"All that I have to say, is, to tell you that the
lanthorn is the moon; I, the man in the moon; this
thorn-bush, my thorn-bush; and this dog, my dog."
Moonshine, "Midsummer Night's Dream"
Lost amid the hubbub surrounding the recent presidential election in the United States is the news that the small nation of The Walden Commonwealth of Shangri-Camelot is also having an election. On November 31st, the obscure but widely celebrated country, known around the globe for its eco-friendly commitment to equality, positive thinking, and tolerancenot to mention hemp clothing, tofu meatloaf, and freestyle community drummingwill be voting for the next Constituted Leader Of Walden Nation (CLOWN). The position is usually for life, but the last CLOWN, Dr. Ben V. Landt, retired at the age of 74, after exactly twenty years of progress, advancement, and general comfort.
Elections in The Commonwealth are only held when the democratically elected officials deem it imperative, and these elections are usually free of rancor and controversy. Differences between candidates are mostly matters of taste, personal style, and points of emphasis, free of the ideological bickering and partisan nastiness so often found in less evolved nations. While many countries have bitter debates over economics, immigration, regulations, taxation, energy, and the environment, The Commonwealth has wisely turned those matters over to experts and committees, thus allowing the citizens to pursue freedom, community, and happiness, free of needless worries and possible confusion.
One notable example of this ingenious approach is evidenced by the lack of poor people in the country. Waldenians, it so happens, outlawed poverty five decades ago, simply striking it from existence with a bold combination of creative legislation and several uplifting campaigns directed by the Office of Integrated and Advanced Consciousness.
This current election, however, has been marked by an unexpected controversy over dogfighting, of all things. The two new candidates, Mr. Ben M. Young and Dr. B. M. Speck, are quite young, agreeably handsome, and fairly wealthy, as is to be expected. Mr. Young spent time in the entertainment industry before turning to public service; Dr. Speck is a psychologist noted for his ground-breaking work in the field of self-esteem, self-awareness, and self-coaching. And both, as one would rightly assume, have been longtime supporters of legalized, licensed dogfighting.
The majority of Waldensians support dogfighting; in fact, it has been a prominent feature of Waldensian culture for many decades, having finally been legalized in 1966 by the Committee for Interspecies Relations and Advanced Canine Competitions (CIRAC). The CIRIC had ruled that since dogs are not human, they do not possess the same right to life, liberty, and public pension plans as do most Waldensians. A small but rather fanatical group of citizens have long opposed this ruling, arguing that dogfighting is not only inherently cruel, violent, and often fatal, it is not in keeping with the goals and character of a civilized country.
These citizens, who own the highest percentage of dogs in the country, have generally been either ignored or dismissed by the establishment, which portrays them as irrational, emotional, and intolerant. Dr. Speck, in a 2009 address to the Office of Canine Support and Development, which oversees dogfighting events in The Commonwealth, said that attempts to limit dogfighting are not just '"an affront to the right to do as a woman sees fit and good with her canine, but are a direct attack on the providential gifts of happiness and self-realization." He noted that dogs, while displaying certain human-like qualities, should not be "invested with properties not inherent in what they are, nor with transcendent qualities that cannot be located or measured by scientific observation or governmental study." Dr. Speck has been a strong supporter of dogfighting, and made it known recently that he supports his son's desire to be a dogfighting trainer, "as long as it helps him find fulfillment in life", he said.
Whence the controversy? Eight months ago, a single woman, Anima Smith, was told by government officials that she could not keep an entire litter of German shepherds, but would have to place seven of the nine puppies in the Canine Fostering and Allocation Program, which is one of the primary sources for the large dogfighting associations. Smith, who is described by neighbors as "quiet", "plain looking", and a "religious nut", produced a crude but effective YouTube video that claimed the government "supports the murder of puppies" and which contained images of maimed and dead dogs. Although her video was denounced by the Network of Mainstream Media Outlets as "outrageous", "biased", "deceptive", and "marked by lousy production values", it became an overnight sensation, being viewed over a million times in a single week.
Mr. Young, noting the largely positive response and perhaps sensing a means by which to distinguish himself from his opponent, made mention of Smith in a speech at the University of Walden, saying the unremarkable woman "has raised questions and concerns that might be deemed worthy of possible discussion so that further consideration of the matter can be part of the national dialogue." He also added that he was not opposed to dogfighting, per se, but wondered if some might find it offensive or even morally problematic. Mr. Young was booed during the speech, but managed to win back many of the crowd by emphasizing his whole-hearted endorsement of cock fighting, which he said "is one of the most fundamental freedoms we have in this country."
Not surprisingly, the response from Dr. Speck and the national media was immediate and monolithic. "Mr. Young has apparently decided that he, and he alone," Speck noted in a public statement, "can gauge what is good for The Commonwealth and for its canines, as if he has the power and right to tell others what to do with their property and canine progeny." The Waldensian Times published a scorching editorial, saying that Young "wishes to take the Commonwealth back to the mideiveal [sic] era, when canine owners had little or no say in how their animals could best be used for their good and for the common good." The editorial also said that "this is not just a matter of canine combat rights, but a matter of social justice."
Having unwittingly unleashed such criticisms, Young has tried, rather unsuccessfully, to straddle the divide. He has pointed out, in a series of commercials, that he was, in his previous work, the producer of the hugely successful "Top Dogs of Legendary Fighting Memory" series. But he has already stepped in it, as they say, and questions about his support for Waldensian values have continued to grow in number and volume. "The way of progress," says Dr. Speck, "is not found in listening to the shrill, angry voices of the unlearned and irrational"an apparent reference to Ms. Smith"but in upholding the findings of those enlightened leaders who know best, who think best, and who want the best for the entire nation."
Still, there is a growing sense that not all voters are entirely comfortable with dogfighting, even while they aren't sure if there are good reasons to curtail, limit, or even end it. This campaign, in the end, may prove to be not so a dogfight as a fight about dogfighting.