From the Publisher

Salmon and Spawning

I love wild sockeye salmon. Before I encountered sockeye, I was always fairly unimpressed with salmon. It was one of those ubiquitous menu items usually served on top of a bed of mashed potatoes with some sort of bland cream sauce poured over it — the turkey of the sea. That all changed after I had some wild sockeye. The uncooked filet is more red than orange, with a vein of very defined fat between each layer of muscle. It grills up wonderfully, with the fat popping up through the flesh, keeping the meat moist and the flavor intact. It’s a beautiful piece of fish.

I was flipping around one evening on the television and stopped on the image of a beautiful piece of sockeye being grilled on a cedar plank. It looked delicious. Then the salmon was cut up into chunks and poured into a cat’s dish. I was salivating over a cat food commercial. When I realized this, I wasn’t so much repulsed by the idea of me eating the cat food as I was by the cat eating the cat food. Why the hell does a cat need wild sockeye salmon cat food?

Now I am not a cat hater. I’ve had cats all my life. In fact the house I grew up in at one point had 12 cats living in it. Yeah, we were that house. In all of the time I have owned and lived with cats, I’ve never seen them as having very discerning palates. I’ve seen cats eat squirrels, birds, bugs, baby possums, mice, smallish raccoons, and literally tons of crappy dry cat food. These are animals we domesticated to eat our pests: to keep the rats out of the winter grain reserve. I repeat: Why the hell do they need wild sockeye salmon cat food?

I live in Chicago, where in the last five years there has been an explosion of gourmet pet food stores, pet day cares, and other boutique shops catering to pampered pets. These spoiled pets are kept by young urbanites for the most part, some single, some coupled.

On August 22nd the Wall Street Journal published a report by Syracuse Public Affairs professor Arthur C. Brooks. In his report Brooks sighted some startling new statistics on a fertility gap developing between politically liberal and politically conservative Americans. Using the General Social Survey of 2004, Brooks found that on average 100 politically liberal Americans would have 147 children while 100 politically conservative Americans would have 208 children. This difference in birth rates creates a 41% “fertility gap” between the two political philosophies. When I read this report I instantly thought of the cat food commercial. Are we progressive Americans breeding — or not breeding — ourselves out of existence? Are those young, pet-pampering urbanites, who are by and large more liberal, replacing their parental instincts with caring for a pet? What will be the long-term ramifications of such a gap?

In politics, it all comes down to simple numbers. Brooks states that, “Eighty percent of people with an identifiable party preference grow up to vote the same way as their parents.” Now, you can dispute that assumption if you would like, but if you take that as a fact and factor in this 41% “fertility gap,” it’s easy to see how the political makeup of some states could change in a decade or two. Brooks shows how a 50/50 state like Ohio could swing to a 54/46 conservative bias by 2012 and how a mostly liberal state like California could turn conservative by 2020.

Now another thing I am not is a baby pusher. Yes, I do have a beautiful, smart, and funny two-and-a-half-year-old son, but I know that not everyone can and not everyone should be a parent. Many of us cannot legally adopt a child in some states. Many progressives have social, economic, or environmental justifications for not procreating that should be respected.

What I am here to do is to smoke out the people who use these valid justifications as an excuse to hide their fear of responsibility. Some progressives are very good at making arguments for social responsibility and then failing to take responsibility in their own lives. We must not only think globally and act locally but also think tribally. I understand if you do not want to bring yet another person into this world, but what about bringing yet another good person into this world?

Who carries on your fight, your beliefs, and your ideals when you’re gone? Your cat?


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