Saturday, November 19, 2005


We've all seen the photos of George Bush juxtaposed with images of a chimpanzee. The looks on their faces eerily similar, so silly and buffoonish. But those images remind me of other photos of primates that I've seen that look nothing like the vacuous president.

I first saw this photograph of an orangutan in my Intro to Physical Anthropology text book over twenty-five years ago. I saved the book for this picture. This orangutan had such presence, depth, and ubiety. Its face reminded me so much of the film director John Huston, it shocked me. There is nothing buffoonish or ignoble about this creature. Its face has a thoughtful dignity, It has no deceit. It is not craven or corrupt. It is not smirking. It is not scarily vacant behind its eyes. It is a face unlike anything the president has ever projected.

I came across this photo after reading a Sierra Club magazine in the dentist's waiting room. The photographer James Balog had done some stunning photography of very big trees. When I explored his website, I found this photograph of a chimpanzee and woman. The chimpanzee's face suggests such a rich inner life it is absolutely remarkable. It has depth, is stunningly emotive. It is a face that would not laugh at Carla Fay Tucker. It is not petty or disgraceful. It is a face unlike anything the president has ever projected.
I googled the words pensive gorilla and found this photograph by Sheila Smart. There are so many others. The faces of one of our closest primate relatives are astonishing for their beauty and intensity. Their eyes say things that reach into our human psyches and demand that we recognize their inviolable dignity. Their faces are not booze-splotched and shameful. Their faces are unlike anything the president has every projected.

Under this photograph were these words by Isaac Bashevis Singer:
There will be no justice as long as man will stand
with a knife or with a gun and destroy those who are weaker than he is."

I googled the words pensive George Bush. Try it yourself.

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