Eighteen years after legislation was introduced to ban cockfighting in the state of New Mexico, New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson signed a measure this week that outlaws cockfighting in the state. Now Louisiana is the only state in the United States that allows the blood sport that pits one rooster against the other….
"I'm so upset that it's damn near ruining my life," said New Mexico Game Fowl Association President Ronald Barron. "I've got 38 years doing this. I don't know if I should hatch off some baby chicks right now. This isn't a business. It's my pleasure. It's my right, or rather it was my right."
This comes on the heels of Richardson's smoking ban, his proposal for a drug offender registry, and his all-around effort to dissuade libertarians impressed with his economic policies from backing his presidential campaign.
Bonus links: A cockfighting site. An anti-cockfighting site. A film of a cockfight. The script for the cockfighting episode of Seinfeld. A comparison of Cockfighter the novel and Cockfighter the film. A starter kit.
Now, a few special occasions aside, cockfights are illegal in Bali under the Republic (as, for not altogether unrelated reasons, they were under the Dutch), largely as a result of the pretensions to puritanism radical nationalism tends to bring with it. The elite, which is not itself so very puritan, worries about the poor, ignorant peasant gambling all his money away, about what foreigners will think, about the waste of time better devoted to building up the country. It sees cockfighting as "primitive," "backward," "unprogressive," and generally unbecoming an ambitious nation. And, as with those other embarrassments—opium smoking, begging, or uncovered breasts—it seeks, rather unsystematically, to put a stop to it.
Of course, like drinking during Prohibition or, today, smoking marihuana, cockfights, being a part of "The Balinese Way of Life," nonetheless go on happening, and with extraordinary frequency. And, like Prohibition or marihuana, from time to time the police (who, in 1958 at least, were almost all not Balinese but Javanese) feel called upon to make a raid, confiscate the cocks and spurs, fine a few people, and even now and then expose some of them in the tropical sun for a day as object lessons which never, somehow, get learned, even though occasionally, quite occasionally, the object dies.
Getting caught, or almost caught, in a vice raid is perhaps not a very generalizable recipe for achieving that mysterious necessity of anthropological field work, rapport, but for me it worked very well.