A modern day fable: Heads and tails above the rest
Friends and fellow countrymen, it’s story time! An epic tale of the Aesop persuasion, gather ‘round for this nail-biter. The elephant, a proud, noble, occasionally blundering beast, facing off against his mortal enemy, the donkey. Lowly and stubborn, but this one’s got some spunk. Their long-standing feud has been in motion since Andrew Jackson, that lovable lout, was called a jackass, bucked tradition and ran with it. When Thomas Nast first published a cartoon of the two on Nov. 7, 1874, in Harper’s Weekly, these symbols were forever solidified in the national conscience.
But now, those wily elephants have another ally in their arsenal, one that’s prepared to fight tooth and crimson-polished nail. The Mama Grizzly. This offshoot of the “Pink Elephant” movement, founded by Sarah Palin, has gained both momentum and controversy since Sarah’s speech at the Susan B. Anthony List in May, to the extent that it’s prompted a rebuttal by those bleeding-heart liberals at Emily’s List. And they’re wearing bear costumes!
But all this outpouring of shtick begs the question: What’s the use of all these animals anyway? As Stacy Schiff pointed out recently, “An actual grizzly mom is a single mom. She lends a whole new definition to full-time homemaker. If Dad shows up it’s probably to eat the kids. What Mama Grizzly wouldn’t believe in school lunches, health insurance and quality childcare? Who’s going to look after the kids while she’s off hunting? It’s really, really clever to put this powerful vocabulary—pit bulls and grizzlies—in the service of disempowering people. Kind of like death panels in reverse.” Yikes, death panels. Was the grizzly properly vetted as a candidate prior to its nomination?
Of course, amidst this idle speculation, it seems self-evident that here in the States, we place a great deal of emphasis on symbols. They are inextricably woven into political dialogue and American culture, dripping from our dollar bills and emblazoned across our clothing. Perhaps due to their formation not-so-long-ago “by the people, for the people,” we revere our institutions with somewhat of a mania, dissecting every move under an overarching stratagem. The Liberal Media! Right-wing Cronyism! Secret Socialism! Covert Conservatism! It’s all one big conspiracy theory out there, and with the proliferation of bloggers out there, it’s easy to find someone willing to dissect such minutiae as the power plays in Nancy Pelosi’s suits.
I’m admittedly not a Mama Grizzly. But it seems that with my feminine intuition, I too can be like Palin, and “kinda just know when something’s wrong.” Despite a propensity to spend hours in the library, is it too much to assume that though I might be the product of an “elitist” educational background, I still have common sense? My common sense tells me that rather than wrapping ourselves up in animal symbology and professing to reshape the definitions of patriotism and feminism one mammal at a time, we should be focusing on more important issues, like the dumbing down of American politics. So let’s not fool ourselves here with those Mama Grizzlies—rhetoric is rhetoric, even if it’s in a bearskin cloak.