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It’s interesting how a recent comment to me (covered last week) challenging a casual comment on coyotes has prompted more than I expected. My initial “this is funny” reaction based on a suburban attired (I wonder if they know how cloned they appear) person defending coyotes has gone to a life its own. Now I still do think it amusing that someone living off where the deer and coyotes do not play would be so passionately defensive (or was it aggressive) about that which more’n likely they have at best a mostly theoretical background. But for all the humor of a well-dressed proponent of wild there is the seeming fact they were dead serious and prepared to skin alive the perceived enemy of their coyote child. I know it would be necessary to tell this person not to carry an aromatic roast beef lunch on a hike to see the friendly coyote in its natural home; that is not unless they wanted to incite appetite among the coyotes and possibly become a part of the menu. And I know with a fair degree of moral certainty the person hearing the warning would be deeply resentful at my impugning those noble beasts. Noble or not, they have teeth and the tactics to use them.
So here’s the thing which may not stand out all that clearly by itself. After hearing the challenge to my remark I hung on the accuser’s use of “you” as category of contempt. “You are the kind who kills wildlife.” The speaker’s tone saying “you” despicably implied hunter and gun owner. Well, most of my wildlife killing has been with vehicles not guns or hunting, but I stood convict and condemned with all the other misguided “yous” who desecrate coyote land with their cars. And unless the speaker walked here they were one, too, but not to be mentioned for fear of putting a polluting taste of reality in the nature dream cone of pretty wilderness experience had on a terrace drinking north woods craft beer. Well, the beer’s water is from up here anyway.
The condemning use of “you” stuck with me and caused greater alertness to the times and ways a speaker will rouse up support and rally for their pack by stating a particular “you” as glory or sorry source for what’s to follow. Too often, however, nothing follows except an assumption that the “you” indicated is either so foregone good or awful that nothing more needs be said. The “you” cited is the effective content. Any close reading, definition, or understanding of what the “you” actually said or did is resigned to implication. Well it’s easier that way isn’t it? This I’d call purchasing your politic by brand name or positions based on pack affiliation. I have an example of how this can work.
Last week coming handily after the coyote lover berating me I was with some people. It was mid-day and we’d eaten so neither low sugar nor excess drink factors in to a statement that “If I knew I’d soon die of cancer I’d do everything I could to try and kill.” The “pack” content of that is so clear and strong I don’t even have to say who the intended political victim was, do I? You know right away who the pack enemy deserving of death is. To me as I see it, by the time a person is so deeply into the pack there’s little left to deal with I’d call human. Coyotes sniff butt to communicate. The human equivalent is the odorous yapping opine. The vigorous yap of coyotes is hardly different from that of humans on the social hunt. They make “us first” noises that can pretend to represent a larger view but in the end come down to a plain simple politic of “me first” in the form of my group first. In other words, not much information is exchanged. In addition to using the butt sniff of pack identity coyotes employ the yap to show social (pack) cohesion and to express a main topic of interest; food. Who are we going to eat and how are we going to attack them? You know it well as I. A large part of political pack talk is who’s on the menu. Coyotes kill and devour one way. Humans do it another. The general aim is to put their pack on top. Coyotes lick muzzles a lot to show submission. Humans don’t lick. Of that I’m happy. We kowtow instead as more dignified. Coyotes don’t turn on one another as much as we do, either. Chomping down on prey and seeing it die is darn personal. Humans find other ways so as to keep the gore at a distance where nature can look bloodless and pure and we can carry on with our illusions.
The damning “you” element when people show their political pack is a version of costume or uniform to do the same. A coyote has to look and smell like a coyote otherwise it’s apt to be in the grocery category and end up on the menu. Now, in human terms a person can claim they are all of pure intent and harmless, but if garbed in head to foot coyote you could be suspicious they in fact put their pack above your humanity. Oh, dress can be harmless sure enough, and we should not count the book by its cover. But, a masked face is a pretty good indicator, isn’t it? A clearly separatist manner of dress can indicate Halloween or it can say the wearer puts group affiliation first and foremost. Seriously, would you get tatted up and dress like Hell’s Angel if you were out to advocate vegetarian pacifism? I’d think not and I’d probably be right. It’s a case of humans are animals. We regularly and reliably operate on our versions of yap, butt sniff, and muzzle licking. Just think, next time someone starts politics with a condemning “you” they are giving you a butt to sniff. It’s up to you whether you do it.