Bruce the Goose, or How I Came to Be Fair to a Fowl

Bruce. A domestic goose and farm animal.

Bruce, a domestic goose and king of the farmyard.

 

Bruce didn’t always have a name. In the beginning he was just The Goose. And he was nasty — ‘assertive’ if it’s my brother talking. As far as I’m concerned, he still is. Nasty, I mean. (The goose, not my brother.)  But ever since Bruce got a name, something’s changed in the way I feel about him. I like him now. This is how it happened:

My brother lives on a farm.  At least it used to be a farm. Now it’s a lot of uncultivated land with pretty views, a pond full of beavers, assorted outbuildings, some chickens, a bunch of farm cats, and Bruce.  Several years ago, someone gave my brother a pair of geese, possibly in trade for some service or a season’s worth of fresh vegetables, I can’t recall. But the point is that the two geese, one male and one female, came to live on the farm.

The pair had the run of the place, and run they did. In the fall they’d hang way out back at the pond, where the migrating wild geese stopped for a night or two on their way south. On sunny summer days you’d find them sitting in the shade near the driveway, ready to produce a cacophony of honks and squawks whenever someone came down the road. From inside the house it sounded like one of the dogs barking. Over time, in order to distinguish one from the other, we began calling the male Goosey and his mate, Mrs. Goose. Together, they patrolled the border, harassed the chickens, menaced the dogs and generally assumed ownership of the entire yard. On occasion, if a kid wasn’t quick, Goosey’s neck would shoot out like a whip to skin a bit of flesh off an arm or thigh. The kid would instantly acquire a huge black-and-blue mark and Goosey would saunter off, chest puffed out, secure in the knowledge that he retained control of the territory.

Then the unthinkable happened. One morning, when my brother went out to do morning chores, there was just Goosey, sitting in his usual place by the back door, and strangely silent. No Mrs. Goose. My brother quickly found her, or what was left of her, in a sad pile of feathers, skin and bone, apparently eaten by a coyote. We all felt bad but, “Hey,” we said to one another, “she’s just a farm animal. It’s the circle of life and all that.”

Goosey didn’t share our acceptance. He moped around. He picked at his food. We told ourselves we were anthropomorphizing his behaviors, yet it was clear that he just wasn’t his usual self. We figured he’d get over it in time. He didn’t. It turns out that geese, both wild and domestic, form enduring bonds, often for life, and they have excellent memories. They are intelligent, and also quite social, which means they sometimes bond with whoever’s around. In this case, Goosey chose my brother.

It happened gradually. One morning when my brother went out for his morning walk, Goosey came trotting along beside him. Then Goosey started hanging around the garden gate, ready to race over to greet my brother whenever he came out of the house. Pretty soon he was taking treats from my brother’s hand, nuzzling up to his legs in the manner of a cat, and even allowing himself to be stroked on the head and neck. But only by my brother.

For the rest of us, Goosey — who my brother had now christened Bruce — serves up only scorn. In the case of my sister-in-law, jealousy has prompted Bruce to jump on her back and beat her about the head with his wings. It sounds funny, and it is, unless you’re the one with a 20-pound goose biting your shoulder. As for myself, I sported two, painful, silver-dollar sized bruises on an inner thigh for over two weeks, acquired from Bruce as punishment for getting between him and his human. (The human in question had a good laugh over my indignity and even I had to chuckle.)

So why do I like Bruce? Because I now know him to be an individual — a unique creature who feels loss, pain, love and loyalty. He has his own personality and his own name. He has transcended the object “goose” to become the subject “Bruce.” And that, to mis-apply Robert Frost, has made all the difference.

What the Hobby Lobby Decision Means for Men

A Bible is not a health care plan

This is not a health care plan

Obviously, the Supreme Court’s decision to allow Hobby Lobby to deny female employees prescription drug coverage for birth control pills has a dramatic impact on women’s health. But it poses plenty of troubling issues for men too. That’s because the premise underlying the decision views the rights of a “closely held” corporation as superior to the rights of an individual. And not just any right — the right of an individual to control his/her physical person.

Had the “public option” not been dropped from healthcare reform, we might not have this problem. But as long as the US expects employers to shoulder the primary responsibility for providing health insurance, this conflict of values will be a source of contention. If the Hobby Lobby owners choose to ignore scientific fact, viewing some forms of contraception as abortifacients, that’s their prerogative. But that’s no reason they should block an employee’s access to a particular type of medication. Hobby Lobby is, after all, merely a middleman in the health insurance supply chain.

The Hobby Lobby decision raises several pertinent questions for all people. Can a “closely held” corporation…

  • Refuse to insure fertility treatments for men and women, since they interfere with divine will?
  • Refuse to insure Viagra and similar drugs that encourage male sexual activity beyond a seemly age?
  • Block procedures and medications to treat sexually transmitted diseases, clearly only contracted by the immoral and promiscuous?
  • Discriminate against gay men? Perhaps their flouting of Leviticus disqualifies them from receiving healthcare altogether.
  • Single out HIV and AIDS patients? (I wonder if one could get treatment on the condition that he or she proves the HIV was contracted via blood transfusion or another way that is acceptable to the employer.)
  • Take this idea beyond healthcare? For instance, do the Christian consciences of Hobby Lobby’s owners exempt them from public accommodation laws?

Bottom line: Do you control your body? Or does your employer? Or the state, in the guise of five old men clinging to inherited privilege?

It’s an easy out for some to say, “If you don’t like it, don’t work for Hobby Lobby,” but that’s not the point. We’re on a slippery slope and there are 48 similar cases working their way through lower courts right now. As Justice Ginsberg wrote in her dissent, “The Court, I fear, has ventured into a minefield.”

Worst Companies in the US: The Final Four

The Consumerist has released the results of its annual poll to find the Worst Company in America. This year the “Golden Poo” award goes to cable giant Comcast, which narrowly beat out GMO agriculture behemoth Monsanto for the title. Comcast also won the title back in 2010.

Protesting against Monsanto

Protest photo courtesy of SourceWatch.org and used under CC license 3.0

The Comcast victory will be of particular interest to Time Warner customers, since the two firms are hoping to merge in the near future. Read more about this problematic pairing on the HuffPost blog of Letitia James, NYC Public Advocate.

PETA uses this SeaWorld of Hurt logo for its website

Logo for PETA’s website SeaWorldofHurt.org

The other two corporations (or, “persons,” according to The Supreme Court) to make the Final Four are those beloved marine animal abusers at SeaWorld and everyone’s favorite wage-miser, Wal-Mart.

And you thought there was no justice in the universe!