The elections are history. Now the truth can come out. Don’t you feel a wee bit guilty about your vote on bear baiting?
All the experts on bear baiting, please raise your hands.
I don’t see many fingers in the air.
In fact, more people are still without power in Spokane and Kootenai Counties than could claim real knowledge on the pros and cons of baiting bears during a hunt.
But ignorance didn’t stop the masses from picking up that little pointer and poking a hole yea or nay.
More than 2 million people in Washington and Idaho exercised their right to vote on whether bear hunters should be able bait traps and use hounds in the hunt.
In Washington, a million people decided bear baiting and hound-hunting were bad, and voted to ban such practices.
In Idaho 289,752 decided bear baiting sounded OK, and defeated the ban.
The significance of this vote might be that Washington city people thought of teddy bears and voted against baiting bears and Idaho’s rural people thought of bearskin rugs and voted for the practices.
In each state, however, a huge majority who voted on bear baiting have never hunted a bear, never read about hunting bears, and really never given the whole idea of bear baiting a minute’s thought.
For example, Washington issued a grand total of 13,300 bear hunting tags in 1995, and only about 3,000 hunters also bought a hound-hunting permit.
Idaho issued 17,400 bear-hunting licenses last year, plus about 3,000 hound-hunting tags.
In short, the whole universe of Washington and Idaho bear hunters would fit nicely into a college football stadium.
Bear baiting really isn’t a very big deal. Asking the public to vote on it makes no sense. We’ve got too much to think about already and this was just useless clutter from the minds of people who don’t have their daily planners full yet.
Bear baiting was something a small group of people who hunt bears, or who really hate baiting, need to thrash out in rooms with hard folding chairs and no ventilation.
Work it out. Find some middle ground. Give a little.
Don’t drag the rest of us into a fight that is not ours.
Just the opposite momentum seems to be building.
Every week a new, narrowly defined issue seems to be thrown out for broad public judgment.
Last week’s little issue made big involves the debate over the U.S. Forest Service’s modest attempt to regulate jet boating on the wildest stretch of the Snake River.
Most people will never take a jet boat up the river.
Most people will never float the Snake River in a raft.
It’s cold, rough water up there in Hell’s Canyon and a very long way from civilization.
The whole issue involves a suggestion that jet boaters should make reservations to run the run the river during three busy months each summer.
Big ads are running in all regional media trying to whip up a public frenzy on this issue. The ads darkly suggest this is some big government plot.
The issue is how to keep a few hundred jet boaters and rafters from strangling one another.
They should work this out in that same small room with the hard chairs. Indeed, the Forest Service has done an admirable job of doing just that. Except the jet boaters decided they didn’t like the compromise and went public with a negative ad campaign.
Some changes in society are big and need a big audience to debate them.
If we want to have a vote on killing animals instead of bear baiting, fine. Everyone who eats meat, or just ate a turkey, should be allowed to vote.
If we want to debate whether to let motorized vehicles drive anywhere they want, including parks, lawns and cemeteries, we all should vote.
But some things are small. Jet boating, bear baiting, book club selections, these things that affect a small number of people.
Public officials and policy-makers know this.
They know the idiocy of letting everybody in Seattle decide how we should hunt bears.
They know the perverted outcomes of having people far from the river and far from the public hearing process injecting themselves into the 11th hour debate over jet boats.
But these officials are scared to say that some things just don’t warrant all of us butting our noses into things we don’t really know anything about.
So, let us be honest. Often, we really don’t have the time or interest to educate ourselves about the thousands of little things that happen in our lives and society.
These decisions are best left to the people who do know, and do care.
That’s part of trusting one another, and recognizing when whe don’t know, don’t care, and don’t need to butt in.
A small room, hard chairs, and the few people who really care.
Anything more is like using a sledgehammer to kill a gnat.
Local journalism is essential.
Give directly to The Spokesman-Review's Northwest Passages community forums series -- which helps to offset the costs of several reporter and editor positions at the newspaper -- by using the easy options below. Gifts processed in this system are not tax deductible, but are predominately used to help meet the local financial requirements needed to receive national matching-grant funds.
Subscribe to the Coronavirus newsletter
Get the day’s latest Coronavirus news delivered to your inbox by subscribing to our newsletter.