Monday, December 15, 2008

Why Do Humans Suck So Much?

I'm about ready to give up. Seriously. We've got Bernie Madoff and his Limitless Greed, Hank Paulson and his Tunnel Vision, George Bush, who doesn't seem to notice anything except a shoe winging toward his head. We've got Republicans, we've got Democrats, we've got liberals and conservatives. We have, in my opinion, a really stupid collection of beings that call themselves Americans. And every day I seem to find out that our cruelty, selfishness and sense of entitlement is bigger than I thought.

I was collapsed on the couch last night, soaking in the usually-harmless drug of television entertainment. But there was a show on chimpanzees that I came in on about halfway through. It was Nature's 25th anniversary special: "Chimpanzees: An Unnatural History". These were chimps that have been in advertising, in the movies, in the circus. They've been pets. They've been prisoners in medical labs. And they're now in chimp sanctuaries.
The show ended with the release of some of the chimps into a new island - a place where they could wander with no bars between them and the sky. One ailing chimp couldn't bring himself to step onto the grass. Concrete was all he'd ever known. And one aging chimp immediately clambered up a tree and stayed there.

That was enough to rip my heart, but I found something else was even worse. At one point, the man who'd raised two of the now-rescued chimps was found and invited to come visit the animals. He'd had to give them up and they'd been sold, bred and sent to labs. It had been twenty years since they'd ridden in his car or had an ice cream.

"No way will they remember me," he said as they walked toward the cages. "I don't even remember people after twenty years."

But they did. Their joy in hearing his voice was unmistakable. They let down their guard and behaved in ways the staff had never seen. And I fell apart.

Our arrogance and our biblical belief that all creatures are here to serve us has turned us into monsters. We imprison animals and torture them to make sure our mascara won't make our eyes sting. We enslave creatures for our own trivial wants as well as our medical needs. We even eat them. And they know what is going on.

When my kids were young they helped raise two dairy cows for 4H. And long after they'd given up 4H and moved on to other hobbies, they went back to that farm. When they called their cows' names, those cows came running. They know. Don't tell me how smart animals are or aren't - they're aware. And we act like we don't know.

Just when I think I'm aware of all the rotten things we do, I get slapped in the face with one I'd never considered. We'd better hope there is no heaven and no hell, because what we as a species and particularly as a nation are doing is unforgivable.

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