The Breakfast Table

The State of the Whale


I’m taking cues from you. You sounded so offended when I called you reasonable and moderate. I thought you might like a chance to air some of your more off-the-wall views. I am heartened to see you support the sale of trigger locks, especially considering the way your Little League team is playing. Ouch.

All kidding aside, nobody is saying more gun control is the answer. It is part of what we should do.

I remember my high school back in Pittsburgh, a big ugly place with 4,000 kids. We had fights, we had alienation. When fistfights broke out, boys gathered at a particular wall outside and slugged it out. Bystanders threw rocks at each other.

One time, one of my sister’s idiot friends climbed a tree and spit on the crowd gathered around the boys in battle. Gross and slimy? Yes. Dangerous? Well, aside from a few bruises and loose teeth, not too bad. I think this gun issue is bigger than lawmakers trying to protect donations from the National Rifle Association. I think many people–watch suburban women voters next election–want to change course.

Washington State is in a state, I tell you, about the dead whale. Everyone is overreacting. Letters to the editor and e-mail queues are filled mostly with writings from people upset about the hunt. Especially unnerving were the gruesome live pictures showing a Makah standing up in his red canoe and harpooning the whale.

Indians hunt lots of animals, but not on national TV. I think the treaty is the strongest piece of evidence. They have a right to do this.

My newspaper has a front-page story today that puts this in perspective. The gray whale killed at Neah Bay is one of nearly 2,000 whales that will be killed–legally–this year in a dozen countries.

Despite protesters’ yowling, more than 1,500 whales were legally killed worldwide last year, including 50 by Eskimos in Alaska. Two whale experts at the University of Washington believe whale populations are improving so much they want to end the commerical whaling ban. Go figure.

Who is the most underrated columnist? I reveal myself by answering such a question. I thought Anthony Lewis’ dissections of Ken Starr during Monicagate were brilliant, and I think Maureen Dowd captured the national embarrassment just right.

The other Monica-related Pulitzer this year went to cartoonist David Horsey from the Seattle Post Intelligencer . What Horsey and Dowd had in common was their mocking tone and laughter that something this stupid might bring down a president.

Now go win one of your Little League games so you aren’t so testy.