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August 8, 2013
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It’s OK to ride ponies, but not elephants?

A couple of interesting signs made an appearance Wednesday night in the Nevada County Fair parking lot, where protesters huddled together like emperor penguins fighting the Antarctic wind, protecting their numbers from the mindless families happily anticipating their search for elephants. “Ride Horses not Elephants,” one of them read.

Where? Where do we ride horses and not elephants? Not in India, Thailand, Laos or Vietnam.

I guess Californians know better than those folks in far-off exotic lands to which we travel, Toms on foot, passports in hand. We have evolved our enlightened thought to a world where elephants deserve more freedom than ponies, commonly seen as carnival rides. But not elephants, as another sign popping above the penguin-like crowd spouted, “Elephants Are Not Carnival Rides!”

It’s a process, I guess. We’ve clearly evolved beyond our Paleolithic parents (in California, at least) who hunted horses for meat. But not quite yet our Eurasian parents, who grabbed their manes, leapt on their backs and were off and running.

However, thank goodness, we’ve clearly evolved past our Indus Civilization family members, who began domesticating elephants about the same time our Eurasian parents domesticated horses, a few thousand miles to the north.

But we know, here in our gleaming utopia, we will never give up riding horses … That’s OK for some reason, for now.

Recently I watched an interesting documentary about the history of the gay rights movement. Interviewed was one of the pioneers of the … wait for it … 1960s (his name escapes me now) who said, “… we don’t want to get married; we’re not asking for equal status. We just want to be who we are.” My jaw dropped. How shortsighted of him and oh — how thought has, dare I say it, “evolved” in 40 years.

While I’m not intending to tackle the arguments for or against gay marriage in this short piece, Mr. Gay Rights’ statement does illustrate a point. There is no such thing as a “line in the sand.” Today, we are sure it is morally reprehensible to ride elephants, but ponies can still be carnival rides. Tomorrow … who knows?

We Californians are so socially evolved — light years beyond the rest of the world, actually — that our “evolution” may be bringing us full circle to the point our Paleolithic parents fought so hard to move beyond.

I wonder how many years it will be before we decide that sitting around the fire in our own “natural surroundings,” moaning about the carbon footprint this man-made method of warming ourselves is leaving, munching on the berries we gathered along the wild and scenic Yuba, surrounded by wild and free horses finally granted the same status as their brethren elephants whom we have deemed too majestic to ride, will be the acceptable “line in the sand” for the moment.

But alas, we’re not there quite yet. For now, even the most enlightened among us believe ponies can still be carnival rides.

Robin Guerra lives in Nevada County.


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The Union Updated Aug 8, 2013 11:10PM Published Aug 15, 2013 08:12AM Copyright 2013 The Union. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.