One frustration for millions of Americans watching the congressional hearings on the January 6th Capitol riot is the sense that we already know what happened. An attempted coup! Trump was behind it! The whole thing aired live on TV and social media! But as lawmakers test our patience by stating the facts of that event once more, a real mystery has captured national attention.
What did this elephant have against that poor woman?
People die in bizarre ways, and “trampled by elephant” isn’t even among the strangest: About 500 are killed by the mighty pachyderms each year, with attacks on the rise as they compete with human civilization for space and food. But the same elephant that killed you returning later on to desecrate your funeral? That’s less common. And as the story of Maya Murmu, an unfortunate 70-year-old Indian woman suffering just that fate, seeped into the global meme network, the jokes began to pose a question: How had she incurred such elephantine wrath?
Knowing that elephants are intelligent, sensitive creatures with long memories — and the capacity to hold a bitter grudge — we’re disposed to regard this violence as targeted revenge. Surely some bad blood had gone unmentioned in the press coverage. This tidy narrative also happens to align, though, with our reluctance to confront the tensions of our current place in nature. If it’s not out of the question that an elephant was settling a score, neither is it implausible that elephants of this region are mad at people in general, and getting madder. One theory even holds that elephants who see their relatives shot develop PTSD. Without evidence, some TikTok sleuths have claimed that the deceased woman was involved in a poaching ring.
It is, quite simply, the kind of elevated horror that keeps you up at night. No surprise that many are unwilling or unable to carry on until we gain clarity and closure. What we may not be able to accept is that, instead of the thirst for payback you’d get from a Tarantino character, this beast was driven by more Darwinian logic: It’s us or them.
Still, I strongly recommend not going out of your way to piss off an elephant. Unless you want the entire internet taking the elephant’s side.