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Friday, March 30, 2012

With SB 666 shelved, Bow enjoys the fine spring weather

I would like to thank everyone who was supportive during the recent scare involving SB 666. Some of you sent in contributions that helped to defray the costs of my trip to Jefferson City last week. This is very much appreciated! I was able to meet with my state Senator Chuck Purgason. I gave him a copy of When Sword Met Bow and of the 2005 Project Bow DVD. He listened more than he spoke, but he did tell me during our meeting that he was the only one who voted against the bill in committee.

I left the state capitol not knowing how it would turn out, as the bill did not come up for discussion that day. I knew Senator Purgason was on our side, but I wasn't sure what he could do to help. When the bill came up for discussion on the senate floor this Monday, Senator Purgason really came through! If you would like to hear some of the things he said, you can access the audio files at his website. Senator Purgason is a plain speaking man and comes straight to the point. There is no ape problem in the state of Missouri, and this legislation was a ploy by bureaucrats to drum up over $130,000 in revenue per year, which, if not paid by the ape owners who would be forced to flee the state upon passage of the legislation, would end up being paid by the taxpayers at large. And, no, this bill wasn't requested by ordinary taxpayers concerned about the threat of rampaging apes. It was pushed by a coalition of out-of-state lobbyists and  zoo people who want a monopoly on great apes.

I am proud of my state senator for standing up to the powers that be! It is very encouraging to see that one man acting alone can do so much good, just by pointing out some obvious facts.

The proposed legislation has been shelved on the informal calendar, where hopefully it will die. But we have to remain vigilant, because if someone like Senator Purgason is not there to speak for us, you can be sure they will try it again!

Now that I am not preoccupied with SB 666, Bow and I can go back to our ordinary pursuits. It's spring. The dogwood tree is in bloom. Sword has a new puppy named Leo. Until school lets out in May, I have to help with the puppy while she is at school. This means Bow has to sometimes cede the center of attention, which he is reluctant to do. And I have a new book coming out, Vacuum County, which I must try to proof before its publication date, April 19.

Here is a video of what Bow and I did this morning, now that everything is back to normal:


Bow is curious about Leo, and he sometimes seems to identify with him. But he is also very jealous.You can see that Bow has no trouble expressing his desires. He does not require anyone to hold his hand in order to say "no."

Monday, March 19, 2012

Becoming Politically Involved and Proofing Books

When I first moved to this area in 2001, I was waiting for Bow to be born, so we could begin Project Bow. Some local ladies asked me to become involved in local politics, and I declined. They were Democrats, but I would have turned down the Republicans as well. I had a two year old child and no babysitter. I was expecting to take custody of a newborn chimpanzee. And though I had been involved in politics in the past, this was not the right time for me. I wanted to concentrate on my domestic and productive life, and all I asked of the outer world is that they leave us alone in peace.

At that time, I was not even trying to publicize Project Bow. I wanted to first of all have a chance to raise Sword and Bow together, quietly and without anybody remarking constantly on the difference between them, so that they could have a level playing field, and their experiences would be as similar as possible. That way, any differences in their way of interacting with me and with their world would be based on their own internal requirements and not on anybody's preconception about them.

Sometimes we went places, and when Bow was an infant, nobody even noticed he was a chimp. I would take them both to McDonald's, Sword holding my hand and Bow slumbering in his infant seat, but I kept him covered in a blanket. People sometimes asked casually how old my baby was, but if they didn't look too closely, they didn't see anything unexpected.

Those days are long past. The differences between Sword and Bow have gotten too great not to notice, and I do treat them quite differently, each as their own behavior requires. And no, it is no longer possible to deny that I have a chimpanzee. Just at this time, the political forces that are overwhelming the entire country are threatening also to snuff out our way of life. So the time to lie low has ended, and the time to be active has begun.

On Saturday, I participated in the local Republican caucus, and I worked in concert with a very fine group of Ron Paul supporters. While we did not win the day, our candidate came in second, and the slate of delegates elected are bound to vote for Ron Paul, if the person in the number one position drops out of the race. Why Ron Paul? Because he is the only candidate who promises to keep the government out of people's lives. All the other candidates want to impose their views on how to live on other people. Ron Paul believes in "live and let live."

After the caucus, Bow and I proofed books. We have to try to make a living in a way that has nothing to do with ape language experiments directly, because the road to an established position in academia is permanently blocked. Bow would really have benefited from the opportunity to merge into an existing program, where he could make friends of his own kind, as well as keeping his human family. But since we cannot hope for that at the moment, we fall back on the skills we have, which in our case is literacy. We can read and write. So we publish books.


Somebody who recently saw me posting a picture of Bow proofing a book on Facebook asked me if Bow could read. Yes, he can. I posted a link to the old article about Bow and Literacy from 2007. There are many well-wishers of Bow's today, I think, who have almost lost sight of his intellectual achievements, so intent are all of us on keeping Bow safe and our family intact.

Tomorrow, Lawrence will come in to stay with Bow, and I will make a trip to Jefferson City to plead our case before the state senate. There is a time to be quiet and lie low, and there is a time to speak up. For me and Bow, the time to be quiet is over.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Controlling Your Space: The Freedom Not to Allow Others In

The last few days have seen me drop my normal publishing projects in order to deal with an unexpected crisis: the Missouri State legislature is planning to pass a Non-Human Primate Act that could end up making it impossible for me and Bow to stay together in our home. It is called SB 666 and it presents a clear and present danger to Project Bow as we know it.

I'm not going to rehash all of that here. This blog is where I tell about my day to day life with Bow. For instance, here's a video of Bow playing with a new toy, yesterday.

As you can see, Bow is always looking for unexpected and interesting ways to make use of objects, and he seldom feels confined to the manufacturer's original intent. Because Bow is free to think for himself, he  is never bored, even when he doesn't have a new toy. He knows how to amuse himself, and he is never alone. Well, except at night, when he seems to want everything to be taken out, and after the usual bedtime routine, he asks me to leave, too. I think he appreciates having some privacy at night.

The difference between being confined to a pen that is your home and being confined to a cage that is a prison is this: at home, you can control your space. You can invite people in. You can also ask them to go out. You can decide what things you will have in the pen with you. You can ask that some of the things you don't want anymore be removed. You can help to plan the menu. You can declare which are your favorite foods, and what food you will not eat at all, because you despise it.

Freedom is as much about controlling our space as controlling where we go. Freedom is about the right to say "No."

Freedom is not the absolute right to go anywhere. None of us can decide that we will go where we are not welcome. I can't force myself into your home, if you haven't invited me, and neither can Bow. But I can decide who I invite to my home, and who is not invited. The same is true for Bow.

Someone remarked that Bow has so few objects in with him in the pen at any given point. Usually, it's the potty that stays, while other objects come and go. But did you know that Bow's decision to accept the potty was a major breakthrough? Did you know that Bow used to have to be taken to the potty, because he didn't want to allow it to stay with him? When we first started in the pens, the potty wasn't in with Bow, because Bow wouldn't allow it. It took time before he realized it might be a good thing to allow the potty to stay.

In the same way, Bow's computer is seldom in the pen, because Bow does not want it there. Sometimes Lawrence tries to entice Bow to use the computer by bringing it inside the pen when Bow has not asked for it, but many times Bow tells him he does not want the computer and that it should be taken out at once! Lawrence and I both understand that if Bow does not want something with him, then that object must go. It is only when Bow has asked to use the computer that he behaves well with it.

Someone suggested that taking things in and out of the pens is a way to control Bow. But do you imagine that if Bow wanted to prevent something from being taken out, he would not have a very big say in the matter? Taking things in and out is one of the ways that Bow controls his space -- and his life.

Stone walls do not a prison make, nor iron bars a cage. What would make it a cage would be if Bow lost the right to order people out. What would make it a cage would be if others could impose themselves on Bow. It would be a cage if Bow lost control of his space.

I am hoping that we don't have to leave our pens in the Missouri, Ozarks, because these pens are our haven and our home. But if we lose control of the space, we will need to find some other space that we can control.