when pictures fail me…
I am gallery-sitting on a Saturday with a legal pad on my lap, fulfilling a promise I made to myself a week ago. Which is to address, in some minuscule way, an issue so overwhelmingly heartbreaking and infuriating that it has managed to trump all the other heartbreaking and infuriating news feeds that scroll down my psyche seemingly every day. I am referring to the article in last week’s New York Times Op Ed section about the slaughter of elephants.
Over my right shoulder are, ironically, meticulously-rendered drawings–trophy shots of hunters and their prey. One is of an elephant, down, dead. The man, whom I assume is the poacher stands proudly with his rifle, sketched as a pale shadow behind the massive head, before that head would be butchered to remove the object of desire–the ivory tusk. “Blood ivory,” in the vernacular of the trade.
The New York Times article trailed me all week–a visceral update to an atrocity that I have been aware of for decades. I literally pushed the paper away. I can’t read this. But I had to.
So, these wondrous, intelligent, deeply feeling creatures are being decimated for trinkets. Bling. Regardless if it ends up on a teenager’s wrist or earlobe, or as a religious knickknack, this is not worth one single centimeter of an elephant tusk, never mind driving this magnificent beast to extinction.
The world wildlife organizations dealing with the governments that supposedly enable and/or control this abomination are, I need to presume, on top of this. Still. Doing everything they can, they are the good guys. Yet they appear to be losing. It’s so easy go fetal and pull the covers over my head. Avert my eyes, harden my heart. Recall when ignorance was bliss. Hope, passively, for an outcome that I can’t possibly affect. Or can I?
Maybe each and every one of us who cares needs to be accountable for turning that sentiment into one action, whatever that action may be. It can be simple. Maybe this travesty needs to be approached with a million little heartfelt, poisoned darts.
I was once young and enamored of trinkets, accessories, and souvenirs–whose former “alive” lives I never really stopped to consider. A rabbit fur muff had nothing to do with the live bunny my parents had given me at Easter. Rabbit foot key chains were even further removed, and baby alligator head change purses weren’t even cute–by then it was kitsch that captured my fancy. The desire to own eclipsed common sense and conscience. A weekly allowance, a part-time job–and purchasing power went right to my head. But the biggest culprit was the disconnect. Had I been truly aware of the suffering and waste involved to create the product that my youthful ego demanded, I would have burst into tears and never used it again, nor coveted another.
I feel that way today. I am still that little girl who can’t bear the knowledge of any living creature’s suffering. Aren’t there children in China who would feel that way as well, if they only knew? I am trying to be simple, but not simplistic. Who are the trendsetters who can also be role models that can sway this group of newly minted capitalist fashionistas, by taking a stand to enlighten and thereby help to protect the sanctity of an elephant’s life? Can one Chinese tweet on Weibo initiate a butterfly effect that can change what I pray is not an inevitability–a world without elephants?
Or even worse–a world of children without empathy.
art by Jackie Skrzynski
The New York Times Op-Ed
Organizations to contact:
Wildlife Conservation Society
A Voice For Elephants National Geographic blog