These pets, I take it, lived blissfully unaware of the swinging Church’s and Mama’s Chicken outlets down the Evangeline Thruway. In any event, I don’t ever recall any of my Freetown brethren strapping cowboy spurs on these birds and watching them duke it out. Someone should have spanked us for such blatant disregard of our bloody tradition!

Of course, our area never was a hotbed of Southern heritage to begin with. Rebel flags were few and far between, as were slave owners. Oh yeah, slavery was abolished in 1863! So much for that vital aspect of Louisiana “heritage.” The only way to explain the lack to rebel flags, I guess, is to realize that one man’s heritage is another’s outrage. And sure, the human race kills animals for fun and lunch every day, but they generally don’t do it in the manner a second-grader uses to torture mice stuck in glue traps.

The idea of states' rights is the major stumbling block with this new legislation. For all of the Republican hew-and-cry about the sovereignty of individual states, time and again the federal government has proven that adherence to that principle depends entirely on the degree in which it benefits the influential. Tellingly, the bill does not ban cockfighting across the board--it merely serves as a pleasant window dressing by merely preventing the interstate transport of prized cocks. In time, we shall see how effective this measure truly is, or if in fact it is actually meant to stop anything at all.

In the meantime, I will fret at the prospect of innocent motorists dealing with Texas-style justice in the event that, while driving to the Louisiana border, they discover Foghorn Leghorn camping out in their flatbeds.

Unfortunately, cockfighting will remain a vocation in Louisiana for now; in a region where some have adorned their vehicles with the lovely "If it flies, it dies" bumper sticker, the spurs may not come off just yet.

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