gray, tiptoe closer. You’ll want to see if it’s an elephant or not. If it’s not an elephant, then you’ll just have to keep looking.
from How to Find an Elephant
written by Kate Banks
illustrated by Boris Kulikov
Farrar Straus Giroux/Macmillan Publishing Group, 2017
“What a lucky day this is,” thought Sylvester. From now on, I can have anything I want. My father and mother can have anything they want. My relatives, and friends, and anyone at all can have everything anybody wants.”
from Sylvester and the Magic Pebble
written and illustrated by William Steig
Simon & Schuster, 1969
Caldecott Medal winner, 1970
(Two quotations today in the interest of fairness. I don’t think there is one book about both, yet.)
Even though no one has ever called me a jack ass, at least to my face or within my range of hearing, I have called others that, under my breath, for sure. I know what I meant, but why “jack-ass?” Since 1823, jackass has meant a stupid person. A donkey’s scientific name, Equus Asinus is probably where the ass comes from. Jack is just the male of the species. (females are called jennys)
Here are some characteristics about donkeys from https://www.habitatforhorses.org/interesting-donkey-facts/
- They can live for over 50 years.
- They are stronger than horses of the same size.
- They can recognize an area they’ve been in 25 years later. They can recognize other donkeys they’ve been with, too.
- It is difficult to force or frighten a donkey into doing something it sees as contrary to its own best interest or safety. In other words, a donkey can size up a situation and make a decision.
- Donkeys are herd animals. They groom each other in the same way as monkeys and chimps do.
- Donkeys are used as guard animals for cattle, sheep and goats.
Here are some characteristics about elephants. https://www.elephant-world.com/facts-about-elephants/
- Elephants live 60-70 years.
- The African bull (male) elephant is earth’s largest land animal.
- An elephant’s tusks never stop growing.
- An elephant’s trunk is sensitive enough to pick up a blade of grass and strong enough to rip branches off a tree.
- Elephants are very smart. They show empathy to members of their herd.
- Elephants were used in wars, for entertainment (think circus acts), and beasts of burden (especially in South Asia)
Donkeys and elephants are similar in a few ways. They are both mammals. They both have big ears. They both thrive in herds, especially the females and young. They were/are used as work animals. Both elephants and donkeys are really smart. They’re both gray.
And they each represent an American political party.
As early as 1828, when he was running his campaign for President, Andrew Jackson’s opponents openly called him a jackass. Jackson, being who he was, decided to embrace the term and made the jackass into his mascot, rebranding it into an animal loyal, determined, and deliberate.
It wasn’t until Thomas Nast, a cartoonist working for Harper’s Magazine, published a political cartoon on January 15, 1870 that the donkey became inextricably fastened to the Democratic Party. In his cartoon, Nast used a donkey, representing a press group opposed to the Civil War, to illustrate his idea that they dishonored the legacy of President Lincoln. By choosing the donkey (a jackass meant just what is does today) to represent those opposed to Lincoln's Republicans, Nast ridiculed and belittled the Democratic Party. https://www.smithsonianmag.com/arts-culture/political-animals-republican-elephants-and-democratic-donkeys-89241754/#:~:text=The%201870%20Harpers%20cartoon%20credited%20with%20associating%20the,would%20forever%20link%20the%20donkey%20to%20the%20Democrat
In 1874, during U. S. Grant’s campaign for a third term, Nast again drew a donkey to represent the Democrats. This time, it was a donkey dressed in a lion’s suit pursuing an elephant, maybe to represent the strength of the Republicans. But the elephant ran scared right to the edge of a large pit. Nast continued using elephants throughout the 1870s and by the 1880s, other cartoonists were using them, too. https://www.history.com/news/how-did-the-republican-and-democratic-parties-get-their-animal-symbols
Even though the Democratic party has never officially adopted the donkey as its symbol, https://www.smithsonianmag.com/smart-news/third-term-controversy-gave-republican-party-its-symbol-180967079/, and the Republican symbol has been tradition for over 125 years, marketing (or if you prefer branding) has made it easy to line up on one side or the other.
But it’s not that easy to say what you stand for. Life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness of course, but what about the details? How do we ensure all people in our country are safe? How to we make sure the most vulnerable among us are nurtured? How do we encourage our kids to become their best selves?
I really don’t have any answers. Sorry. I only know that by staying involved in our own communities and being aware of what is important in our own neighborhoods, we can watch out for each other.
One way to bring money into our communities is to respond to the 10-year census. Money for infrastructure in our towns, local school funding, social programs and so much more is provided according to the number of people living in a particular area. Census data is also used to make decisions regarding our Congressional seats. Let’s give each other what we can. Some things are still in our control.
-—stay curious! (and if you haven’t yet, visit 2020census.gov)