“The hero in American political tradition is the man who stands up to the mob -not the mob itself.“
-Conservative commentator Jonah Goldberg Just for the sake of argument, pretend that instead of this be ing 2013, it is 1963. And suppose for a moment that our tristate region is Mississippi, Alabama and Georgia, not Wyoming, Idaho and Montana.
Imagine that Ku Klux Klansmen - “anonymous“ townsfolk with hoods on their heads -are brazenly partaking in violence against African Americans and white civil rights activists.
The question is: Back then, would you, or I, or any of us, intervene know ing that speaking out isn't socially
popular and brings with it certain risks? Would we have the moral resolve to do what's right?
Many people in the day, including weak-spined law enforcement, politicians and clergy, looked the other way, necessitating federal intervention to protect fellow citizens from the racist mob and to uphold laws of the land.
In recent weeks, our
region has witnessed some truly sickening acts of personal behavior coming from individuals masquer ading as so-called sportsmen. Their target: wolves.
If you find the KKK analogy offensive, then know it was actually invited by a group of Wyoming wolf killers on the Bridger-Teton National Forest who donned outlaw masks re markably similar to the hoods worn by Klan members 50 years ago in the Deep South.
In a monumental gesture of dumb thinking, they circulated a picture of themselves on Facebook, white sheets concealing their faces as they posed with a dead wolf and clutched an American flag.
Bragging on social media, they attracted swarms of kindred hateand expletive-filled rants (punctuated by poor grammar), directed threatening ly at the federal government, environ mentalists and wolf-loving tourists. Implicit were vows that more wolves would be killed by vigilantes.
This follows another episode in which a Wyomingite recently shot a wolf south of Jackson, strapped the bloodied carcass to the rooftop of his vehicle and parked the rig on Town Square to shock horrified onlookers.
His guide and publicity agent, who notified the News&Guide, is a man who had his outfitting license revoked for poaching a bald eagle because it was eating trout in his pond.
The Town Square incident comes in the wake of at least 10 Yellowstone National Park wolves -enormously popular among tourists and important for science -being shot dead when they crossed the park boundary into Montana and Wyoming where “sport“ hunters were waiting.
There's also the Montanan who posted instructions on the Internet for how to poison wolves. And the Idaho trapper who proudly circulated a picture of himself smiling in front of a live, injured and terrified lobo cowering behind him in a trap.
Back in Wyoming, who can forget the snowmobilers who chased down a wolf until the animal collapsed from exhaustion and then drove over it for good measure?
These are just a few of many brutish examples.
What's revealing is that no elected official, member of law enforcement or game warden in the three states has said a discouraging word.
Lack of public condemnation of these despicable acts could be misinterpreted as condoning, and condoning resides on the same slippery slope as be
Are these the values that we in the region are trying to teach our young people and is it behavior that should be emulated or denounced?
Let's be clear: This is not how real sportsmen act. Nor does it reflect the spirit of ethical hunting in which wildlife is respected and valued, a lesson taught to our children who are required to take state hunter safety classes.
Still, elected officials, tourism representatives and community leaders (especially multigeneration “native“ citizens of our states) remain meek and mum. Through their silence they embolden the mob mentality, fueling more abominable behavior.
How can governors and congressional delegations act bewildered when citizens in the rest of the country have little faith in the ability of Wyoming, Idaho and Montana to be sound wildlife guardians?
Some may claim there are no parallels between the violence carried out against civil rights activists 50 years ago and the boorish vigilantism of certain wolf killers. But the similarities of ignorance and hateful actions are striking.
They make all of us look bad.
Todd Wilkinson writes his column for the News & Guide every week. He is author of “Last Stand: Ted Turner's Quest to Save a Troubled Planet.“