Puppies and the Power to Bridge the Red-Blue Political Divide

Jun 20 2010 Published by under Featured News, Republican Party

The new Animal Planet TV show Last Chance Highway debuted last night at 8 PM eastern. This is TV heroin for the soul. Yes, heroin.

The tag line for Last Chance Highway is: “Dedicated individuals embark on a monumental mission — to give unwanted dogs one last chance at survival.” It’s reality TV at its best and most uplifting. There’s no Real Housewives or Kate Gosselin here. But get this, because this is where it gets fascinating – the dogs are rescued in the South and transported to the North for their “forever homes”.

The ticking clock is the fact that these dogs would be euthanized in a regular shelter. 25% of pet dogs put to sleep in animal shelters are purebred, leading us to face the fact that people purchased these pets and then discarded them. Approximately 4 million pet dogs and cats are put to sleep each year due to overpopulation. These numbers are shockingly high.

The show features Shelly Bookwalter who grew up rescuing dogs from the side of the road in Memphis, Tennessee and Kyle Peterson who owns the pet transport company, P.E.T.S. LLC along with country music songwriter Lucas Hoge, who helps Kyle transport rescued dogs from Tennessee, and the surrounding areas, to adoptive homes in he Northeast. These three cast members truly seem to embody the best of the South- the graciousness, the compassion, the hospitality, the generosity and the genuine care for their neighbors (human or animal).

Now, I just got done driving through South Carolina and let me just say, I have issues with the racially stained underbelly of Southern politics. It’s a challenge for me to get through the day without seeing some reminder of the worst in human nature – an effigy of our President hanging the front yard being among the worse examples. The dank ugliness of such illogical hatred is repulsive and vile — and very tough to ignore. It’s easy for me to become intolerant and generalize an entire region at times, especially if I’ve just had to listen to Jim De Mint or another Southern Republican smug his way through an interview.

As it seems the last Republican stronghold is the South, I ponder this great divide often.

If you’ve never been there, it would be easy to dismiss the South as a bunch of teabagging klanners, but the truth is always more complicated and frankly, more interesting. The South has kept important values alive; values that deserve respect they are not too often given outside of the South. In many parts of the Old South (y’all know what I mean), they’ve protected their wetlands and wildlife, putting a premium on nature conservation that doesn’t gel with the Republican platform of drill baby drill.

Values of courtesy and manners are welcome respites from the harsher human interactions in the big city. It’s true, you best not be in a rush, because the bank teller is going to talk to your neighbor about her family for a few minutes even though she finished her transaction…. but some part of you knows that human interaction and care should be an important value. It certainly is a part of the liberal platform. Oh, the cognitive dissonance of it all.

Yes, these things are true, not myths, though at times so dripping in syrupy distraction it might not occur to you that they really do still hate the North. No, really. The War of Yankee Aggression is a relevant sore spot and before you scoff, let me remind you over some boiled peanuts that it never hurts to try to understand those whose behavior confounds us. And by the way, boiled peanuts are only good if they’re homemade. I’m just sayin’ (and consider this a warning if you haven’t yet tried them). If someone loves you enough to share their boiled peanuts, than you probably already understand the lingering resentment and pride over the Civil War and its impact on politics today.

Last Chance shows the unsullied humanity inherent in animal lovers– in the Southern rescuers and transporters as well as the Northern adopters/forever homes, a shared value between North and South. Maybe it’s just me—after all, I live and breathe politics – but the show seemed to proffer an analogous political bridge serving to remind what we have in common, instead of what we disagree upon.

It struck a further chord reminding me of liberal values such as natural rights and the social contract, especially since human rights (and we can stretch this to animal rights or at least animal welfare, though certainly lawyers in this century have attempted to make the case for animal rights) are also closely related to natural rights. Advocates for animal rights will say that animals are members of the moral community. Yes, the cognitive dissonance is a whirling’ now; morals and liberalism together again, but not packaged or sold to the American public who continue to think of liberals as the morally depraved “Hollywood Elite”.

We can’t generalize and say that the Southerners are Republicans and the North Easterners Democrats – but that’s not really the point. It doesn’t matter who is what—that’s the point. What matters is a shared concern and care for those in our culture who need our help. And that, my friend, started out as a shared value between the parties with a difference in belief regarding implementation, but has evolved to represent Liberalism singularly, as Conservatives have gone off the deep end into the land of no return. Gone are the elected compassionate Conservatives.

And as these folks in Last Chance Highway exemplify, human beings tend to be compassionate beings. It is after all a quality of being human, to feel compassion. Whatever will the Republican Party do to keep the South voting for them? They’ve already sold greed and soullessness as God’s love for winners in the free market, but that isn’t going so well after their bumbling defenses of BP. I just wonder when or if the folks who vote Republican reflexively will wake up to realize that their party doesn’t represent them—and not just fiscally, but morally.

At any rate, you can’t lose with this show, even if you’re just tuning in to see the adorable dogs that need homes (I challenge you to go to PetRescue.com and NOT find a dog you want to adopt). But if while watching it, your mind expands a bit to let in some tolerance for a region of the country you don’t know much about (be it North or South) or you find yourself moved by the work we can do when we work together as a nation, well that would be worth its weight in Beckenstanian gold.

Or perhaps you enjoy examining the burning logical inconsistency in your own beliefs, in which case this show will give you ample opportunity for personal growth (also known as intellectual shame in ruder circles). Or, you can watch it and ponder your own take on animal welfare rights, because at its very core, Liberalism is a philosophy concerned with the meaning of humanity and society.

On the other hand, it could just be puppy heroin. In which case I say, go get you some….

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