Hail to the Hyena-in-Chief

In my “presidential pet” posting yesterday, I suggested that a hyena would be the best pet for POTUS. This morning I realized that that choice would be particularly apt, since it’s entirely possible that POTUS is a hyena, probably a cross between a spotted hyena and a striped hyena, so it would only be right for him to be with one of his own kind, to become the Hyena-in-Chief, the Supreme Hyena.

(NOAD2 on the combining form -in-chief: supreme: commander-in-chief.)


spotted hyena


striped hyena

From Wikipedia on hyenas in general (with extra material folded in, and with some possibly POTUS-relevant details boldfaced):

Hyenas or hyaenas [are] feliform carnivoran mammals of the family Hyaenidae. [Feliformia is the suborder within the order Carnivora consisting of “cat-like” carnivorans: cats of all sizes, hyenas, mongooses, civets, and related taxa. Feliformia is opposed to the other suborder of Carnivora, Caniformia (“dog-like” carnivorans)].

With only four extant species, it is the fifth-smallest biological family in the Carnivora, and one of the smallest in the class Mammalia. Despite their low diversity, hyenas are unique and vital components of most African ecosystems. [The spotted hyena, Crocuta crocuta (native to Sub-Saharan Africa), is the hyena of lore, the “laughing hyena”. There’s also the brown hyena, striped hyena, and aardwolf. The striped hyena (Hyaena hyaena) is native to North and East Africa, the Middle East, the Caucasus, Central Asia and the Indian subcontinent.]

[Hyenas are, in a sense, cat-dogs, or dog-cats.] Although phylogenetically they are closer to felines and viverrids [civets], hyenas are behaviourally and morphologically similar to canines in several aspects; both hyenas and canines are non-arboreal, cursorial hunters that catch prey with their teeth rather than claws. Both eat food quickly and may store it, and their calloused feet with large, blunt, nonretractable nails are adapted for running and making sharp turns. However, the hyenas’ grooming, scent marking, defecating habits, mating, and parental behaviour are consistent with the behaviour of other feliforms. [And, except for the aardwolf, they have bone-crushing teeth.]

Spotted hyenas may kill as many as 95% of the animals they eat, while striped hyenas are largely scavengers. Generally, hyenas are known to drive off larger predators, like lions, from their kills, despite having a reputation in popular culture for being cowardly. Hyenas are primarily nocturnal animals, but sometimes venture from their lairs in the early-morning hours. With the exception of the highly social spotted hyena, hyenas are generally not gregarious animals, though they may live in family groups and congregate at kills.

… Hyenas groom themselves often like felids and viverrids, and their way of licking their genitals is very cat-like (sitting on the lower back, legs spread with one leg pointing vertically upward). However, unlike other feliforms, they do not “wash” their faces. They defecate in the same manner as other Carnivora, though they never raise their legs as canids do when urinating, as urination serves no territorial function for them. Instead, hyenas mark their territories using their anal glands, a trait found also in viverrids and mustelids, but not canids and felids. When attacked by lions or dogs, striped and brown hyenas will feign death, though the spotted hyena will defend itself ferociously. The spotted hyena is very vocal, producing a number of different sounds consisting of whoops, grunts, groans, lows, giggles, yells, growls, laughs and whines. The striped hyena is comparatively silent, its vocalisations being limited to a chattering laugh and howling.

Mating between hyenas involves a number of short copulations with brief intervals, unlike canids, who generally engage in a single, drawn out copulation. Spotted hyena cubs are born almost fully developed, with their eyes open and erupting incisors and canines, though lacking adult markings. In contrast, striped hyena cubs are born with adult markings, closed eyes and small ears. Hyenas do not regurgitate food for their young and male spotted hyenas play no part in raising their cubs, though male striped hyenas do so.

The striped hyena is primarily a scavenger, though it will occasionally attack and kill any defenseless animal it can overcome, and will supplement its diet with fruits. The spotted hyena, though it also scavenges occasionally, is an active pack hunter of medium to large sized ungulates, which it catches by wearing them down in long chases and dismembering them in a canid-like manner. [The aardwolf is insectivorous.]

What sport POTUS will have with his little buddy Crocuta Hyaena!

Hail to the Hyena. There’s the pet thing with POTUS. And, as NPR revealed back on March 4th, there’s also a POTUS quirk about the Presidential anthem: “’Hail To The Chief’: Fanfare Sought By Some Presidents, Avoided By Others” by Don Gonyer:

One perk of the presidency is that it comes with its own anthem. But when it comes to playing “Hail to the Chief,” historians might say that [REDACTED] is no James K. Polk

The first time presidents hear “Hail to the Chief” played for them is right after taking the oath of office. There are no firm rules for when — or how often — to use the song.

In these early days of the [REDACTED] administration, we haven’t heard it much. He used it during a visit to a Boeing plant in South Carolina, but [REDACTED] is just as likely to opt for the music featured at his campaign rallies, including the ultra-patriotic country ballad “God Bless the USA” by Lee Greenwood. That’s what he used recently at the big Conservative Political Action Conference. It’s less stately, but a crowd-pleaser — and easier to sing along to.

You can listen to the Greenwood song here (with lyrics on-screen).

And you can listen here to “Hail to the Chief” (a fine example of 19th-century patriotic band music), as played by the U.S. Marine Band. From Wikipedia:

“Hail to the Chief” is the official Presidential Anthem of the United States. The song’s playing accompanies the appearance of the President of the United States at many public appearances. For major official occasions, the United States Marine Band and other military ensembles are generally the performers, so directives of the United States Department of Defense have, since 1954, been the main basis for according its official status. It is preceded by four ruffles and flourishes when played for the President. The song is also played during a former President’s state funeral, though it can also be played even if the funeral is not a state funeral, such as the funeral of Richard Nixon. The song is in the public domain.

… A version of Lady of the Lake [a romantic melodrama based on Sir Walter Scott’s poem The Lady of the Lake] debuted in New York May 8, 1812, and “Hail to the Chief” was published in Philadelphia about the same time, as ‘March and Chorus in the Dramatic Romance of the Lady of the Lake’. Many parodies appeared, an indication of great popularity.

Association with the President first occurred in 1815, when it was played to honor both George Washington and the end of the War of 1812 (under the name “Wreaths for the Chieftain”).

“Hail to the Chief” might strike many as too martial, and “God Bless the USA” as too simplistically jingoistic, also more like a celebration of America (in the range that goes from “God Bless America” though “America the Beautiful” to “This Land Is Your Land”) than an anthem to the President (and the nation for which he stands). So maybe we could shop around for something to adapt.

My first thought was to turn to the classic movie Duck Soup. From Wikipedia:

Duck Soup is a 1933 Marx Brothers comedy film written by Bert Kalmar and Harry Ruby, with additional dialogue by Arthur Sheekman and Nat Perrin, and directed by Leo McCarey. First released theatrically by Paramount Pictures on November 17, 1933, it starred what were then billed as the “Four Marx Brothers” (Groucho, Harpo, Chico, and Zeppo) and also featured Margaret Dumont, Louis Calhern, Raquel Torres and Edgar Kennedy. It was the last Marx Brothers film to feature Zeppo, and the last of five Marx Brothers movies released by Paramount Pictures.

… The “Freedonia National Anthem” is used frequently throughout the film, both as vocal and instrumental; the entire song seems to consist of “Hail, Hail, Freedonia, land of the brave and free”, contrasting with the final line of The Star-Spangled Banner. The “Sylvania theme” [Sylvania, the antagonist to Freedonia], which sounds vaguely like “Rule, Britannia!”, is also used several times.

You can watch here a scene with those lines from the anthem, plus as a bonus a scene between Groucho Marx and Margaret Dumont. Of course, if you want to work them into a Presidential anthem, there’s a lot for you to do.

Another line of approach would be to use a proven winner, an anthem tune with a good track record, and write new words for it.  One is already taken for the U.S.: “God Save the King”, which became “My Country ‘Tis of Three”, aka “America”. Then there’s Haydn’s excellent “Gott erhalte Franz den Kaiser”, which you can listen to here. From Wikipedia:

“Gott erhalte Franz den Kaiser” (English: God Save Emperor Francis) is an anthem to Francis II, Emperor of the Holy Roman Empire and later of Austria. The lyrics were by Lorenz Leopold Haschka (1749–1827), and the melody by Joseph Haydn. It is sometimes called the “Kaiserhymne” (Emperor’s Hymn).

Yes, the tune is familiar. Haydn reworked it as the theme of the 2nd movement of his String Quartet Opus 76, No. 3 (“Emperor”), a gorgeous piece of music that ended up being Haydn’s own favorite composition in his old age; the second movement (which you can listen to here in a performance by the Kodaly Quartet) plays as a hymn of rebirth, akin to the first movement of Opus 76, No. 4 (“Sunrise”). Under the name Austria, the tune made its way into Christian hymnals; the text most commonly set to it begins “Glorious things of thee are spoken”.

And then it became the “Deutschlandlied”, the national anthem of Germany since 1922 (though not all the verses have been used in all periods).

Maybe someone could contrive some suitably American-Presidential words for the tune. (After all, “Far Above Cayuga’s Waters” has been given new texts for any number of schools and colleges.) With real ingenuity, you might even manage to get a hyena or two in there, to suit current POTUS.

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