Are metaphors that slippery a concept? Apparently, they are in Florida, where a lawmaker is under fire for proposing legislation that would strengthen protection for homeowners who resort to force to prevent depredations by black bears.
A Florida lawmaker seeking looser regulations on the killing of wildlife has claimed that black bears high on crack are breaking into people’s homes and “tearing them apart”.
The allegation from Republican state congressman Jason Shoaf, whose biography reveals a passion for hunting, is bizarre even by the already unorthodox standards of Florida, which in recent times has boasted cocaine sharks and marauding herpes-ridden monkeys.
“We’re talking about the ones that are on crack, and they break your door down, and they’re standing in your living room growling and tearing your house apart,” Shoaf told a meeting of the Florida legislature’s house infrastructure strategies committee discussing his House Bill 87, which would remove most penalties for killing bears without authorization.
As you might expect, there has been some pushback on the “bears on crack,” well, crack.
The Guardian was unable to find a documented incident of any of Florida’s estimated population of 4,050 black bears having ingested crack, and Shoaf did not return a request for clarification.
His colleagues, however, appeared swayed by his argument, and advanced the bill on party lines for a full house hearing.
Let’s just paws and think about this for a moment. I’m fairly certain that Jason Shoaf is indulging in an awkward metaphor here; for one thing, it’s impossible to ascertain in advance whether a marauding bruin has ingested crack or any other form of cocaine, although, to be fair, it did happen once. But that bear, who was evidently not smarter than the average bear, died of an overdose after taking what must have been quite a snootful of the white powder. Nobody was attacked, no kitchens were raided, and no pic-a-nic baskets were stolen.
These, at least, are native bears, and not transplants from a land where bears are a lot more formidable than the normally timid eastern black bears.
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But here’s where state Cong. Jason Shoaf himself goes badly wrong:
Despite his promotion of the bill, Shoaf maintained that he had nothing against black bears.
“We love bears. Bears are cute and cuddly and an amazing creature,” he said.
No! No! Stop saying that! Bears are amazing, yes, and that’s speaking as a guy who lives in a place where we have bears the size of Volkswagens. But they are not “cute and cuddly.” They are an apex predator; they can rip the door off your pickup; they can climb trees; they can run 30 miles an hour; and they have one of the strongest bites in the animal kingdom.
Stop misleading people with that crap. While it’s rare, yes, these animals can be dangerous. And, yes, the law on when it’s appropriate to use force to repel a bear that is, for whatever reason, acting in a threatening manner, should be very clear.
And no, the bears described here aren’t real-life cocaine bears. Once again, this is a metaphor. A clumsy one, but a metaphor all the same. Some people get too worried about what is obviously a play on words; they should have a Coca-koala and a smile, and relax.
This seems appropriate.