Saturday, August 15, 2009

Gorilla Dust

Once upon a time, when I was a teenager, I had a boyfriend that christened me Little Miss Dictionary Mouth. While the boyfriend has been outgrown, the fondness for words remains.

gorilla dust

n. bluffing, posturing, or hollow attempts at intimidation.

When two male gorillas confront each other, they’re too canny most of the time to actually fight, so they resort to the tried-and-true political tactic of intimidation. Both scurry about in a frenzy, grimacing menacingly, beating their chests and tossing clouds of dirt into the air. It’s a serious encounter, full of powerful and primitive energies, a test of testosterone. Soon one becomes convinced that the other could win the threatened physical engagement, and retreats. It’s called gorilla dust, and nations stir it up all the time.

Not all too surprisingly, I encountered the term gorilla dust used while reading about the uncivil behavior on display at town hall meetings with members of congress this month. An on-line dictionary clarified the meaning of the term.

Randy Hook yells at his senator, Arlen Specter (D-Pennsylvania), during a town hall meeting on health care on August 12, 2009. (Photo: Carolyn Kaster / AP)

I do respect the right of everyone to voice their opinion; that is indeed the purpose of a town hall meeting. My wish is that the discourse could occur in a civil fashion. All the yelling and other antics just seem to parallel the strategies of the aforementioned gorillas.


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