Time to re-evaluate the elephant in the room
A few months back in this space, I referred to a Rather Famous Person as the “Obese Orange Elephant” — the OOE, for short — and, upon reflection, I would like to take this moment to make amends.
I’ll begin with apologizing for using a term for those with weight issues in an attempt at humor.
If you could see a snapshot of my bedroom presently, you would see more belts than anyone rationally should have strewn across the floor ... all a product of a waistline that fluctuates like a wave tank.
Before continuing, I suppose you might be wondering why I am taking time out of your day to trundle down this path.
No, I was not on the receiving end of any salivating spitballs from the People for the Ethical Treatment of Obese Orange Elephants (PETOOE).
Nor am I joining — God help me — a “woke” movement ... for that sort of self-labeling is a sure-fire way to find me Groucho-walking in the opposite direction as fast as I can skedaddle.
But I digress.
Next, I’d like to offer my sincerest “my bad” to any orange-skinned readers, and to those who find employing such tropes for the purpose of eliciting cheap laughs to be inappropriate and undignified.
If, for the sake of argument, “dignity” was a quality one could apply to this weekly ramble.
In my defense, the reference clearly was intended to note the RFP’s unconfirmed (although largely speculated) application of a spray-on product — jettisoning even more useless gas than usual into the atmosphere — to give the permanent appearance of someone who, as we used to say, “has been out in the sun too long.”
While this in fact might be true in the case of the Artist Formerly Known as the OOE, it still falls within the category of noting the color (however fake it might be) of the skin of another person.
And, frankly, our nation is filled with enough examples of disheartening bigotry permeating our societal swamp without my adding attacks on artificial, aerosol affectations.
Let us consider, therefore, the content of character.
There’s no use reciting the litany of offenses — the camps are entrenched, the battle pitched, and it will take a long slog to get past the smoke and the mirrors employed to obfuscate self-evident truths.
It has taken on a lather-rinse-repeat appearance. Something questionable, borderline, baiting is said, posted or “liked.” The message is delivered and, should the intention be questioned, the issue is turned back onto the challenger — creating a villain, shifting the narrative.
The true-believers have thus been fed their code words and talking points for the day ... and everyone has lunch.
Such overt and covert appeals to the devil on our shoulders have so taken root in my gut that I might soon have to buy another belt.
What churns is the stoking of these embers of anger by those who know that, tomorrow, they could say that the sky is green, the grass blue, that 2 plus 2 equals 7 ... and have minions do their bidding by turning up the heat.
Particularly when it comes to race. Especially when it comes to race.
“Letter from a Region in My Mind,” an essay in James Baldwin’s compilation “The Fire This Time,” crystallizes the struggle to ward off the underlying cause behind these troubled times.
“It demands great spiritual resilience not to hate the hater whose foot is on your neck,” Baldwin wrote, “and an even greater miracle of perception and charity not to teach your child to hate.”
Now ... that's dignity.
Finally ... I’d like to apologize to elephants.
Their use as a political party symbol dates at least to 1874 and to the editorial cartoons of the infamous Thomas Nast — whose work often was so filled with such vitriol that it erroneously was thought for some time that the word “nasty” derived from his name.
Elephants, creatures of exceptional intelligence and emotional depth, are an unlikely choice for any person, rather famous or not, admired for their nastiness.
It would seem far more accurate to suggest that such a person is better suited to be represented anthropomorphically by the party animal of their opposition.
Great ... now I have to apologize to donkeys.
Mail Tribune news editor Robert Galvin can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.