Jewish World Review August 31, 2001/ 12 Elul 5761

Wesley Pruden

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Some respect, please, for frogs and pigs -- THE people at PETA -- People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals -- often act like a tree full of monkeys (they'll take that as a compliment), but now there's a crusade at hand that every reasonable friend of the animals can join.

If it's a crime to call a baseball club the "Warriors" and a football team the "Indians," the law ought not to allow insult to the noble beasts of field and forest by the appropriation of the names of 'gators, longhorns, frogs, wolves, chanticleers, razorbacks, wolverines, tigers, wildcats, cougars or even snakes and spiders.

Officials of public schools in Western Maryland say several parents have already approached them about whether animal mascots should be retired as "offensive," though it is a fact that so far there have been no complaints from actual lions, tigers or wampus cats.

A spokesman for PETA tells The Washington Times that her organization is "vehemently opposed" to the use of live animals as mascots, but so far has no objection to the use of animal names for athletic teams. This sounds very big of her, though it's cruel to deprive a bear, a pig or a falcon of a nice day in the fresh air of a stadium (now that no smoking is allowed), but when the PETA powers-that-be get a look at the headlines scarfed up by a Lumbee busybody in Montgomery County they may have second thoughts about the profitability of remaining calm and reasonable.

Steve Abrams, the inspector of public piety for the Montgomery County Board of Education, which threw the Indians out of Poolesville High School the other night, invites others to join the county's thriving community of professional complainers. If "reasonable people" object to a name, Mr. Abrams promised, the board will "examine" whether the name is consistent with its "human rights policy."

This should ring alarm bells at PETA headquarters. Where does Mr. Abrams get off elevating human rights over animal rights? Screaming eagles have feelings, too. And has the school board no regard for the tender psyches of the children entrusted to them? We must expect a young man to become a beast if we insist on calling him one. Mr. Abrams and his colleagues seem to have learned nothing from the carnage on a dozen schoolyards across the nation, where students said they were driven to violence by bullying from athletes who had been stripped of their humanity by the images of tigers, wildcats and alligators held up as examples to emulate.

Richard Regan, the Lumbee Cheraw brave who ignited this mighty firestorm on behalf of humanity, or at least the red portion of it, tried to organize a boycott of sponsors of Little League baseball teams, hoping to shut down the leagues unless the league found new names for teams with names such as Braves, Warriors and Redskins. Mr. Regan promises now to take his crusade to the other 30 or so Maryland schools with Indian names.

If a low-level bureaucrat with a lot of time on his hands -- when he isn't busy taking offense, Mr. Regan is something called an "equal-opportunity manager" for the Environmental Protection Agency -- gets big headlines, anybody can do it. Indians of other, fiercer tribes grumble that Mr. Regan threatens to change the popular image of the Indian from the courageous and resourceful warrior to just another sorehead looking for something to complain about. Worse, this stuff is as contagious as other social diseases.

Only yesterday, a group called the Virginia Heritage Coalition demanded that the American flag, of all banners, be struck from its pride of place in a cemetery in Luray, Va., because it waves over, or at least waves near, the graves of Confederate soldiers. Someone found an archaic state law, reflecting post-Reconstruction sentiments, that prohibits flying the Union banner over Confederate memorials.

"There's nothing wrong per se with the American flag," says a spokesman for the Virginia Heritage Coalition. "We just want the town to follow state law. We feel our Confederate heritage is under attack."

The sons and grandsons of those Confederate soldiers who sleep in honored glory under the sod of the Luray cemetery sons and grandsons who died under that American flag on a hundred battlefields from San Juan Hill and Chateau-Thierry to Saipan and Omaha Beach could tell the Virginia Heritage Coalition that there's nothing wrong with the American flag, per se or per anything else. They could look to the example of Robert E. Lee, who urged the gallant men of the Army of Northern Virginia to go home from Appomattox and be good Americans.

Marse Robert probably couldn't understand our modern culture of complaint and grievance. Neither would the noble braves of yesteryear.

JWR contributor Wesley Pruden is editor in chief of The Washington Times. Comment by clicking here.

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