Russia has seen thousands of people killed by wolves over the centuries. Graves’ book takes us back to Tsarist times. Then, the Russian government organized hunters’ clubs to try to combat the wolf menace. They were pretty ineffectual. Under the Communists, of course, news of wolf attacks was suppressed by the Soviet government. But people in the rural areas knew the truth.
Why have wolf attacks been so severe in Russia? Graves points out that the Russian government—under the despotic Tsars, under the tyrannical Communists—never trusted the people with weapons. The rural peasants were never permitted “to keep and bear arms.”
It’s especially ironic that the first recorded victim of a wolf attack in North America should have been a Canadian. Canada certainly does not share Russia’s centuries-long tradition of tyranny. But Canada, nonetheless, rejects the American ideal of an armed and free people. They are proud of having strict gun control in the “the True North strong and free.”
Homo homini lupus, goes an old Latin proverb: Man is wolf to man. For thousands of years in Western civilization, folk wisdom confirmed what we only recently have forgotten: The wolf is not our friend. Considering Russian experience, it’s interesting to note that the Twentieth Century’s two greatest wolf-men were Stalin and Hitler. Stalin was forever smoking his pipe and doodling. And he endlessly doodled cartoons of the volk –the wolf. Another mass murderer, Hitler, was called “Wolf” by his intimates, liked to name his East Prussian military headquarters Wolfsschanze—Wolf’s Lair. And, of course, Hitler’s U-boats prowled the North Atlantic convoy routes in Wolf Packs.
Will Graves knows how America is different, in this as in so many ways. In the U.S., from our earliest days, rural men are armed and capable of using weapons. Graves points out that wolves are opportunistic killers. They are highly intelligent with an incredibly acute sense of smell. They can smell the gun oil used on rifles from miles away. They soon learn to associate that smell with humans—and to stay away. In this way, America’s hunting tradition protects even those hikers, campers and environmentalists trekking through the woods who would never take up arms themselves!
Here’s a quick question: How many members of the current Congress and the current administration have ever been hunting? My guess is it would be very few. As the wolves gather in our national parks, two-legged wolves are gathering throughout the world.
Man is wolf to man. And we are being guarded by law professors.