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Grand Old Penguin
(Sept. 21, 2005)

          The new symbol of the Repugnican Party?
          Could be.
          Figures that all the suits would like an animal that looks like a suit.
          The extreme right wing is crowing over National Geographic’s “March of the Penguins”---the most popular movie to feature lots of marching since “Triumph of the Will.”
          Right-wingeds, er, wingers, really like uniform behavior, you see; really appreciate when people get in “lock-step,” as they like to say. Ranch house, two SUV’s in the garage, boat in the driveway, churchonsundee, tapered hair, Fox on the tube, 9-to-five, flag in lapel, hate Hillary.
          But who would have thought they would adopt the fabulous flightless bird of the southern hemisphere as a heroic figure?
          Going enviro-wacko, are they?
          No, just wacko.
          Conservatives and so-called Christians have taken this Morgan Freeman-narrated film, the highest-grossing documentary since “Farenheit 9:11," under their wing. The New York Times reports that the Christian-influenced website, Bird---er, World---Net Daily featured an abortion opponent columnist who wrote that the penguin film “verified the beauty of life and the rightness of protecting it.”
          Hmm. . .
          Well, it verified that giant emperor penguins can really march, that’s for sure. When they go out to lunch, they really go out to lunch. I’m talking a 70-mile stroll to the fish market, to stock up before the 70-mile waddle back to Penguinville, where they vomit up goodies for their offspring. Mm-mm! A hot day is probably 50 below, with gale force winds. The ones who get a bit tired drop dead.
          Er, not too picturesque. . .
          And in order to hatch their giant eggs, the poor creatures must balance them on their feet to protect them from freezing on the permafrost. Some of the eggs don’t sit so well, and crack, so the unborn chicks turn into penguinsickles. Oh, and lots of beautiful seals and gulls come around to snack on the cute newborns. Little pengie kids get pecked to death.
          Beauty of life? I don’t think so. . .

Chilly Willy and Jesus: More than meets the eye?

         But the columnist, a strutting peacock in “pro-life” fanaticism, as well as flocks of churchonsundee folk are giving the penguin the Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval. (Pardon the expression, penguins.) Well, they probably would if they could.
          Pengies, they say, are models of monogamy! Super-dedicated moms and dads! They heroically keep those big eggs warm with a fat flap of belly skin, and then the community huddles together to keep everybody warm. (Guess the columnist didn’t mind the Hillary It takes a village implication.) Columnist stopped short of saying that Pengie is opposed to abortion. Although she might have missed a bet---there is no evidence of penguin abortion clinics in the film, and no sign of flightless “pro-life” protestors. . .
          Well, penguins are unflappable monogamists, that’s true, for as long as one entire mating season. Then they wife-swap like a Mormon on Viagra. Still, this seasonal infatuation is remarkable because monogamy is hard to find in nature, especially among professional basketball players. Consider: only three percent of mammals are monogamous! What’s more, sticking with one mate turns out to be a risk factor for extinction, as Donald Trump and B.B. King probably suspect. Justin Brashares of the University of British Columbia put it this way: "In avoiding extinction, it pays to be promiscuous." Hell, Hollywood has known this for years.
          Still, it’s a good thing National Geographic chose the cute pengies, when you consider the other animals that naturally pair up for life: vultures, termites, prairie voles. (What the hell is a prairie vole?) Otherwise, the right-winged would have had one ugly new mascot.
          So the Christians are chirping about penguins, and how they are doing Gawd’s monogamistic will. To wit: Ohio minister Ben Hunt, the NYT reports, is not only urging his flock to march right down to “March,” but to take a flashlight and make notes “to write down what God speaks to you as He speaks it to you.” (Note to Hunt: I like Morgan Freeman well enough, but if you know something I don’t, please share as it would be good news for African-Americans.)
          What’s more, Hunt sees strong theological links between Christians and penguins. Their lack of collar notwithstanding.
          “Some of the circumstances they experienced,” he said, “seemed to parallel those of Christians. The penguin is falling behind, is like (sic) some Christians falling behind. The path changes every year, yet they find their way, is like (sic) the Holy Spirit.”
          I’m going to guess that the Rev. had little or no exposure to animals before, let alone grammar, or he might have known of the impressive migratory habits of thousands of species all over the planet. But that’s the beauty of the documentary---educating the ignorant!
          The parallels between penguins and Christianity sort of elude me, I admit. True, Christians claim they will one day leave their clothes and fly buck-naked to heaven, but Pengie’s wings were clipped long ago as he evolutionarily adapted to a life spent largely in the water. Whoops---I didn’t mean to make this an argument for Darwin, but then, I didn’t. They did.
          That’s correct, right-winged creatures are claiming that the emperors in “March” are evidence of The King of Kings---in the form of what is just hilariously called “Intelligent Design.” This is a theory that rejects evolution on the basis that Gawdallmightee (the “Intelligent Designer”) appeared and waved his magic wing, er, wand, to suddenly introduce intelligence into the mix. To wit:
          “That any one of these eggs survives is a remarkable feat,” said Andrew Coffin (real name), writing in the Christian publication, World Magazine, adding, “and some might suppose, a strong case for Intelligent Design.”
          Coffin thinks he’s nailed it down---that because penguin behavior is in some ways similar to human behavior, the birdies are therefore an argument against evolution.
          Tweet, tweet. I think perhaps Coffin is an argument in favor of evolution.
          I mean---Intelligent Design? What is so intelligent about not giving wings to penguins, in order that they have to walk 70 miles for a snack? About forcing them to balance a damn egg on their feet for months on end? If there is a Designer, sounds to me like He dealt the pengies a lousy reproductive/survival hand, but they outsmarted Him with evolution!
          Of course, they are not outsmarting mankind these days, and that’s where the right-winged might find themselves not so supportive of Chilly Willy, et. al. In recent years, hundreds of thousands of the wonderful creatures have died. Starved to death---you know, just like New Orleans citizens. Why? At least in the vicinity of the Falkland Islands, because humans are stealing their dinner. Fishing the place out.
          No wonder the emperors are walking 70 miles for lunch.
          Wonder how many folks like that World Net Daily “pro-lifer” columnist and Rev. Hunt will go out and campaign to stop the overfishing and ensuing environmental havoc? Wonder how many of them are involved in supporting environmentally protective causes?
          Or perhaps they are among that humble “Christian” crowd that believes the planet is here to be usurped by humans, no matter the extinctions and pollution, because the Intelligent Designer is a-waitin’ for True Believers in the Great Fish Fry in the Sky.
          But back to penguins.
          In the Central Park Zoo in Manhattan live two wonderful healthy specimens of the new Repugnican mascot, named Roy and Silo. They have been married for six years, devotedly monogamous. They dutifully took turns incubating an egg until it hatched, then fed the chick in that inimitably loving penguin way: vomiting up half-digested fish. They engage in typical “ecstatic” behavior, entwining their necks, cooing to each other, and mating. They are a shining example of everything that the World Net Daily columnist and the right-winged Christians champion.
          Of course, the egg was donated.
          Roy and Silo are gay.
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