How many of you are familiar with manatees? If you said they are large, full aquatic, mostly herbivorous mammals, you would be right. If you said something else like, weren’t they a punk band that had a hit song in the 80s called “Bite Me,” you, obviously, don’t know jack about manatees.
Now, the manatee, sometimes called Sea Cows by insensitive people who are unaware these gentle mammals have battled a weight problem since, well, since they were born, like to keep a low profile. They lie in the shallows eating sea stuff (I think that’s the correct scientific term) and occasionally rise to the surface for a breath of fresh air. However, recently, the manatees’ peaceful existence has been tread on by no other than the same group that has brought us government gridlock – the Tea Party.
It all started when Ana Gutierrez decided she wanted to mount one of the strange creatures and take it for a ride. The report that got Gutierrez in trouble described her as a strange woman touching and riding a manatee at Fort Desodo Park, Fla. She was in violation of the Florida Manatee Sanctuary Act. The riding of a manatee is subject to a $500 fine and six months in jail. The touching, well that’s a different story. That’s a felony and could put Gutierrez in the big house with a roommate who likes to call herself “Butch.”
Now, you might be saying, “Lock her away,” or “That’s no way to treat the gentle manatee,” or, possibly, “I want me some manatee, now!” Okay, if you’re in that third group, just settle down. The beloved manatee, also thought to be the origin of mermaid legends, needs to be left alone. However, the Tea Party has decided to meddle in this issue.
“Riding the manatee … stands for liberty and freedom and doing what we want to do without harming anyone else,” Tea Party spokesman Michael Coffman said recently. I would like to point out that Coffman was being completely serious. In addition, I think Coffman is a little too much into manatees. In fact, I think he may be a toucher.”
Coffman went on to say, “Today we can’t ride a manatee, tomorrow we won’t be able to open a business … The purpose of the endangered species act isn’t to protect endangered species, it’s to deny people private property.”
Now, I’ve tried to think how preventing someone from riding an endangered species will lead to preventing someone from opening a business, but I cannot follow that logic. Well, logic is probably the wrong word. The right word might be demented, crazed, or, simply, stupid.
However, in the bazarro universe of the Tea Party, it might go something like this. A guy goes in and fills out an application for a loan to start a business … say, a hate mongering corporation. Everything is going just fine until … he gets to the question that asks, “Have you ever ridden a manatee or any other endangered species?” Thinking this is a silly question that some bored employee threw into the mix for fun, he answers, “Yes, I have a stable of manatees that I and my friends ride on the weekends. Sometimes we even play manatee polo.”
The next thing he knows, not only has he been denied the business loan, but he has been put on the manatee molestation list and is told he must visit everyone in his neighborhood to tell them he is a manatee molester. He is then fired from his job and ends up living in a van down by the river.
Now, I like strangeness, whether it’s in movies, books or life, for that matter. The Mistress of the Manor can tell you that even I can be a bit strange at times … okay, often. But how anyone can make a connection between being arrested for harassing an endangered species and being denied the right to own property takes strangeness to a whole new level. It’s this kind of reasoning that makes getting anything done in Washington a monumental task.