Life took a turn for the bizarre on Thursday, when Don Young, Republican representative from Alaska, proposed solving the problem of homelessness with wolves:
How many of you have got wolves in your district? None. None. Not one. They haven’t got a damn wolf in their whole district. I’d like to introduce them in your district. If I introduced them in your district, you wouldn’t have a homeless problem anymore.
I’ll pause for a second to let that one sink in. A man who voters saw fit to elect to national office actually uttered these words. In public. On video. Take a look at the video below, if you don’t believe me. I had to watch it several times, unsure if I were awake or having an unusually surreal nightmare. A spokesman tried to finesse the issue by claiming that:
[the] analogy was purposely hyperbolic to stress the point that these predators pose serious threats to wildlife management and their listing has damaging impacts to local communities.
The “clarification,” needless to say is complete gibberish. It’s tempting to think that the Republican Party has gotten into the brown acid of late, what with Jim Inhofe, Senator from Oklahoma, disproving climate change by means of a snowball, and Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker comparing unions to ISIS. But this idiotic blather is nothing new for Young, who last made news by claiming that suicide “shows a lack of support from friends and family.”
But Young’s latest statement, whether it was actually about homelessness or gray wolves or simply indicative of a random firing of nerves in a brain of questionable merit, really takes things to an entirely new level. To take refuge in claims of “hyperbole” or “satire” merely shows a shocking unawareness of the meaning of either word. True, I would not be surprised to hear someone defend Young by referring back to Jonathan Swift, who proposed addressing the issue of impoverished children in a most novel way:
I have been assured by a very knowing American of my acquaintance in London, that a young healthy child well nursed, is, at a year old, a most delicious nourishing and 60 wholesome food, whether stewed, roasted, baked, or boiled; and I make no doubt that it will equally serve in a fricasie, or a ragoust.
I’ll give Young the benefit of the doubt, and take as a given that he knows how to read. Still, I don’t imagine he has spent much time perusing “A Modest Proposal,” and the very thought of the comparison would have Swift spinning in his grave with enough force to power a small city.
No, Young’s remarks on homelessness were not “satire.” Satire, to be sure, stings, but not with this grotesque meanspiritedness. Satire, also, generally has some larger aim, and, the more I read and reread Young’s words, the less of an actual point I can see to them. He seems to be attempting to say something about wolves, who are apparently not endangered. This judgement shows nothing more than that Young is as much of a scientist as Senator Inhofe. Of course, to say that gray wolves are not endangered is a demonstrable untruth though, Alaska being Alaska, one is allowed to shoot them nonetheless. And because some have objected to said shooting, we are led back to today’s statement.
So, if I am parsing the words correctly, wolves are not endangered and, as proof of that claim, they should be released into our cities where they can solve the problem of homelessness. Try as I might, I cannot find either coherence or satire in that statement. Young doesn’t give a damn about homelessness. He doesn’t give a damn about wolves. And he clearly doesn’t give a damn about the intelligence of his constituents, since any right thinking electorate would have been at his house with torches and pitchforks a long time ago.
It would be a low blow to conclude this by claiming that it would be right and fitting for Young himself to be fed to wolves. Too cheap a shot, that. I’ll say, instead, that Young should save his “hyperbole” and “satire” for those of his constituents who are on the same intellectual level as he. Elk, perhaps. Or marmots.