By now we’ve all seen and had suitable time to react to the Oprah interview with that unfortunate victimized woman who was recently mauled by an unfortunately vilified chimpanzee. And if you have read my book, Mr. Coleman, you know that it presents a very different take on human/chimpanzee relationships. Because it does, I feel compelled to go on record (or set the record straight, whichever you prefer) regarding that “chimpanzee thing” and how I feel about it.
A chimpanzee – child or adult, captive or free, rescued or taken – is a wild animal. The mistake here, and the accompanying danger, occurs when that hard fact is ignored or trivialized or forgotten. The owner of the chimp in this most-current incident (and in the previously publicized “Birthday Party” incident involving the chimp, Moe) lost sight of the line that must be drawn.
The character Tim, in Mr. Coleman, rescues Coleman from a situation that would have resulted in his death at the hands of his own kind. He kept him confined for the protection of all concerned (including, of course, Coleman) and he never crossed the line by actually considering Coleman to be anything but what he was…a full grown chimpanzee with the ability to literally tear a human being apart. There were times of risk and concern and fear throughout the course of their relationship…but profound and unwavering respect – for what Coleman was and for what he was capable of— was always part of the equation.
I addressed the right/wrong issue minimally in Mr. Coleman because I didn’t want the story to be about anything other than Coleman — the special circumstances, the special bond, the outright uniqueness of his relationship with Tim…at that time, in that place, under those circumstances. Mr. Coleman is a special story…as it should be.
That’s it. That’s all. My opinion – no more, no less. Line up on whatever side you choose – or don’t buy in at all. Your choice. Just keep in mind that there are no pat, easy answers to anything these days – and that the beauty (as well as the tragedy) of life can be found in its complexity.