Monday, January 16, 2012

A Couple of Gravely Endangered Humans

"The function of education is to teach one to think intensively and to think critically. Intelligence plus character – that is the goal of true education."
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. , who might have been celebrating his 83rd birthday with his children and grandchildren. He might well have taken time from the festivities to accept an invitation to one or another of the Sunday morning TV talkfests this past weekend to talk about the candidates and the issues faced in the upcoming primary in South Carolina. Would that we could've seen the old warrior, note the whiteness of his hair, how four score and three years were reflected in his face, and heard what scorching words he'd have chosen to say about them and the state of the nation. Would've But no.

"The mountain gorilla faces grave danger of extinction, primarily because of the encroachments of native man upon its habitat – and neglect by civilized man, who does not conscientiously protect even the limited areas now allotted for the gorilla's survival." Dian Fossey, a.k.a. Nyiramachabelli (Her nickname, given to her by her native Rwandan neighbors, means "the woman who lives alone on the mountain."), from her article, Making Friends With Mountain Gorillas, National Geographic, published in January 1970, back when I was a college dork and Richard Nixon was in office. (Doesn't it just knock you out that that wily old politician would have turned 99 just the other day? It does me.) In a kinder, gentler world, the old warrior woman would have been celebrating her 80th birthday today, but no.
Our world is not without gentility and kindness, but because we are capable of self-interested, cruel, and nasty impulses, Dr. King and Dr. Fossey are not among us, the living, today, because they were murdered by their fellow humans. Because they are well worth knowing, many a handsome book has been written about them, their works, and their valiant lives, cruelly cut short.
For instance:
Doreen Rappaport's life of Dr. MLK, Martin's Big Words, illustrated by Bryan Collier.
AND – if I hadn't been writing this blogpost today, I might never have known about this beautiful book. Gee whiz Cheryl, wake up & smell the coffee, why doncha – My Brother Martin: A Sister Remembers Growing Up with the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., by Christine King Farris, with handsome illustrations by that smartypants genius Chris Soenpiet.
As to books about Dian Fossey, do check out the Nat'l Geographic's completely gorgeous photobiography, Light Shining Through the Mist.
There is Heidi Moore's book, too, in Raintree's "Great Naturalists" series, and, of course, absolutely, turn to Gorillas in the Mist. Dr. Fossey's own book begins with these words: "I spent many years longing to go to Africa..."
Ah well. Thence to heaven.
Once a long time ago, Martin and Dian were winter babies, brand new and unaware. Read about them today, tell about them today, lest they be forgotten in this mean old world.

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