I painted this elephant a few weeks ago. I imagined the story of a rancher who decides to collect exotic animals. His existing animals distrust the elephant because he is so large and threatening. Eventually the animals decide to overcome their fears, and throw the elephant a welcome party despite misgivings. At the party, they learn the elephant has been struggling to adjust, and is sad to have left his family in India. As all the animals begin to have fun together, they find out that the elephant is an Asian elephant and the rancher has just brought an African elephant, which is even larger!
These pictures and the story have new significance this past month. The United States elected the Republican, Donald Trump as President. Elephants are the symbol of the Republican Party. Like the elephant in my story, Trump is widely feared for his outsized and some would say demagogic personality.
As a life long Democrat, I share these fears.
As an American, I support the U.S. Constitution and hope for the peaceful transition of power. I believe writing and illustrating are inherently political acts. In the end, every story is a reflection of the author's cultural and physical environment.
I will never stop fighting for the right to sell my stories on the free market. I believe in my work, and I want to find ways to make it worth buying. The ability to earn a living is part of what the American Dream is supposed to be about. I try to make sure each of my stories, in some small way, shares the story of the small British colony that stood up to tyranny and became a great nation.
For better and worse, American power promoted the free market to the world. Not everything is perfect about the free market; President Kennedy once said "a rising tide lifts all boats." Unfortunately, some boats haven't been lifted, but I continue to think that a rising tide can lift all boats, if we build fair systems and use the best talents of each person.
As a writer, the election has affirmed my faith in the importance of stories and pictures. I voted for the Democrats this time because I supported some of the policies they advocated, but I didn't find the story they presented compelling. I graduated college in 2010, and for the past six years I have struggled in the job market. I know how painful it is to be out of work and underemployed. I didn't hear enough about solutions. Fear is a powerful and unifying story that appeals to our darker natures. This year, fear won.
This election has only confirmed that effective storytelling matters, not just in elections, but in movies, books and for the bottom line. Though ideas sometimes divide us, good stories can unite us all.