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Going ape in the Oval Office

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By R.J. Sokol

I started writing a column a few days ago by likening what is happening in the White House these days to a chimpanzee jumping up and down on the furniture and throwing feces at the walls. A group of white men, I said, stood by with thin smiles as if approving the actions. When the chimp left the room to watch television, the men went about rearranging the furniture and cleaning the walls the best they could. A thankless job, I wrote, but it pays well. That should tell you all you need to know about those men.

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I didn't get very far with the column because I soon realized it was terribly insulting to chimpanzees. They are, after all, our closest cousins, sharing 98 percent of our genes. They are intelligent creatures who enjoy people and know how to behave appropriately in their environment. In the jungle, act like a hunter. In the Oval Office, act presidential. In a space capsule, act like an astronaut.

As fate would have it, 56 years ago on Jan. 31st, a chimpanzee named Ham became the first "American" launched into space, Sub-orbital. The historic event was captured nicely in the movie version of "The Right Stuff.'' As the seven Mercury astronauts compete to be the first, the movie dramatizes the launch and splashdown and reveals America's first astronaut to be " a chimp.

Ham's flight from Cape Canaveral to splashdown in the Atlantic Ocean lasted 16 minutes and 39 seconds. Ham wasn't just a passenger in the capsule. He pulled the appropriate levers at the appropriate times and performed perfectly. He suffered only a bruised nose for his efforts. His flight paved the way for Alan Shepard's flight in May later that year. Second American in space. That makes Ham an American hero in my book.

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I doubt the current occupant of the White House could be trusted with such a mission as Ham's. For one thing, it required focus. Also, discipline. Spurred on by Ham's story, I did a little more research on chimps. It turns out they share a lot of traits once supposedly reserved for humans. They enjoy friendships. They have strong family bonds. They can show empathy. They can make and use tools. They can remember distant events. They've been observed showing regret and exercising self-restraint and wouldn't that be welcome in the White House today.

Some observers say chimps can even understand when other creatures know or don't know something. That's another way of saying they have a realistic assessment of whomever they are dealing with. No guesswork. And yes, being almost human, they can be violent. Usually it's because there are too many alpha males in a group and not enough females. Most violence that occurs is between groups of chimps rather than within a group, although one group recently was said to have killed a former leader who was described as a tyrant. Maybe a brutal form of justice?

Really, the only negative thing I learned about chimpanzees in my brief research is that they are endangered. Of course. Their population has been eliminated everywhere except central Africa where they are poached for food. Man apparently cannot bear to have other creatures alive on this planet without killing them for sport or commercial gain or, in this case, an exotic source of food. Unfortunately, respect for other living creatures Is just one of many positive traits that seem to be lacking in the current White House occupant.

So I apologize humbly to chimpanzees for even considering such a comparison as mentioned at the top of this article In the first place. I further encourage all compassionate human beings to contribute to such organizations as the World Wildlife Federation in their efforts to save these wonderful apes.

As for those clowns in suits in the White House, he's your wild creature. If you can't make him behave, you've got to get rid of him. After all, the house belongs to the American people. The previous tenant left it in beautiful condition. Clean that crap off the walls and find someone who knows how to act in public.


rjgaydos|AT|gmail.comEmail address

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Bob Gaydos is a veteran of 40-plus years in daily newspapers. He began as police reporter with The (Binghamton, N.Y.) Sun-Bulletin, eventually covering government and politics as well as serving as city editor, features editor, sports editor and (more...)
 

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