First Posted: 6/19/2009
As someone who grew up in rural Virginia surrounded by farm animals and various and sundry pets from the moment I was born, I certainly appreciate Gods creatures and nature in general.
But I must draw the line when it comes to certain pests, such as rodents and insects including mosquitoes and, most definitely, the common house fly. That particular species that has created quite a buzz this week due to a perfectly understandable act by President Barack Obama, and the ridiculous uproar that has resulted.
As most of you might have heard by now, Obama swatted a pesky fly that kept landing on him during a taping of a television news interview that was broadcast on Wednesday. Now who among us, Democrat or Republican, hasnt done the same thing many times?
But Obamas behavior drew an immediate condemnation from none other than that fine organization People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, also known as PETA and a few other names that I cant repeat in this space.
PETA labeled the presidents fly-swatting as an executive insect execution and even went so far as to send Obama a device that traps a fly so it can then be released outside.
Only in America in 2009 does such a thing happen. Can it be that political correctness and concern for every downtrodden segment of society (both human and animal) has reached the point where even house flies are being treated as some sort of endangered species? Even coming from the folks at PETA, which is known for many off-the-wall activities for sure, that is a thoroughly preposterous position.
Yes, there are plenty of situations where abuse of animals should be exposed by caring Americans. But remember, we are not talking about mistreatment of a dog or a cat or a horse here, but a stupid house fly!
However, in my desire to be a fair-minded journalist and explore both sides of the issue, I conducted some independent research aimed at ferreting out (ferrets are OK, too) anything good that can be said about the beloved fly.
I am here today to duly report that I could find not one sentence in the flys defense.
Now, I know the Creator had a reason for everything put here on Earth, and there is much yet to be discovered about the role many of our plant and animal species are here to play. But as far as I can tell, the only reason flies exist as we now know them are to be royal pains in the butt.
Along with being one of the most rapidly multiplying insect species to be found in our great land, the house flys main claim to fame involves its ability to carry many serious diseases, including typhoid, cholera and dysentery.
Just as bothersome as the flies links to deadly diseases are their amazing abilities to avoid being dealt with by the average citizen in a non-violent way. Anyone, including President Obama, who has ever possessed the audacity to swat a fly knows how hard those little suckers are to kill.
Flies have an extremely sophisticated defense mechanism that helps ensure their survival. Not only does a fly possess compound eyes, its evasion skills allow it to anticipate an approaching threat such as a hand or rolled-up newspaper and react in a fraction of a second.
Scientists learned only last year that a fly can readily calculate the angle of an attack and alter its stance to make the most appropriate getaway, usually jumping in an opposite direction at supersonic speed. The holes in your common fly swatter are a response to this creatures ability to escape, since those holes are designed to minimize the air current a fly can detect when someone tries to kill one.
I think most of us are similar to President Obama in terms of our involvement with house flies. No one probably gets up in the morning with the goal of killing them, and thats where PETA misses the boat on this issue. Instead, we tend to only think of flies and their demise when they get right up in our faces and make, well, pests of themselves.
My philosophy is simple: A fly can spend its day doing whatever flies do, which is fine with me. All I ask is that they stay out of my way. The problem is, once a fly has you in its radar, it will not leave you alone.
That happened with Obama the other day in his interaction with the pesky fly. Get out of here, he told it at one point, offering the creature a chance to escape. But when it kept on buzzing him and eventually landed on his left forearm, the commander in chief took swift and decisive action by smacking the fly dead.
For one thing, that says much about the presidents talents, since he not only was able to kill the fly, but did so during a pressurized moment with media members present. (Some would say they are pests, too, but I wont go into that today.)
Rather than condemn the president or anybody else for mounting a retaliatory strike against a fly, I would prefer to see PETA explain why killing flies is such a bad thing.
I guess since that group has such compassion for all creatures, we also should work to safeguard the disease organisms that house flies carry, since they are after all living things, too, arent they?
Tom Joyce is a staff reporter for The Mount Airy News. He can be reached at [email protected] or 719-1924.