The Silent Rage of Elephants

With eyes misting and a heart totally overwhelmed with sadness and inefficacy, I watched Amy Schatz’s HBO documentary “An Apology to Elephants”, narrated by Lily Tomlin.

By the end of the film, the mist turned to full-blown tears, and I began to quietly sob, uncontrollably.

Years ago, I learned that these beautiful, intelligent pachyderms were highly social creatures, which valued community and experienced grief in profound ways; so the documentary’s portrayal of them as the largest mammals on land, with possibly the largest hearts on earth, really didn’t come as any surprise to me.

How I instinctively knew, as a child, that something wasn’t quite right when I saw circus elephants performing, I’ll never know; but I knew then what they’ve documented now – elephants don’t belong in captivity and shouldn’t be “paraded down main street” for all to observe; and then displayed as ballet-performing Dumbo’s, exhibiting “tricks” learned via negative (more often than not, abusive) reinforcement.

As I watched the documentary’s presentation of these mistreated, caged, chained creatures, rhythmically swaying back and forth; I couldn’t help but remember two scenes from my past – one involving an older, learning disabled cousin, who was institutionalized for her learning disabilities; and another scene involving an older friend of mine, who was placed in elder care when she broke her hip and could no longer tend to her basic needs.

Both incidences traumatized me.

Both scenes haunt me to this day.

And all three scenes – the elephant, my cousin and my older friend – permeate my very being to its core.

In the 50’s and 60’s, society didn’t really understand people and their learning differences. They just knew that if you couldn’t learn the way most kids learned, that you needed to be schlepped to some special institution with other kids that had similar problems.

God forbid, you mainstreamed these “special kids” with “normal kids” back then – wasn’t an acceptable form of treatment for retarded people in the 50’s and 60’s. It was better to place them in environmentally cold institutions – void of consistent human interaction and stimulation, and let them “rock themselves back and forth” for their enjoyment and education.

After all, as long as they were fed, clothed and showered on a semi-regular basis, and you kept them hid from society, the institution met their legal requirements; they (begrudgingly) satisfied most parents and guardians who placed them in their care, and society didn’t have to face the dilemma of what to do with such oddities.

As a child, I was treated to a rare outing to see my learning challenged cousin; and as the older cousins and adults were allowed visitation privileges with her; I, along with another younger cousin, was relegated to watching her rhythmically rock back and forth and wave to us from an upstairs front window; while we innocently waved back to her from the front lawn below.

The sadness and powerlessness that I felt then, I felt, once again; when discovering how my older friend was hosed down, in the shower stall, at the elder care facility years ago.

Only this time, I was an adult….a young adult, but an adult with a voice, so I was able to voice my concern and displeasure with my friend’s treatment to the appropriate authorities.

I was never able to intervene on my cousin’s behalf before she died, and for that I am so sorry – so very, very sorry.

But I never forgot her and never forgot the quiet rage that I felt as she was paraded in front of that spotted, dirty window and blankly stared at us; while she slowly and dutifully waved her hand back and forth.

I don’t know why I became a Special Ed. Teacher.

I haven’t a clue.

I would like to think that somehow my cousin influenced me from above and that my years advocating and fighting for learning challenged kids somehow had something to do with Karen.

But I honestly can’t say.

I truly don’t know.

Would be nice to think that I dedicated my teaching career to her memory.

Would certainly make for a heartfelt story.

But that’s not the truth.

The truth is – I don’t know.

What I do know, is that, like Lily Tomlin, Jane Alexander, Amy Schatz; and a host of other dedicated, caring individuals that love elephants; I can’t idly sit here and not speak out against something so wrong and vile, that it makes my stomach churn and heart weep.

As a society, we cannot continue to patronize businesses and shows that allow for the ongoing abuse and inappropriate exhibition of such unique, important creatures, before we hasten their extinction and do irreparable harm to a species that is so important to our global ecology and environment.

They don’t have a voice or a choice, when killed for their husks or captured for our entertainment pleasure, but you and I do. The least that we can do (the very least) is to not patronize businesses that continue to benefit from the exploitation of these beautiful, loving creatures.

Or live with the fact that we assisted in their early demise…

That’s just my opinion, looking at life from my shoes.



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I'm a retired special ed teacher, born in upstate NY, who spent most of my adult life in the SF/Bay Area and moved to the Olympic Peninsula of WA in June of 2017. At the encouragement of family and friends, who followed my silliness on my FB page, I started this blog a few years ago. I try to keep my topics as humorous as possible (because I believe "LIFE" is pretty serious these days), but will, on occasion write about more solemn subjects. I sincerely appreciate all who take the time and effort to read and make comments and am truly humbled when people actually "like" what I write. I do not participate in the "Wordpress awards" because I feel "awarded" when individuals actually read me and comment, but sincerely appreciate all of you who have considered me "award worthy" and thank you from the bottom of my heart. Hugs, Lucie

13 thoughts on “The Silent Rage of Elephants”

  1. Lucie, I watched a really uplifting documentary about an elephant sanctuary where people PAY to take care of the poor, abused and hurt elephants. You may “vacation” by giving these soulful, loving and gentle giants showers or feeding them. If I had money I would go there and come home transformed. Lovely how moved you were. I also admire those who truly care and take action for the ones: beasts, children or special ones on this Earth who need help. Hugs, Robin

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for taking the time to read me and comment. Sounds like you totally get where I was coming from in this posting….elephants are such loving, social creatures. It so effected me watching them be abused….makes me cringe to think people can abuse and kill these beautiful animals all for the sake of money…. 😦


  2. Thank you so much, Lucie for such a beautiful post on behalf of these magnificent animals. Thank you for visiting and leaving the good wishes during my illness. I’m sorry I wasn’t up to answering comments, but I want you to know how much it meant to me. ❤ Happy Holidays and I hope the New Year is everything you could ever wish for.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thnak YOU Elizabeth for taking the time and precious energy to read such a long piece. I sooo appreciate your taking the time to read me and comment and are sincerely glad that you’re feeling “good enough” to stop by….I do hope that the Christmas Season has you settled in your new home and that you’re enjoying good health and your new home. Wishing you and your husband a healthy, happy Christmas holiday!! ❤ (((Hugs)))

      Liked by 1 person

  3. The power of this piece comes from the passion with which you wrote, the connection of your childhood experiences with the present and with the swaying elephants, the contrast of the tone of this piece with the humor you more often write; all of this coupled with telling us what we can do: know and boycot businesses that benefit from the killing of elephants. All in all, one of the most compelling pieces I’ve read in some time.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes….very important documentary for people to see, J. Thanks, for stopping by. Hope the Christmas season is finding you and your family well! I love your little tree that you all made!!! 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  4. this is so sad on so many levels. as a child, you know things are wrong but not sure why, i know exactly what you are describing there. it’s not your fault that you couldn’t put your finger on it, or speak out against it, as you didn’t really even understand it. i’m so happy that, as an adult, you were able to make a change in people’s lives who otherwise may have been treated wrong –

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks, Beth. This documentary is so important for people to see. I wish PBS would pick it up and show it. Thanks for stopping by and taking the time to read and comment. I know it was a “long read” …(Then, again, when aren’t I a “long read”?!) 🙂


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