I was scanning through LONGREADS and came across a recent article posted by Matt Giles, titled 'Inside the World Famous Suicide Race'. That's the grueling horseback contest between Native American riders in Washington State's most famous, or infamous rodeo.
It tells of a teenager defending a way of life and keeping his family legacy alive this year, 2017. It led me to the original looooong article published in the Seattle Met, written by Allison Williams, titled 'The Kings of Suicide Hill: Inside the Famous—and Deadly—Omak Stampede'. It was a bit painful reading it. But how else would I learn of the many perspectives out there.
This. These. It's an illuminating read. It's very hard to judge ancient practices, traditions and customs through city eyes and urban perspectives. Until the 'judged' in question begins to question. The article deals with the American context, and of the American Native Indians.
No one can pretend the Suicide Race isn’t controversial. As early as 1939, the protests started; Humane Society president Glen McLeod succeeded in canceling a mountain race in nearby Hunters, then traveled to Omak and Keller hoping to do the same. “Why, even the riders call it a ‘suicide race,’ ” McLeod told The Seattle Daily Times before a similar trip in 1941.
Animal rights groups started keeping a tally of dead horses in 1983, with one count now at 22. “The reality is that the race is viewed as part of the Omak Stampede rodeo, and rodeos are protected under state law,” says Seattle Humane Society spokesman Dan Paul, but points out that rapid shifts in public sentiment swiftly made SeaWorld orca shows and circus elephant acts extinct.
Even as a child, I remember being very upset and uncomfortable when brought to zoos, aquariums or animal theme parks. I'm still not comfortable with them now. I do understand the part about 'education' but it doesn't mean I have to personally agree with it. That is where battle lines are drawn. That doesn't mean I go all out to criticize others for their choices or whatever. I won't go all Greenpeace on someone unless it borders on animal cruelty (which is a wide scope that really is beyond the current laws we have), then that's another story.
There's the whole side of hunting, game, big-game hunting and trophy hunting. Then there's whaling, and the annual whale slaughter in Faroe Islands and Japan's Taiji. In this day and age, I don't believe we need to eat whales or hunt dolphins. I'm never sure that the commercial value or traditions justify the continued practices. I'm not a supporter of holding dolphins and whales captive in our country. That, I make it clear. I certainly won't touch whale meat. But for any reason I'm stranded and starving in Alaska or the Arctic, I might just do that. I dunno. I haven't been placed in a position where I need to think about whether to die for my beliefs.
There're no fast answers to these issues. Are these environmental or existential? These are just issues I think about every day. Check out the arguments for and against, the objections and the trolls. It's a goldmine of laughter, rage and disappointment in humanity. Will I judge you if you heartily opt to eat sharks' fin on a random day when the bowl doesn't carry sentimental value (if a family member or parent cooked it)? I will try not to. It would however, explain why we're acquaintances and not friends.