Animal Crackers in My Soul

By Marc Dion

August 27, 2018 4 min read

I like animal crackers, and every now and then I'll buy a box. They're vaguely comforting because they taste like my childhood, which is to say sweet and with just a touch of vanilla. I buy them in the food aisle of my local drug store in what I call the "Grandma Candy Aisle." That aisle is where they keep the little bags of sour balls and marshmallow circus peanuts. I buy those, too.

I haven't bought a box of animal crackers in a while, but I understand they've changed the picture on the front of the box. They haven't changed the taste, though, so I'll be all right. I pay more attention to what's in the box than I do to what's on the box, which is why I didn't vote for Donald Trump.

The old box of animal crackers showed animals in cages, to remind buyers of the circus, back when people liked circuses, back when people didn't think of circuses as forced labor camps for animals.

The new box shows the animals out of the cage, free, with trees in the background, the way animals live when they're not being forced to learn "tricks."

Hooray, as they used to say at the circus.

Although Americans still eat a Mount Everest of hamburgers every year, there has been a little revolution in how we think about animals. We have begun to consider that maybe chimps don't enjoy being plucked from the jungles and pestered until they learn to ride a tricycle. Practically my entire work history consists of being plucked from the jungle over and over again, and then pestered into riding a series of ever-more-complex tricycles. I know the chimp's pain.

And before you start thinking that I've spent my whole life trying not to get a bruise, I was a hunter when I was a younger man. I hunted geese and ducks mostly because, even then, hunting a deer seemed too much like shooting a dog.

I still have no argument with hunting as a sport, although my group of clean-limbed young hunting buddies didn't look much like these sag-bellied old rich men who fly to Africa so they can use a gun the size of a sewer pipe to kill a peaceful giraffe.

I'm not sure I could hunt anymore. I got lucky. As I've grown older, I've grown more compassionate, not less. Nothing is worse than the gray-haired man who compensates for his loss of strength by shrouding himself in tough talk. If it wasn't for those guys (and their women), Donald Trump couldn't have gotten elected to a school board in Kansas. Well, maybe he could have in Kansas, but you know what I mean.

I feed the birds in my yard now. I feed the groundhog in my yard, too, and the squirrels. I have a birdbath. At the foot of the birdbath is a Tupperware container filled with water because the chubby groundhog isn't tall enough to drink from the birdbath. Animals can smell water, and to leave water where the groundhog could smell it but couldn't reach it would be cruel, like bullying a chimp into riding a tricycle.

In my late middle years, I have become a giver of food and water, a fountain of life for furred, and snouted, and winged beings.

Life goes on. The groundhog gets his water. The birds take baths. The animal crackers come out of the cage. Paul Manafort goes into the cage.

Perhaps bigger game lies ahead.

To find out more abut Marc Munroe Dion and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit, Dion's latest book, "The Land of Trumpin," is a collection of his columns about Trumpism and how the circus came to town and never left. It is available in paperback from, and for Kindle, Nook, iBooks and GooglePlay.

Photo credit: at Pixabay

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