Dress a Moose for America

Alaska governor Sarah Palin accepts her party’s nomination for vice president at the Republican National Convention in St. Paul. [Photo by Paul Sancya/AP/NPR]Tired of those hackneyed elephants and donkeys? Hold on, the moose is making a comeback. Not since the days of Teddy Roosevelt has this specie of charismatic mega-fauna received the attention it deserves as a potent political symbol. If you know only two things about Alaska governor Sarah Palin, the Republican Party’s surprise nominee for vice president, one of them is the fact that she can “field dress a moose.” The other thing, well, is a family matter that is not really our business to know or discuss.

Every time I hear the moose sound bite I wonder why the verb is “dress” instead of “shoot” or “kill.” And I remember a time in my salad days when I hiked across the Brooks Mountains to the North Slope in Alaska. That was the summer of 1974, before the oil pipeline and its service road had traversed the Arctic mountain range. I followed moose trails wherever I found them, reasoning that if a moose could get through there, I could, too. I regretted the strategy only once, when the trail led me into a willow thicket to the bloody remains of a moose kill. Wolves and wolverines, then a grizzly bear, did the field dressing then. The bear tracks  were fresh, so I made my own trail out of there.

Every Alaskan I met looked eagerly to the opening of moose season. Every Alaskan over age 14 was entitled to bag a moose in the fall, and dressing it filled the freezer with enough meat to feed a family for a year. That’s Alaska’s  own special flavor of “states rights.” That and the annual royalty check paid to every citizen as a share of the state’s oil revenue. Red meat and oil wells — that’s the American dream. We should all live so large.

“Dressing the moose” isn’t the only “colorful” rhetoric swirling around the presidential election. NPR blogger John Ridley is compiling a pocket guide to help us keep the tropes straight:

If you’re a minority and you’re selected for a job over more qualified candidates you’re a “token hire.”

If you’re a conservative and you’re selected for a job over more qualified candidates you’re a “game changer.”

If you live in an urban area and you get a girl pregnant you’re a “baby daddy.”

If you’re the same in Alaska you’re a “teen father.” (Actually, according to your own MySpace page you’re an F’n redneck that don’t want any kids, but that’s too long a phrase for the evil liberal media to take out of context and flog morning, noon and night.)

Black teen pregnancies? A “crisis” in black America.

White teen pregnancies? A “blessed event.”

If you grow up in Hawaii you’re “exotic.”

Grow up in Alaska eating moose burgers, you’re the quintessential “American story.”

Similarly, if you name your kid Barack, you’re “unpatriotic.”

Name your kid Track, you’re “colorful.”

If you’re a Democrat and you make a VP pick without fully vetting the individual, you’re “reckless.”

A Republican who doesn’t fully vet is a “maverick.”

NPR provides am audio link to Sarah Palin’s acceptance speech. NYT, that bastion of the Liberal Media Elite, has news analysis. And there is still a Bull Moose Party for those who feel betwixt and between:

… too “conservative” for the Democratic Party, or too “liberal” for the Republicans, too socially and environmentally conscious for the Libertarians, too economically conscious for the Greens, too grounded in common sense for some of the smaller parties and not xenophobic and isolationist enough for the others…

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