by Martin Murie
(Swans - November 30, 2009) The Dodo stalked the streets of Washington, D.C. She appeared often in the House of Representatives where security guards were wary of the Dodo's huge beak and large size -- nearly six feet tall, with formidable clawed feet. What confused the guards even more was the disappearance and reappearance of the Dodo, making its basso profundo voice more convincing when she kept repeating, "I am the Ghost of Plundered Planet, Present and Past." So, the guards were confused and the Dodo took advantage of that.
The Dodo's mission was serious, just as serious as the ghost in the Dickens story. She was there to create serious doubt in the minds of committees and chairmen of committees. The Dodo visited many of these meetings, disappearing when it was necessary to brush past the guards. The guards felt queasy when she passed them, a faint rustle of wing feathers. Then the Dodo would appear for all to see.
Once, the chairman of the Armed Services Committee got up his nerve and asked the Dodo how she had managed to learn English. "Observation, and careful listening to you folks," the Dodo replied. "Just the other day I learned a phrase that is often repeated in these meetings, 'on a par with.' Well, gentlemen, I am on a par with you; my vocabulary is limited, so is yours. What you secretly think, I have no way of knowing, but your spoken words match my set of words." Having said that, the Dodo disappeared, only to reappear again behind the chairman's body. "I am the Ghost of Plundered Planet, Past and Present," she intoned, giving her low voice an extra rumble, mimicking the chairman's pompous speaking voice. Then she disappeared again, brushed past the security men, and was not seen again that day.
The next day she was there again, reminding them that she spoke for the animals and the plants of the planet. "I am extinct," she intoned, "but I am here to remind you of the coral reefs and the dugongs and polar bears and walruses and blue whales and sperm whales . . ." She went on and on, listing the endangered species of this, their only world. ". . . Red-legged frogs, condors, emperor penguins, the fishes of the oceans, turtles in the oceans and turtles on land, jumping mouse . . .," on and on until the chairman pounded his gavel, but the Dodo kept speaking, continuing her listing of endangered species. ". . . jaguars, conies, white-bark pines, grizzlies, Atlantic salmon . . .," finally ending the spiel with the human species itself, reminding them that their own species was nearing the edge of the tall cliffs of extinction. She disappeared.
"I suggest," said the chairman, "that this trickster be ignored. Let's get down to Afghanistan and Iraq and that city in Italy that voted 95 percent to reject our army base."
The Dodo appeared again, in the balcony. Nobody on the committee noticed her, until she spoke. "The change is with us now. Beware. Be afraid."
The Dodo was becoming weary of speaking to deaf ears. She decided to take a short break, in preparation for her appearance at the Copenhagen Climate Change Conference, opening on December 7.
She did appear there and learned a new phrase: People Power. People were there from all over the world, including many citizens of the United States. She felt comfortable in the vast crowds, did no disappearing acts, though startling everyone. Most protesters assumed that the Dodo was one of them, dressed as in the illustration in Alice in Wonderland and on stilts. They admired the artistry of the huge, clawed feet.
The weather was rainy, with occasional spasms of snow, but the people shivered their way through. Some without umbrellas became soaked, but they stayed. The next day, bad weather again. Climate change was blamed and that notion was bolstered by recent news from Arctic and Antarctic regions: walruses crowded on beaches instead of their customary parking places on ice floes; penguins losing huge continental ice sheets.
Third day, more rain. Some activists burst through the police barrier and entered the hall where a delegate, coached by a GM lobbyist, held forth. As the protesters unfurled their banner -- SHUT UP. ACT -- they heard the GM-owned delegate shout, "Climate Change is a Myth." The protesters, even as guards tore down their banner, burst into laughter and one of them, as she was being dragged through a side door, laughed so hard that her companions, also being hustled out of the auditorium, feared she would choke. They were laughing too and the cameraman from Der Spiegel caught the action and the laughter and hurried out to send it while the security men were preoccupied with arresting the banner hoisters.
The Dodo, for her own morale, began to visit gatherings of people instead of centers of power. She did her disappearing act from time to time too, convincing the protesters that she was "the Ghost of Plundered Planet, Past and Present." After a while the Dodo's appearance was looked forward to, from humble gatherings of ten or fifteen people in places like Saranac Lake in the Adirondacks or huge gatherings in San Francisco and New York City and Cleveland, Ohio.
In Cleveland the Dodo met Dennis Kucinich and in San Francisco she conferred with Jeff Mackler, who was using his skills to defend Lynne Stewart, innocent and in jail, and Leonard Peltier, innocent and in jail, and other folks caught up in the hysteria of the times.
People were beginning to accept the ghost as real. After all, they were becoming accustomed to strange happenings that in their naïve childhood would have seemed absurd -- a new word the Dodo learned -- Socialism for the Rich, Species Extinctions, Unemployment, Poverty in the richest nation in he world, Ice melting, Tundra softening, Moves of basic industry that actually manufactured things to low-wage nations, Wars . . . Why not a ghost? People flocked to People Power places to see the Dodo. Her picture appeared in the mainstream press, as a joke, but that didn't stop the flow of people to see her, and some of them stayed, caught by the magic of that phrase: Power to the People.
The Dodo caught it too.
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