Wednesday, July 29, 2015

There's plenty to go around

Unless you live in a cave that doesn't have wifi, you've probably heard about the killing of Cecil the lion. He was killed by a dastardly dude who, one can only assume, has a very small penis. The man is a dentist. Or was a dentist, I guess. I can't imagine anyone wanting to use his services ever again. I think his main job now is "professional pariah." Speaking of dentists, I had an appointment with mine this morning. I've been going to the same dentist for years. Last time I was in the chair, Dr. F's wife popped in to have a brief chat with him. She was going shopping for some new things for their grandchild. A discussion about Kohl's coupons ensued. After I heard about the lion-slaughtering dentist, it occurred to me that if my dentist uses coupons at Kohl's, he's probably not going to spend $50,000 to travel to a foreign land to take down some majestic creature.

After a day or so of expressed outrage on Facebook and via all news outlets that exist, some people started to wonder, "Why aren't we this mad about other stuff? Like the #blacklivesmatter movement, for example?"

My friend Maurice was one of the people who posted this. I asked him why I'm not permitted to be mad about both. As someone who cares about animals, I often feel the need to remind people that caring about animals and caring about people are not mutually exclusive.  I get where he is coming from but, truth be told, I'm mad about lots of shit.

Here is a partial list:
  • Our food system. It enrages me that sugar is pumped into everything we eat (watch the documentary "Fed Up" for the scoop on this) and that big companies control what we eat. I find it appalling that fast food is often cheaper than fresh fruits and vegetables and that low-income neighborhoods have plenty of fast food but not fresh stuff. 
  • Factory farming. Once you know what you know, you can't ever turn your back on that. I learned about factory farming as a teenager and have been boycotting ever since - first as a vegetarian and now as a vegan.
  • Pet overpopulation. I don't have to get into a lot of details here, but let's just say that I've been cleaning up after this problem for over 15 years now. On a larger level, I have anger towards human irresponsibility in general when it comes to domesticated and companion animals.  
  • Our prison system. It's so broken that it's almost beyond comprehension. First off, I don't think a prison should ever be run for profit. If a city/town is dependent upon the population of a prison for revenue, that just seems wrong to me. No one should have an incentive to keep people behind bars. Then of course we have to look at who we're locking away. It's no secret that those in jail are disproportionately poor and dark-skinned. This is a very complex issue, of course, and not something that I can attempt to summarize in one paragraph. I am aware that much of the issue stems from a cycle of poverty and crime that is hard to break. I just know that the prison system isn't good.
  • Police brutality. There, I said it, Maurice! I'm mad about it, too! I don't know what it's like to worry that I may lose my life during a routine traffic stop. That much is true. But, that doesn't mean that I don't see that there is a very, very big problem here. I am still haunted by the killing of Walter Scott, in particular (though every occurrence is heartbreaking, of course). The video is still very vivid in my memory. He was running away. He was unarmed. His death was horrifying and completely unnecessary. Every time a person of color is killed by a cop, it seems like someone says, "Well, this guy was no choir boy." (Eric Garner and Michael Brown both had their names dragged through the mud, if I recall correctly.) That sentiment makes my blood boil because I think it also feeds into the brokenness of our judicial system. Look at all of the people who have been freed on DNA evidence. There are innocent people behind bars. I think the unspoken sentiment is, "Well, maybe he didn't commit this exact crime, but I'm sure he did something." I think the #blacklivesmatter movement should carry a lot of weight because it's been a long time coming. So yes, I am angry about the deaths of so many at the hands of those who are sworn to protect and serve. I am angry about racism, which is still so pervasive even though I keep hoping to see a major shift in my lifetime. I don't expect to live a super long life so we'd better get on the stick, people! Finally, it goes without saying that there are many good cops out there. I know a few of them myself. I think there are some bad apples that need to be weeded out. And, we need to make sure those bad apples are removed long before very bad things happen. That doesn't seem to be happening, though; hence, the outrage.
  • Inequality for the LGBTQ community. I recently said to a friend, "It's a good thing I'm not gay because I feel like I would walk around feeling furious all the time." She basically said that it's the people at both extremes (think Westboro Baptist on one end and the guy who wears nothing but leather chaps at a Pride parade on the other) that make it harder for everyone else. She has a point but still, it upsets me that my friends who identify as gay have to fight harder for shit than I do, all just because I'm heterosexual. I don't have a lot of transgender friends/acquaintances. I know one who is in high school and met another in a GSA (gay straight alliance) meeting that I attend from time to time. I just finished watching a PBS documentary called "Growing Up Trans." It was really interesting. I was glad that they showed supportive parents as well as non-supportive parents, because I have a feeling that transgender folks deal with the latter a lot more than the former. They interviewed one father who was willing to lose his (transgender) child and his wife rather than to accept his son as he is. It was heartbreaking. I felt like hugging all of those kids and then knocking out a few bullies.
  • Dishonest politicians.
  • People who don't care about the environment. I still see people throwing cigarette butts out of their car windows. I didn't pay that much attention in science class but doesn't a cigarette butt take something like a gazillion years to decay? 
  • People who do bad things in the name of religion. 
The rest of my list would be comprised of minor annoyances, such as the apparent confusion over how contractions work (you are = you're). But seriously, there are a lot of bad things in the world and a lot of good things in the world, and not everyone sees them the same way. I do my best to speak for the animals because they cannot speak for themselves. It does not mean that I think Cecil the lion is more important than Walter Scott.  I think the lion's death has caused such an uproar because . . . well, because we know the name of the douchebag who did it. We can shake our fist at him directly. We shake our fists at the justice system, too, but our target feels too big, too out of reach.

Today I read about the death of Samuel DuBose during a traffic stop in Cincinnati. It's overwhelming and frustrating and maddening. Why are people being killed during traffic stops? It's impossible to wrap one's head around it. And yes, I care about Samuel DuBose. I care about a lot of things, including children living in poverty while so many others have far more than they need. I care about the plight of farmers. I'm a stereotypical Type A personality so I worry about a lot of issues. I have an almost unlimited capacity for worrying. When I was a teenager, my baby sister bought me a book called "The Big Book of Worries." So you see, I've been at this for a while. I've learned that I must do what I can do. I take in one dog at a time and focus on that one dog. I try not to think about the millions I can't help. I try to be a good recycler. I buy used stuff when it makes sense to do that. I support local agriculture. I could go on about my meager attempts to make the world a little better, but it doesn't really matter. Just don't tell me that I don't care about black lives. If I'm not shaking my fist vigorously enough, it's certainly not a matter of apathy. Maybe I'm just not sure what I can do to make it better. After all, I save part of my anger so that I can direct it back at myself for not being a better human being.

Remember a few years ago when the Deepwater Horizon exploded and the ocean filled with oil? Remember how they couldn't stop the flow and the oil just kept coming? Not only was it horrifying that people died in that incident, but the damage caused was almost incalculable. 8,000 barrels of oil were flowing into the water per day. Then, when they finally capped it, the story virtually disappeared from the news. To this day, you don't hear much about it. So, I get why some are wondering why we are outraged over a lion's death. I was outraged when we, collectively, decided to push the oil spill out of our minds.  But, I kept worrying. Why did we stop talking about this? How much wildlife died? What were the lasting effects to the environment? It's like that with the other big news stories, too. Outrage, and then silence. (#occupywallstreet, anyone?) What do we say to all who are victims of our general sucky-ness as a people? To Walter? To Eric? And yes, even to Cecil the lion?

2 comments:

Carrie said...

Amen...

Diane Davis said...

Well said. As you know, I worry pretty much 24/7. Some days I wish I didn't, but it's better than going through life with blinders on.