i love the circus. and when i say i love the circus i mean i love it!
i love the clowns
i love the acrobats.
i love the tight rope walkers.
i love Love LOVE the ringmaster.
I LOVE THE CIRCUS!
whenever the circus is in town i’d go. i’d get ‘not quite front row’ seats because when you’re in the front row you have to bend your neck too far back to see the action that’s happening on the trapeze. and if there is a pre-show, where you can meet the players…i’m there…lined up…BEFORE they open the doors. because I LOVE THE CIRCUS!!
so imagine my complete utter horror when i discovered how cruel and inhumane the animals who are the front and center acts of the circus are treated?
“lack of exercise and long hours standing on hard surfaces are major contributes to foot infections and arthritis, the leading causes of death among elephants.”
when i discovered how bad it was for the elephants in particular, i started my own person boycott of all things circus. i just couldn’t be a part, no matter how small, of that structure of cruelty.
did you know that between 1994 and 2016, 65 circus elephants have died premature deaths? according to www.bornfreeusa.org
Most circus elephants are chained by at least two legs for 95% of their lives in a space no larger than an automobile. They are unchained only to perform. The natural behavior patterns of the elephant, which have evolved over thousands of years, are denied by this confined, chained, and dominated life. To disrupt and prevent the natural behavior of these intelligent, social creatures is not only inhumane and cruel, but stressful to the individual animal as well.
knowing this makes me weep. the maltreatment of circus animals is so bad that not only has peta taken up the cause but dosomething.org has created a campaign so that teens and other young adults can get informed and involved with making the world a better place for circus animals.
today, i was talking about how much i have loved the circus with someone i know. i was sharing how disappointed i’ve been that i’ve had to disavow myself of one of my favorite past times while still talking about how exciting circus performances can be. i became so animated trying to describe the magnificence of this one act i saw at the last circus i attended that she had to stop me mid-sentence and ask me, ‘why do you love the circus so much?’
it gave me pause. i was kind of taken aback that she asked the question because it wasn’t something that i’d ever thought about, i mean i loved the circus because i loved the circus. it’s kind of like asking someone why they prefer blue skies…
but then something happened while i was settling the house down for the night…i thought about my mother. i was tucking my kid in, straightening out the bathroom and plotting ideas for lunch and dinner tomorrow and i thought about how many years my mother performed these same rituals. i thought about how hard she worked to provide for us. how focused she was on making sure that we had access to experiences beyond the conditions of our community.
see i grew up in a working class community. which is a really polite and politically correct way of saying we were poor. we were poor but we weren’t impoverished. we were poor but we weren’t hungry because back then people pulled together and helped each other out. we were poor but because we lived in a community where everyone was the same we didn’t know we were poor until we came across people who weren’t.
and in my community, because of the low income, most families didn’t have access to alternative cultural experiences. kids in my neighborhood got to go to the park. we went swimming at the local beach. if there were horses or ponies to ride at the park we got a chance to ride the ponies but if there weren’t, we didn’t. if the school scheduled a field trip we went, as long as it was either free or planned well enough ahead of time that our parents could set aside the money to cover the cost of us going. in my neighborhood no one went to the cape for easter break. there were no plane rides or tours of the washington monument. if your daddy was able to time it right, you and your brothers and sisters got to pile up in the lincoln and drive to alabama in july for the annual family reunion for a weekend. other than that…you stayed home. oh and we went to the movies. mostly the matinee.
but my mama was a rebel. she was a purveyor of culture. she had a unique appreciation for experiences and making sure that we had experiences that took us out of our community and into other worlds for consideration. i have no idea how she was able to manage but she took us to amusement parks, theatrical performances, sports events (including hockey), the opera, the ballet, music concerts, and the circus.
now we didn’t have front row seats. we were never the kids ‘randomly’ picked out of the audience to ride in the clown car. because our seats were generally right above the nose bleeds. now…ask me if i cared. nope. i was just glad to be there.
so we’d be at the circus in section 355 row zz with borrowed binoculars (i still don’t know how to look through them) trying to spot the acrobats just a grinning and passing peanuts. what i remember most about these excursions of course were the elephants.
now i’m an inner city kid. i grew up in the 70’s and came of age in the 80’s. i was a skeptic like all members of my generation. i didn’t believe anything until i actually saw it. and elephants were not something you’d see walking down mack avenue. so when my uncle started describing to me the ‘monstrous grey giants that were the size of mountains who would dance on their heads.’ i figured here go michael lying to me again!
so imagine my surprise when i look down on the circus and waay from row zz of section 355 i see a moving mountain! it was majestic. elephants!
i didn’t need the borrowed binoculars to see them either. i could see them clear and free with my own eyes and while they were in center ring i didn’t even blink for fear of missing something. it was love at first sight for me. complete and utter love.
seeing elephants in the circus set something afire in me as a kid…it opened me to the possibility that the world may very well be larger than the one block radius i existed in. it made me think that if elephants are real…what else is real that i thought was just michael’s runaway imagination pulling my leg? and how can i discover…more.
the circus was the only way i would have ever encountered an elephant as a kid and because i did encounter them it gave me permission to believe in things i had not seen.
elephants taught me faith.
i know that elephants suffer untold cruelty at the hands of their handlers in the circus. this is a fact i will not undermine.