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Raptors Agonistes

It's all in the eyes.

This is Dark Cloud on Wednesday, May 31, 2006.

Memorial Day weekend, here in Boulder, features the 10k Look At Me, yes, but it also has the Boulder Creek Festival, which I vastly prefer. Like the race and jaunt, it has grown huge, over the years, and now seems to stretch for about eight blocks if you include the Farmer’s Market, which is there every summer Saturday, and I do.

It’s packed with tents and a low percentage of garbage merchandise, outside some of the usual food, and has some really quite spectacular stuff, and if you cannot find anything of interest, you should be watching the Look At Me trudge by in person and then run back to watch it on television.

This year, by the library, was an exhibit of damaged birds – raptors - who’d been found and given new life through an organization whose courteous and informative young kids talked well and knowledgeably about their charges. By damaged, I mean missing wings, and creatures designed to be stealthy, quick, and deadly and bred to suck up all the admiration that flying inspires in onlookers and prey alike are now dealing with being bipedal, and dependent. Being Boulder, no doubt the 12-Step Raptor Reconstruction groups have worked wonders on their Inner Chick.

There was something captivating to me about these birds. First, ever since it was pointed out that they are the lineal descendents of dinosaurs, and that dinosaurs of later periods may have sported feathers, I’ve not been able to look at the large eyes and beak of a raptor and not see Tyrannosaur in utero. For whatever reason, the two birds I saw had both lost a right wing, and the ghastly concave shoulders where powerful muscles now attached to nothing and had withered in a knot beneath the skin, resembled almost exactly one acquaintance and Vietnam serviceman’s travails and those of other war vets I’d met through the years who’d lost a limb medicine maybe could have saved had they not faced hours on the ground, hours in transport to the medical facilities, infection, and field amputation to remove chance of its quick spread. So, I stared at the birds for probably an impolite period, and they held my gaze without wavering till their handlers, on whose leather gloves they stood, demanded an activity of them for demonstration.

Their eyes are quite scary. Knowing they cannot fly, they’d fight viciously to the death if attacked. Which reminds me......

Much has been made of late about our President’s demeanor change, and how he’s now facing up to the truth and telling the truth. I don’t see or hear that. I hear him regretting his choice of words because others misunderstood, and apparently that he should have talked down to them. He says this with the uplifted nose and slit eyes of the malevolent preppy snob - and bully - that he is. His words and body language change some, but bereft of his once formidable power, his eyes look cornered and dangerous. And quite scary.

These birds, now required to become what they are not, still serve as an illustrative metaphor alert for so much. For soldiers in the war against Islamic anti-occidents who come home in increasingly brutalized numbers, after fighting a war to no clearly understood potential end, and much risk. To those who visualize the politics at present, and enjoy the conservative failures and subsequent meltdown, a belligerent but crippled raptor might suggest a nation that led with its right wing too much, till it was ripped off, leaving the body politic with only its left, and that unused to primary status and totally unable to allow flight by itself when given command.

It would be a great symbol of Boulder itself. Even the birds only have a left wing.

There were none present, but had there been a Bald Eagle missing a right wing, the symbolism would have been so obvious that even Robert Langdon in the Da Vinci Code might have noted and commented on it.

Whether it admits it or not, whether the cycle is complete or not, it’s pretty obvious that what of late has been called conservatism in America will not survive the Presidency of George Bush. After years of build up, saying that when they had power they could prove their mythologies, we’ve now had six years of an all conservative Republican administration, Congress, and Supreme Court. By their own standards, by their own proclaimed rules, they have failed and failed spectacularly to demonstrate there was substance to their chants, gravitas to their bombast. If they lose big next election, they may be put on trial to explain themselves. Some should be.

Everyone grasps the obvious, that birds with one wing don’t fly. And maybe some come to peace with that in reality or representation. Still, without that ability to fly, to govern itself, and under constant attack, the eyes of the beast come to resemble more and more that of their Mesozoic ancestors’.

We will be fortunate if the metaphor stops there. But beware all wounded things surrounded, desperate, and under attack. They have nothing to lose. It's there in the eyes.