The Fox, The Elephant, and The Donkey
(Or, how we got into the mess we are in, and how not to waste your vote.)
By: Peter Trippett
Illustration by: Jenny Trippett
Once upon a time, a group of animals decided to take a trip. They had heard of a land called "Happiness", and were all anxious to get there. So, one day, they all gathered together, and boarded a bus. As each animal stepped onto the bus, they paid their fare, in gold coin, for which the driver, the Old Grey Fox, thanked them.
Once everyone was aboard, the driver shut the door, and with a hiss of releasing brakes, the journey began. It was going to be a long trip, so all of the animals made themselves comfortable for the ride.
After a short while, the Old Grey Fox turned the bus onto the Liberty Highway, which, he told the others, was the road that would lead to Happiness. Liberty Highway was not a heavily traveled road. They encountered no other traffic. In places, the road was rough, but the Old Grey Fox expertly slowed the bus as needed, avoided the rough patches and kept the ride smooth.
After only a few hours, the Blind Donkey spoke up, "This is taking too long! I know there must be a shortcut, I can feel it in my heart!"
"No, no," said the Old Grey Fox. "This is the right way! Liberty Highway will always take us to Happiness!"
The Myopic Elephant chimed in. "I am also sure there is a shortcut. At the next crossroads, turn right!"
"No, Left!", said the Blind Donkey.
They argued for time, and then came to an agreement. The animals on the bus would elect the driver. Whoever got the most votes would drive the bus.
"That's ridiculous!", said the Old Grey Fox. "I am the driver! And, the Blind Donkey can't drive! He can't even see!"
"I can see with my heart!", replied the Donkey. "You should always follow your heart. It will never lead you astray!"
So, the animals all began shouting out their votes. "Elephant!", "Donkey!", "Fox!"... The votes were tallied. Half the animals on the bus voted for the Donkey, either inspired by his speech about the heart, or perhaps because they wanted to see a Blind Donkey drive. A quarter voted for the Elephant, and a quarter voted for the Fox. The Donkey won, and the Fox reluctantly relinquished his seat to the Blind Donkey.
The Donkey began driving. Almost immediately, he turned left, as he had promised, but he could not see that there was no road to turn onto. Fortunately, however, the ground was flat, with no trees, rivers, lakes, boulders or other obstacles. But, though they did not crash, the ride was not very comfortable as the bus bounced over the grassy terrain.
After being knocked around for a time the Myopic Elephant spoke up. “Aren't we tired of this! Let me drive. I may be near-sighted, but at least I can see where the road is!”
“No! We are fine,” said the Donkey. “Things will get smoother, you'll see! And we will reach Happiness before you know it!”
But, the animals were all tired of the bumpy ride, so they voted again. This time, the Elephant won, so the Donkey turned control over to him. He immediately turned right, and after wrestling with the steering wheel for a while he eventually came across a road, which he turned onto. The ride became much smoother.
“I think this is it!” said the Myopic Elephant. “I think this is the shortcut to Happiness!”
The Old Grey Fox shook his head and said, “I don't think so. I don't like where we are heading!” But, all the other animals ignored him.
The Blind Donkey sat sulking for a while. He was sure his way was the shortest. But how could he convince the others? Then, he had an idea! “OK, My turn to drive!” he said. “Let's take another vote. And, if I am elected, I will refund one gold coin of everyone's fare!”
Well, the idea of having to pay less for the trip was appealing to the other animals on the bus. So, of course many of them voted for the Donkey this time, and he won the election. As he took the driver seat, he found the key to the fare box on the keyring, opened the box, and distributed a coin to everyone on the bus.
He also secretly slipped a few extra coins to the Keen-Eyed Cat, and asked him to whisper in his ear when they came upon the next left turn. So, this time, when he made his turn, he knew he was turning onto an actual road. Once he was on the new road the Keen-Eyed Cat continued to whisper directions in his ear, so the Donkey was able to remain on the road. He depressed the accelerator, speeding up to 90MPH. “This is it! This is what we call 'progress'. We will be in Happiness before you know it,” said the Blind Donkey.
By this time, the animals were beginning to get bored with the trip. They stopped paying attention to the road ahead. They started playing games among themselves, talking, laughing and reading. And, most of them started to go to sleep.
But, the Myopic Elephant was fuming! He couldn't believe that the Blind Donkey would use such a dishonest trick, paying the others for their vote! But, he slowly came to realize that if he ever wanted to win an election again, he would have to use the same tactics. So, after a while, he stood up and shouted, “Time for another vote! I promise two gold coins to everyone on the bus, if I am elected!”
The animals could not believe their good fortune, and they quickly elected the Myopic Elephant to drive the bus. If they played their cards right, this trip could be free!
This exchange went on for a time, the Donkey and the Elephant each promising a larger portion of the coins in the fare box in order to get elected. And, in some cases, secretly paying other animals to help them get elected.
When the Blind Donkey drove the bus, he would always make a left turn (secretly guided by the Keen-Eyed Cat), and increase the speed to 90MPH. When the Myopic Elephant drove, he would always slow the bus down to 60MPH and make a right turn.
Occasionally the Old Grey Fox would point out the window, and say, “See! Look! Over there! There is Liberty Highway! Get on that road, we can still make it to Happiness!”.
When he would say this, the Blind Donkey would completely ignore him. Sometimes the Myopic Elephant would listen. But, then he would answer, “You might be right, but if I go that way, the Donkey will complain about how slow it is, and get himself elected again. And, I think my shortcut is better anyway!”
Once, when the Blind Donkey was driving, the Elephant noticed that the fare box was empty! All of the coins that had been collected in fares, had been given out to buy votes, or special favors to help either the Donkey or the Elephant get elected. By this time, the animals were so used to getting paid for their vote, that he doubted he would ever get to drive the bus again, unless he came up with an idea.
Then, it struck him! He would simply promise the other animals a larger amount, that would be paid once they reached Happiness. So he grabbed a pad of paper and a pen, and wrote a note:
I.O.U. Ten (10) gold coins, backed by our full faith and confidence in the wealth we shall all attain in the Land of Happiness.
He wrote sufficient copies of these notes, to give one to each of the animals on the bus, and announced, “Ten coins! I will promise ten gold coins to everyone if I am elected driver!”.
He was enthusiastically elected, and happily took the driver seat. He passed his notes back to the animals, as he promised. Many of them grumbled, “What is this?” But, they all knew, they believed, that wealth awaited them in the future, when they would reach Happiness, so they accepted the note.
The Myopic Elephant slowed the bus to 60MPH, as he always did, and started searching for the next right turn. But, he could not find one! The road they were on now appeared to have been traveled many times before. It went straight through an arid dessert. Dry weeds, cactus, and dust lined the road, along with the occasional skeleton.
They passed a sign that read “DEAD END”, but the Myopic Elephant could not read it. A few of those who were still awake on the bus noticed it, and tried to point it out to the others, but it was gone, engulfed in the cloud of dust raised by the passage of the bus.
After a few miles, they approached another bus, sitting wrecked and abandoned on the side of the road. As they passed the wreck, the Old Grey Fox spoke up once again. “Oh no! The two of you have taken us to Social Justice Road. There are no turns off this road, no exits or rest stops. The road dead-ends at the top of the cliffs of Karl. Many buses have come this way before, and it never ends well for the passengers. I chose to take Liberty Highway because it goes nowhere near those cliffs. Hit the brakes! Please stop!”
And the Blind Donkey answered, “Nonsense! Don't listen to him. He is just an old white-haired fox! And, he used to eat rabbits!
“This road is exactly the shortcut I was looking for! We have made so much progress since the last bus came this way! I am sure they have built a bridge or ramp at those cliffs. We will not crash!
“Since we have found exactly the shortcut I was looking for, I am the one who should drive the bus. I promise Hope. I promise Change. And, because we are so close to Happiness, I can now promise twenty gold coins to everyone, if I am elected!”
So, the Blind Donkey was elected again. He quickly wrote up his I.O.U.'s for twenty gold coins, passed them out and took the driver seat once more.
He floored the accelerator, taking the bus up to 120MPH. The engine roared, sounding as though it was about to tear itself apart! The bus vibrated and shook. The Donkey barely retained control as the bus careened down the road. The Keen-Eyed Cat abandoned all pretense of secrecy, openly shouting a continuous stream of instructions to the Blind Donkey to keep him on the road.
The commotion began to awaken those animals who had fallen asleep. “What is happening?” they asked.
The Old Grey Fox calmly answered, “We are heading over a cliff, at 120MPH! No bus that has come this way before has ever survived! We must stop the bus, and turn it around! We must return to Liberty Highway, if we are ever to reach Happiness.”
“Maybe we should have another vote!” said the animals who had just awakened, sipping their tea. “Maybe we should vote for the Fox!”
“Now, now,” said the Myopic Elephant. “I don't see any danger ahead, but we are going too fast! I agree we should slow down. But, going backward is never the answer.
“Let's have another election. But, remember that the Fox has never won. If you vote for him, you will divide the vote, and we will both lose. You will end up with the Blind Donkey driving again! A vote for the Old Grey Fox is really a vote for the Blind Donkey! Don't waste your vote!”
And the Red Dog shouted, “The Elephant is right! I agree with the Old Grey Fox, but if we vote for him, the Donkey wins! The only way to save ourselves is to vote for the lesser of two evils.”
So the animals held another election. Some did vote for the Old Grey Fox, but enough of them had been swayed by the “lesser of two evils” argument, that the Elephant won the election.
The Myopic Elephant took the drivers seat, and once again slowed the bus to 60MPH. He peered at the road ahead, struggling to perceive every little detail, determined to detect the slightest danger, his own lack of Vision working against him. He could barely make out the crest of a small hill, ahead.
To his credit, the Myopic Elephant was, in the end, finally convinced to apply the brakes - after the bus began its doomed trajectory over the Cliffs of Karl. And, as they fell, everyone on that bus realized that in the last election, there was only one vote that could have saved them.
Copyright (C) 2010 Peter Trippett, all rights reserved.