Elephantine Lamentation

Donald Trump recently interrupted his busy schedule of tweets, television, and golf, shifting his focus—if, in fact, he even possesses the capacity to focus, which is debatable—to a matter that undoubtedly vexed him a great deal. The importation of severed body parts from the corpses of murdered elephants—euphemistically known as “trophies”—had been banned.  Donald Trump, seeking to spread as much misery as his high office would allow, rescinded this ban on “trophy” importation that seemed to bother him so much. And then, presumably bowing to the public outcry, rescinded the ban. For now, anyway.

What made this so especially vile was the thought behind it, the sadistic effort to add one extra bit of cruelty: No stone unturned in an effort to befoul the planet.

Elephant extermination goes far beyond this “trophy” ban. Ultimately, what the moron in the White House does or doesn’t do is peripheral. There is a long, grotesque history of elephant slaughter, captivity, and maltreatment. The current harm inflicted on these gentle, wise beings is amply documented and I simply cannot make myself dredge up any of the mind-numbing statistics. The violence is horrific. We know this.

Animal folklore is rooted in real observations. Owls really do look wise; goats can be a mischievous, prankster bunch. Foghorn Leghorn—the blowhard, blustery rooster of classic Warner Brothers cartoons—makes contextual sense to anyone who has observed real-live roosters: a hammy, preening cohort.

Elephants have not been, obviously, a common sight in the United States and lack a primary slot in the annals of our animal folklore. The folklore that does exist here tends toward the mystical, connoting elephants’ depth and profundity: their memory; their graveyards (although these days the idea of elephant graveyards signifies not a folkloric never-never land, but the ongoing slaughter). Elephants can communicate with one another—often over substantial distances—via subsonic calls that are undetectable to the human ear. They recognize other elephant acquaintances—and respond accordingly—after years and years apart. They mourn.

An unscientific perusal of available books on elephants yields a surprisingly large number that are aimed at younger readers. And this makes sense. Young readers have an intuitive understanding of what is valuable.

There is a wealth of easily accessible images of elephant young with their families. That schema is the same you’d find in images of human families. Young elephants are protected, nurtured, and disciplined by older elephants. This understanding requires no special study, no background in animal behavior or zoology. All you need to do is look at some images, which are self-explanatory.

There is a certain grim consistency in this large destruction of a powerless species. It is enticing to kill, harm, and subjugate the defenseless. The mistreatment and murder of children should be a shocking, freakish aberration. Of course, the mistreatment and murder of any living being should be a shocking, freakish aberration. It’s just the opposite, of course. The human species, historically, inflicts pain, misery, and death at every opportunity. There is no mercy; nothing is immune. Certainly not elephants.

And so these living, feeling, wise beings are on the road to possible extermination. Again, this knowledge requires no special expertise, no digging through obscure sources. We know this. We know all of it.

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