By Vicki Hearne
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This chapter was originally written some years ago. I wish that there had been since then evidence that major American officials knew more than Washoe does about talking, but there hasn't been, hence my having to resort to somewhat dusty references to full-fledged statesmanship. A Walk with Washoe: How Far Can We Go? 41 Skepticism about whether or not Washoe is talking is not based on reasonable or rational considerations, and it may be that no one has yet discovered what such considerations might be.
S/he works intimately with her, nurturing her, playing with her and teaching her to sign. Many wonderful things come of this, including a significant and powerful bond of love. The chimpanzee gets older, becomes sexually mature. If the chimp is Lucy, who lived with a family, then more and more limitations have to be placed on her life and on that of the family, and while limitations are not in and of themselves regrettable, I suspect that fewer and fewer guests are charmed when they are bitten.
The most frequent complaint was that it was cruel to the parents of the mentally ill to suggest that they had anything to do with the sufferings of their children; they suffered enough as it was without people talking the way I do. My position in the world remains nonetheless the animal trainer's position. That is to say, while I certainly don't recommend guilt to anyone, as I have never seen guilt do any good, I do believe that it behooves us as humans to be alert to opportunities to change crazy-making grammars, regardless of whether they are something we are to blame for or not.