**For more information on the prompt that inspired this essay please click here**
The rumble of divisive rhetoric once more seared through the arid undulations of the African plains. Today it seemed as if the painstaking faces of warfare had multiplied. An entire community had been breached, emoting an intergenerational effort rather than an impassioned campaign left to the youth. But, as feet stomped in protest of animal rights violations and the rupturing of all capacities of safety that home once boasted, I couldn’t help but feeling alone, isolated, and frankly misunderstood.
Today’s tumultuous topic matter, the contentious issue of my generation, was coming to a halting boiling point as death and the oozing blood of my brothers and sisters yet again recovered our zealousness to combat the poachers. Poaching of rhino horns has plagued my community for generations, the pinnacle of the animal kingdom’s oppression and blatant dehumanization of a noble breed. Some even dared to call it an unsolvable conflict that would perpetuate the identities of rhinos here and in the diaspora for years to come.
At the root of the matter, poaching is wrong. It robs rhinoceroses of their humanity manifested in the vacillating stories of the horn.
The horn is a sacred identifier. It’s symbolism stretches from the deepened scars of battles of dominance, the unique shapes representative of familial idiosyncrasies, and species wide indicators of our inherent sense of intimidation, an intimidation I have actively tried to shed.
Poaching is wrong.
Don’t be mistaken about my stance.
But as I hear the bellowing booms of protest nomenclature breed increased polarization and hard to criticize hatred, I can’t help but feel that we are missing out on an opportunity to engage, to learn, and to act as a community.
The nuance that is me needs to be explored before I go on.
I’m secretly or not so secretly proud to deem myself the nerdier of my fellow rhinos. What can I say, I’m driven towards the inquisitive underpinnings of intellectual discourse with Debbie the elephant, my dearest yet most unexpected companion. I am most content when probing the greater questions of the genocide of the saber-toothed cats, the multiplicity of disability experiences in the lives of the lemurs with autism and the three-legged hyenas, and the blasé attitudes of the slow to mobilize vultures whose voter turnout statistics are abysmal.
I’m a thinker. I’m a critic. I’m a question asker. And as of recent I am dancing in the seas of my barely born assertiveness.
As a so-called ally of our community and as an internationally frowned upon practice, I’m disappointed in the lack of action that the lion superpower has failed to mobilize. Anti-poaching efforts need multilateral support to gain legitimacy for the non-violent protests of the elephants.
These are the notions that flood my mind in this moment, as I stand shielded under a tree, a metaphorical illustration of the multipronged issue I see at hand. But as I listen to my relatives, the most respected of rhinos I find my mind wandering to the depths of the socially unacceptable notion….what if I didn’t have my horn?
If my peers heard the loudness of my spiraling, sporadic, and spastic Socratic questions, a snapshot into my relentless internal conflicts, I’d surely be shunned.
As rhino after rhino proudly marches to the center of the community efforts, asserting their opinions through chants, emotionally appealing anecdotes, and fiery frustrated accusations, my mind continues down the abyss of disillusionment.
I cannot understand why I am so inclined to humanize the intentions of the enemy. I am so strongly inclined to meet the poachers eye to eye. I am inclined to listen, to deeply listen. I am inclined to garner an understanding of why the poachers believe in the medicinal qualities of the horn.
And, for what?
If I fail to cultivate this exchange, of cultures, of beliefs, of identity, and of worldviews, then I am nothing but swirling stagnated suppressed thoughts.
I am dispirited that my father’s meekness, a spiritual mover of the community. He stands in silence.
When he was attacked by the poachers, he cried out in pain not for himself, but because he recognized the gravity of the hate and the depths of misunderstanding. He is pained by the lack of genuine communication. I know this because when we huddle together in the dark nights beneath an infinite glimmering of the universe’s stars, he whispers to me his itching desires for change from within as a pre-mediated step to reaching across the aisle.
He will not thrash nor will he will scream out in impassioned anger.
He has every right to.
Though in this moment I feel as if the dripping tension of the poacher’s knife has been slowly churned so far into me that I cannot breathe. The weapon of my father’s betrayal is his silence. I dare question his audacity to let the community breed hatred, generate polarization, and mold the minds of youthful antagonists because he does not step forward and provide one statement of opposition, a question of thought.
I know he is fearful. But I try to decide if fear of community, of the fizzling of one’s own conception of their place in the world, of rejection by the only people who understand your struggle is worse than the fear of undermining one’s own beliefs. Who is to judge what is more destructive?
I am confused by his bravery of spirit. Is he brave to hold his tongue or foolish to let the moment pass him by?
As my mind is jumbled yet again, I feel my deepening frustration lurch me forward. I don’t know how I ended up in the center of the forum, the beady eyes of impassioned attention and sharpened horns staring down my supposed strong sense of self. I feel my mouth begin to open. And I do not know what I am about to say, but my words precede my confidence. Some part of me has already decided that it’s my time now.
Post Submitted By: Ashton