portland independent media center  
images audio video
newswire article commentary united states

government

The Bald Eagle - Behavior Mirrors Today's American Policies

It looks good but the eagle was chosen as a US symbol for superficial reasons . . . and mostly because of its appearance and not its behaviour.
When the American Bald Eagle was chosen as the symbol of America, Benjamin Franklin wrote, "I wish that the bald eagle had not been chosen as the representative of our country, he is a bird of bad moral character, he does not get his living honestly, you may have seen him perched on some dead tree, where, too lazy to fish for himself, he watches the labor of the fishing-hawk, and when that diligent bird has at length taken a fish, and is bearing it to its nest for the support of his mate and young ones, the bald eagle pursues him and takes it from him . . . He is therefore by no means a proper emblem for the brave and honest. . . of America."

The artist John James Audubon concurred on the basis that the bald eagle was a notorious scavenger and eater of carrion and no one can deny that Audubon knew his birds.

This early superficial choice fits our country's modus operandi in today's world. When disasters occur, who arrives first to take advantage of the easy pickings, arrange lucrative contracts, or assume control of natural resources? US corporations that swarm to the carrion or usurp the rightful property of others. Eagles are opportunists who move in on prey or other predators perceived as weak and unable to defend themselves. The bald eagle steals food from other bald eagles as well as other species. Chasing another raptor is usually enough to persuade it to drop its kill, but occasionally bald eagles will attack . . . preemptively.

Eagles sit at the top of the food chain. Because of their size, they require a large hunting area and are not concerned about threats from other birds.

Apropos of our President's numerous vacations, remember that because of the energy expended during hunting, an eagle has to spend a lot of time resting quietly. It's estimated that only one out of eighteen attacks are successful.

I'm not dissing the bald eagle . . . he is what he is. I simply find it ironic that our country has chosen, and continues to honor as its national symbol, a bird whose behavior is not the sort that a democratic nation should embrace or emulate.

What would have been a better symbol? A Grizzly Bear? An Otter? A Peregrine Falcon? A Wolf? A Cougar? Like so many things the selection of a national symbol all came down to appearance and not substance.
Divided Community 02.Sep.2006 20:38

yarrow

What purposes do national symbols serve?
What purposes do uniforms serve?
What purposes does division of labor serve?
What purposes does ownership of parts of the Earth serve?
What purposes do national boundaries serve? . . . . .

Is there any species, other than civilized, industrialized H. sapiens, that takes more than it needs for a reasonable life, that wrecks the biosphere for "survival", that engages in recreational murder of its own kind as well as wanton, purposeless destruction of other life forms, that raises and manipulates its own kind for economic exploitation, indentured servitude, scientific experimentation, cannon fodder in the service of horrific, deadly ideologies, fatalistic economic systems, imposition of misery borne of intolerance?

The sage eminences, cited in the article, who expressed their arrogant insights on the "character" of the Bald eagle (or any eagle species for that matter) were speaking from positions of anthrocentric domination over other beings and were deniers of their own places in the natural world.

Busts of our great leaders should be at the tip of every flag pole. The uses of images of any other species can only be failed, feeble, wishful attempts to elevate modern, nationalized H. sapiens.

All hail the turkey! knows a weiner when it sees it 02.Sep.2006 21:30

.

Ben Franklin went to to suggest the fat, stupid, ugly turkey should be the national bird. (Perhaps because Ben looked like a turkey somewhat, who knows. He said it was uniquely American bird, unlike Roman eagles and other things that were European as well. So all hail the turkey!

And it would be appropriate to have the turkey as a national bird now that they are raised on factory farms and mass slaughtered for Thanksgiving, similar to watching FoxTV for news and going to American public dumb down schools, I guess. Factory farms. Factory schools. Both processed meat.

Yes, we could give thanks, gobble up a national bird and becoming cannibals ourselves symbolically at Thanksgiving. Then pass out from the tryptophan and sleep it off.

However, from this picture the "turkey is having revenge" so to speak. The national bird that never was has spoken.

All hail the turkey!

c'mon 03.Sep.2006 11:41

rAT

In Native American cosmology, the Bald Eagle is the most sacred totem of them all. The living embodiment of freedom, with the ability to touch heaven at will, to see with a precision no other creature posesses. Of course the eagle has also been the symbol of nearly every dictatorial empire since time began. Rome and Germany being famous examples. But the mighty Eagle is more than raw power. It's a breathing manifestation of the all-seeing, ever-vigilant Great Spirit that created and sustains this universe. Only chiefs were allowed to wear eagle feathers. To this day only Native Americans are allowed to own these feathers as sacred ritual items for religious purposes. Their ancient power is still recognized by the government even now. Franklin was a witty old cuss, but a lot of his ideas were turkeys.

Wild Turkeys 03.Sep.2006 16:41

--

The industrial turkey of today has little in common with the turkey of Ben Franklin's time, which had not yet been bred for maximum consumption. The wild turkey is beautiful and intelligent.

And while I'm on the subject, perpetuating the business of raising these poor birds is horrific conditions and then slaughtering millions of them also has little to do with the natural balance of subsistence hunting. Consider going vegetarian, or better yet vegan.

Thanks 03.Sep.2006 22:27

yarrow

for the insightful words, rAT

Thanks for posting 04.Sep.2006 13:36

Dexter Rexter

I was on a canoe trip in Florida and experienced a similar realization. We were sipping coffee on the river bank one morning when an Osprey dove down in the river near us and grabbed a fish in its talons.

We were all so stunned and impressed. As we watched the Osprey fly off a Bald Eagle took flight out of an adjacent pine and flew directly into the Osprey. Feathers flying it was an intentional mid air assault 120' in the air. The eagle repeated its dive bomb attacks a couple more times until it dislodged the fish. Snagging the falling fish mid-air in his own talons he flew up to his tree top roost.

In many facets of the human experience we value those who are best at their particular skills. Music, Sports Intellectual prowess we celebrate the very best. Clearly the Eagle is not only a superior hunter, it seems intelligent enough to be lazy and not bother catching his own food.

The whole episode begged an evaluation of our nation's symbol and parallels with the current face our nation's leaders are showing to the world. If only 'because we can' wasn't the premise of so many bad public decisions.

DR

Appearance Trumps Actions 05.Sep.2006 20:37

Depindet

Native Americans revered all kinds of raptors and all sorts of eagles including golden eagles - not just the bald eagle. They also elevated other animals to positions in legend: the wolf, the whale, the beaver, and in the SW the coyote trickster. As far as wearing eagle feathers, chiefs were originally the ones to wear the latest trade goods when they were offered . . . not matter how cheap. It was often an exercise in exclusivity.

It's interesting to recall that people have also long been taken in by the "majestic lion" - the male lion with the full mane - when we all know the lioness does all the work.

The wild goose, the ant and the honey bee have many admirable qualities but no nation has ever chosen either for a symbol (and no, I'm not counting sects or religious groups).

It's all based on appearance. Gold, although highly desired, is soft and useless for anything but ornament because it can't be used for tools, machinery, or on anything that sees regular use. Yet look how we value it!