We writers like to take up causes and point out injustices whenever we can. We do this so that we can rationalize a job that requires us — requires, I say — to sit in comfy computer chairs and slurp caramel machiatos.
So it is with a great deal of caffeine-fueled righteous indignation that I bring the plight of the lowly garden gnome to your attention.
I wrote about these poor creatures a few years ago and sadly, even though 2004 supposedly marked the Year of the Gnome, not much has changed for this group.
Every year, thousands of innocent gnomes are hunted down in their natural habitat, the forest, and taken prisoner. They are then sold by the truckload by well known home improvement retailers, which I won’t name in this space for fear of lawsuits, but which may as well be called Gnome Depot.
City dwellers buy them and put them in urban gardens, turning them into, well, metrognomes. It’s a hard life — gnomes are forced to inhale car exhaust, listen to the constant roar of traffic and noise, and endure the changing seasons without so much as a toadstool for cover. Many have been injured in lawnmower accidents or poisoned by fertilizers and weed sprays.
“Few other groups in this day and age are allowed to suffer such indignities with society’s implicit permission,” says one of a growing group of radicals, writing under the gnome de guerre ‘Larry.’ “When will our people rise up and whack our oppressors on the ankle?”
Even worse, gnomes must face this hardship alone. Rarely are gnomes ever placed in gardens in pairs, and they’re never, ever allowed female companionship.Indeed, the so-called International Association for the Protection of the Garden Gnome was so horrified that anyone should think of female gnomes that it fined a fellow named Reinhard Griebel £45 for raising the issue in 2002.
“It’s tough out here, all by yourself,” says one gnome, an aging veteran of the Toronto landscape. His face is lined with cracks and his pointy red hat on his balding head only just covers that worst of hairstyle offenses, the gnomeover. “And what are you going to do if you escape? It’s not like you can go find yourself a wife and go gnomesteading.”
Indeed, the annual round up of male gnomes from the forest has many ecologists wondering how much longer the exploitation can continue before gnomes become extinct in the wild. “We still know very, very little about these people,” says Dr. Paul Imer, a member of the Gnome and Garden study group. “We’ve not even had a chance to study their DNA, you know, their gegnome.”
What would it take to turn life around for these oppressed garden creatures? “Gnome rule,” says Larry without hesitation. “Our goal is to set up a provisional government within a year, staffed by by those who have escaped their captors or that have been liberated by our human sympathizers in the Garden Gnome Liberation Front. Then we will set up a search and rescue group called Gnome Free for the systematic emancipation of the rest of our oppressed brothers.”
Personally, dear readers, I’m torn on this issue. Usually I am all for freedom and liberty. However, if Larry’s group succeeds, well…
… then I’ll have nothing to write gnome about.