Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Dancing with Coyotes

Photo accompanying Concord Monitor Editorial 2/8/17


This writing came out of me after gazing into his eyes. He was in a photo, accompanying a recent Concord Monitor Editorial opposing a proposed bill in the legislature declaring all out war on the coyote. He was what the sponsor of the bill called a “vicious animal.”

The coyote seemed to be speaking directly to me, saying, “Why me? I’m a social and intelligent canine with high family values, certainly on a par with your own family pet. Why do you hate me so?”

If truth be told, I think coyotes are reviled because they are smarter and more self-reliant than our Rover sleeping by the fire.  That’s something our culture resents. It’s the same entrenched patriarchy that looks down on smart and self-reliant women.

It’s not that I have a problem with having a season to hunt coyotes if the aim is to manage their numbers like we do with deer and moose – and even bear. But currently there is no closed season on coyotes: they can be hunted down year around.

The new proposed amendment – thankfully now withdrawn from consideration – would have only added insult to injury by adding unlimited night hunting.

When it comes to coyotes, the intent of our game regulations appears to be not management but extermination.

Of course, in reality, unrestricted hunting – with some poetic justice – accomplishes the opposite of its intent, breaking down their family structure, causing them to breed more, not less, thus increasing the population, creating a bigger problem than formerly existed.

Conversely, when the family structure is preserved by less hunting, only the alpha male and female mate, reducing the number of young. The remaining, resident population can be taught to avoid raiding the family farm under the thread of being shot or trapped by the farmer if they try.

But I digress.

I want to get back to discussing this patriarchal urge to punish and seek revenge against any one we can’t control, whether smart, independent, unbowed women or like-minded animals like coyotes.

Or course we have a long history of doing this in our country: just look what happened to Native Americans, who in the beginning were independent from white folks, living sustainably and in harmony with the land.

We, of course, attacked what we didn’t understand and, not surprisingly, the Indians fought back, hence becoming “vicious” heathens who had to be wiped out.  The cry went out, “The only good injun is a dead injun.”   

Just like what we are trying to do now with the coyote.

Our history of imperialism and patriarchy has cast a shadow on the soul of our nation, not only with our crusade against women and coyotes, but against minorities in our own country and non-western cultures around the world.

But finally, we have met our match!

Our ultra-individualistic, material way of life, treating the earth as just a commodity to be consumed, is now pitting itself against Mother Nature Herself, and we are finding that Mother Earth plays according to Her own rules, not alternative facts we conveniently make up.

The outcome is becoming clear: If we continue our American way of unlimited growth powered by extracting more and more fossil fuels from the earth, we will soon trigger uncontrolled climate change, which will lead to eliminating most humans from the planet: Exterminating not just us but most of our innocent, fellow species.

If we are to avoid this dismal fate, indigenous people have much to teach us. In fact, Frederick Gustafson, a Jungian analyst, posits that our extermination of Native Americans is a metaphor for how we deny this instinctual, primal part of ourselves:

That primal worldview, ingrained in our genes, provides the guidelines on how  to live in harmony and interdependently within the web of life.

For a primer on what we can learn from indigenous people, I highly recommend Dancing with Wolves, the movie starring Kevin Costner: it is a wonderful primer on how, in a more perfect world, we could have/and still can learn and gain wisdom from Native Americans.

We have a long history in our country, much to our detriment, of too often declaring: It’s either my way or the highway. By necessity, the time has come to be more welcoming and inclusive, to have higher aspirations for ourselves.

I will close this essay with one such aspiration, quoting Luther Standing Bear, Oglala Sioux Chief:

I am going to venture that the man who sat on the ground in his tepee meditating on life and its meaning, accepting the kinship of all creatures, and acknowledging unity with the universe of things was infusing into his being the true essence of civilization.”
xxx

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