By Jeff Smith
IT'S GETTING TO the point where a kind-hearted, do-gooder, common-sense kinda guy can't say boo without offending somebody's delicate sensibilities.
And that's just the bad news in the world of ideas: If you're a man of action, forget it. If you act--in haste or even after exhaustive consideration--you will have limitless leisure during which to contemplate the causes and effects, as you defend yourself from the inevitable lawsuits that result. Hey, we all knew the kneebone was connected to the thighbone; we just didn't appreciate the degree to which interconnectivity binds us all together...
A case in point: House Bill 2519, sponsored by Tucson Democrat Andy Nichols, a kind-hearted, d-g, common-sense sort of the type described in the lede paragraph. Andy's bill set out to illegalize cockfighting in our fair state.
Well hell, you say, that ought to fly through the state house like corn through a goose. Let's see now, we've outlawed throwing Christians to the lions, bear-baiting, pit dog fighting...how did we ever manage to overlook a ban on such a medieval and barbaric practice as cockfighting?
The answer is we didn't. Twenty-two times before this the state Legislature has been presented bills to ban cockfighting, and 22 times before this our elected leaders have voted them down. We haven't overlooked a damn thing: We've looked cockfighting square in its beady little eyes and said "Go to it."
Last week was the 23rd time.
Only last week was different, at least in one particular. Last week Stacy Willis was there in Phoenix when the deal went down. And while that fact may have no ultimate bearing on cockfighting, it does mean at least that readers of The Arizona Daily Star should have more fun reading news from the state capitol.
Willis, I think, has a fine sense of irony and a kind of deadpan delivery that made her story on the cockfighting bill a jewel of sardonic humor. Of course she had a whole roomful of can't-miss characters.
For instance, besides Rep. Nichols, who certainly could be pardoned for thinking he had a slam-dunk in HB 2519, there was Jamie Massey, of Citizens Against Cockfighting, and Carol Munroe, of the Tucson Humane Society. You don't even have to check pedigrees to know folks like these are certifiable goodguys. And, as Stacy reported, they informed the legislators that cockfighting promotes a generally violent mindset, and that serial killers like Jeffrey Dahmer had a history of animal abuse. Added to which was Massey's sentimental appeal in behalf of a former legislative secretary who now has a brain tumor and said her dying wish is that cockfighting be illegal.
So how could anyone stand up for Jeffrey Dahmer and against a lady dying with a brain tumor?
I don't know: You'd have to ask one of the 150 cockfighting fans and promoters who packed the committee room to stand up for their rights. One of whom stood listing noticeably to starboard.
Frank Celaya was the man's name, and he stepped up to the mike and said he went to war in Vietnam to fight for freedoms such as cockfighting. I think this puts America's Southeast Asian adventure in an entirely new light, in view of the now-discredited Domino Theory, and demands Congressional investigation.
Celaya then removed his artificial leg, held it before the eyes of the committee and demanded to know:
"If this is not enough for my country, to be able to come and fight chickens whenever I want to fight chickens, then what is this country coming to?"
That's a two-, maybe even a three-parter. One: an arm and a leg. Two: Are you fighting the chickens or are they fighting one another? Two-B: Are they chickens, roosters, cocks, what? And, Three: We don't have a clue. Stacy told me, by way of clarifying Two-B, that, "They sunk to calling it chickens, to avoid saying cocks."
And lest you think the anti-cockspersons had a corner on the tea-and-sympathy market, several cockfighters got up to say their sport promotes family values. One man said he attributed the fact that he never had to bail his children out of jail to the family's involvement in cockfighting.
Wow. Imagine how far those kids might have gone in life if they'd had a little book-learnin'.
But after both sides had their innings, the whole legal/moral issue was synthesized by Mesa Republican Rep. Mark Anderson.
"I had a chicken sandwich yesterday," Stacy Willis said Mark Anderson said. "That chicken I had probably lived eight weeks in a little cage about 1-foot by 1-foot and probably never saw the light of day, and was slaughtered. To compare cockfighting to the normal life of a chicken, I don't think it's very cruel."
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