By Ron Scopelliti
I recently considered watching a TED Talk about starting a movement, but I didn’t. For some reason I found it intimidating – like if I watched it, I’d end up starting a movement myself. Not that starting a movement is a bad thing. I think a lot of good social reform movements have been started lately. But it seems like an awful lot of responsibility.
One of the problems I foresee with starting a movement is, how do you control where it’s going? Say you’ve started a movement, and you’ve decided it’s not going the way you’d hoped. What do you do? How do you stop it?
I suppose you could start a second movement to stop the first, but that seems risky. First off, it might not actually stop the first movement. And it may go off in its own bad direction, so you’ll now have two movements that need to be stopped.
I guess I could test the waters a bit by starting a movement that doesn’t mean anything. Or by just starting a trend. Something ultimately meaningless that grabs people’s attention.
Like a few years ago, when I noticed people putting window decals on their cars that featured what appeared to be a palm tree and a crescent moon. I thought maybe it was some sort of mystical symbol – a new age Illuminati type thing. I was intrigued. And when I went online to look it up, it turns out a lot of other people were equally intrigued by it.
Eventually I found out that there was nothing mystical about the symbol at all. What I thought was a palm tree was actually a palmetto, and the symbol comes off the South Carolina state flag. People were apparently using it to symbolize the laid-back, Myrtle Beach lifestyle.
So I started thinking of something that would be similarly obscure and non-threatening. I decided early on that it should involve at least a short phrase, since I’m a writer, and an animal. Though I was initially considering a turtle, I thought I needed to think larger – an elephant.
So here’s what I came up with: A bumper sticker with a drawing of an elephant sitting on his haunches, with a fishing rod in his trunk. Next to him, it would say, “Take an elephant fishing.” No further explanation.
“Take an elephant fishing.” It will be harmless because nobody will actually do it. It will just become an odd catch phrase, or maybe something that represents a state of mind. When life seems overwhelming and you’re taking things too seriously, just imagine yourself getting out your fishing pole, finding a friendly elephant, and spending the afternoon at a local DEM-stocked pond.
And it offers endless possibilities for follow-ups. I’m picturing a second bumper sticker of an old pickup truck with a leaping trout decal on the door, dragging its rear bumper because there’s an elephant with a fishing rod in the back. I could probably even turn it into a children’s book, but then it would lose some of its mystique.
The concept does have some downsides. Some people might be put off by the potential death of fish implied. But let’s be honest, how many fish do you actually catch when you go fishing? And I tend to think your chances of catching anything would be significantly diminished if you had a large, noisy, smelly pachyderm casting a shadow over your portion of the pond. Besides, I’m not entirely sure if elephants eat fish, so he would probably be a catch-and-release elephant.
And some people might take it as either an endorsement or an attack on the Republican Party. If I do get political pushback I could balance it out by making a “Take a donkey skating” bumper sticker. I’d originally thought “Take a donkey bowling, but that sounds too much like a famous Camper Van Beethoven song.
Maybe it won’t be an issue, because as far as I can tell nobody ever took Babar or Dumbo as political statements, so why should my fishing elephant be any different? For me it’s just a statement about companionship, shared activities, the great outdoors, and all that kinda good stuff. It’s my way of saying that it’s time to stop ignoring the elephant in the room, give him a rod and reel, and get him over to the Stump Pond Dam. Just make sure to take a shovel, in case the elephant watched that TED Talk, and starts a movement of his own.