Red, White, And Blue Displays

Vervet monkey showing off

When confronted with a potential threat to their status or territory, alpha male primates will typically seek to assert their dominance by, in effect, strutting their stuff and putting on a show, i.e., engaging in ritualized behavior that is highly demonstrative and largely symbolic. Consider the following case examples:

EXAMPLE #1

Vervet monkeys are diurnal and gregarious. Within the troops there is a clear order of dominance with an Alpha male as leader. Rank-order within the troop is maintained by threat and skill. Eyelid display as a threat gesture is common among Vervet monkeys….Head bobbing or jerking is another warning gesture….

An interesting form of display is the penile display made by adult and sub-adult male Vervets to one another. Although variations occur, usually one male approaches another which is seated, stands bipedal in front of him with his inguinal region directed toward, and close to the seated male’s face. Sometimes the displayer has a penile erection throughout the encounter. Occasionally grooming follows this display. Only dominant Vervets display this behavior and it’s significance is to show off his potency and leadership.

The dominant male also holds his tail erect while pacing back and forth displaying his red peri-anus, his blue scrotum and the white medial strip of fur extending between the peri-anus and the scrotum. The subordinate male responds to this display by sitting hunched or crouching and uttering a series of specific grunts and squawks.

EXAMPLE #2

In a vote charged with election-year politics, the U.S. House of Representatives passed a symbolic resolution on Friday that wrapped the Iraq conflict into the war on terrorism and rejected a deadline for U.S. troop withdrawal. The House voted 256-153 for the resolution that sparked two days of bitter debate as Republicans sought to depict Democrats as weak on terrorism, while Democrats decried President George W. Bush’s policies that they said led to chaos in Iraq and detracted from the fight against al Qaeda.

EXAMPLE #3

The Senate Judiciary Committee gave a nod Thursday to a constitutional amendment to protect the Amer ican flag from desecration, moving the proposal to the Senate floor, where vote-counters on both sides say it could be within one vote of passing. The committee’s 11-7 vote sent the amendment to the floor. Majority Leader Bill Frist, Republican of Tennessee, has said the measure will get a Senate vote this month. The amendment will be considered during the patriotic season between this week’s Flag Day and the Fourth of July, and its substance and timing are designed to appeal to veterans during this year of midterm elections.

What more is there to say? The monkeys are in charge of the zoo.

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2 thoughts on “Red, White, And Blue Displays

  1. Great analogy, David. I’d like to add to the examples of creatures strutting around with their red white and blue Mayor Stephen Laffey, who in a timely fashion has joined the parade and taken a courageous stand against flag-burning. The conversation on this over at Rifuture is amusing:

    http://rifuture.org/blog/?p=2084

  2. Thanks for the compliment, Kiersten. With regard to the issue, as such, of flag burning or desecration, the organization, People for the American Way, does a nice job of directly confronting the myths and realities of this little problem. In part, they note:

    “Published reports indicate that burning incidents have occurred, on average, less than five times per year since the Supreme Court’s 1990 ruling that flag burning is protected speech under the First Amendment. Ironically, passage of the Flag Amendment could increase the frequency of such incidents by making martyrs out of flag burners – and thus lending visibility and credibility to what would otherwise be a non-issue. To tamper with our founding document in order to stop five incidents a year dishonors our Constitution and trivializes the amendment process.”

    The link for this page is: http://www.pfaw.org/pfaw/general/default.aspx?oid=3073

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