Change Means Welcoming the Changed

Nothing can ever fix the past: Activists must settle for changing the future. For that, your cause needs converts.

Image for post
Image for post
Animal Rights March Berlin 2018. (photo: Tim Lüddemann)

The War or Drugs, like the War on Terror, inadvertently served to extend the reach of the government into people’s lives.

Now we know that the government applied that power unequally to the population, using suspicion of drug activity as a cudgel against economically disadvantaged African-American communities, and other marginalized communities.

Fixing the deeply entrenched legal system problems created by the War on Drugs is going to take cooperation, consideration, and converts to the idea of marijuana legalization.

If you are someone who supports marijuana legalization, you need bipartisan support. In a Democracy, you win hearts and minds over to your cause.

From the other side. Where else?

If you only care to deal with people who agree with you and always have, your cause isn’t that important to you. Or rather, it is, but something else is more important. Winning? Being right? Moral superiority?

Former Speaker of the House and longtime Republican opponent to marijuana decriminalization John Boehner has recently joined the marijuana legalization lobby and taken up the cause on Capitol Hill. Liberals aren’t happy about it, though Boehner’s conversion marks a major milestone in the legalization of marijuana and ultimately, the liberation of thousands of wrongfully incarcerated people.

It is as if they believe Boehner doesn’t deserve to be part of the cause after opposing it for so long.

Holding John Boehner accountable as some sort of scapegoat for the disastrous consequences of the War on Drugs, refusing to let him become part of the solution, does nothing. It assumes Boehner is uniquely responsible for the great injustice of it (he isn’t) and that burning him in effigy will rectify the wrongs of the past (it won’t).

True activists, the truly committed, know better.

My personal soapbox happens to be animal rights, which gives me the unique position of being equally disdained by all major political parties.

Oh, Democrats are a little more polite in their disinterest than Republicans, for the most part. But Democrats still want to eat cheap factory-farmed meat and wear leather from China where animal welfare and environmental standards are even lower, and buy products tested on animals, and all the other things that make animal rights supporters absolutely despair at the suffering in the world.

Mass-scale industrial animal agriculture is the single biggest contributor to human driven climate change; it has a devastating environmental impact; it’s exploitative towards emerging nations; it’s terrible for people and is a major driver of global poverty.

You may like eating meat; that doesn’t make any of the above factually incorrect.

Here’s the thing about us animal righties; we’ll take anyone. ANYONE. See, right up until the moment we decided we could no longer support a system built on exploitation and suffering, we were just like any other red-blooded carnivorous meat eater. Just like you.

But we changed. I changed. I advocate for animals today because I changed my mind. And because someone helped change it. They wrote a book, made a movie, shared a fact, and, yes, made me feel so very, very guilty.

In the end, it worked. Of course, I don’t think my mind was changed by these people. I believe that I came to understand animal rights as fundamental to the global human rights picture because it is logical and irrefutably right.

I feel awful for the many trillions of animals who have suffered and died on factory farms. But there is nothing I wouldn’t do, no person too odious to forgive their past sins against the cause, no amount of teaching I wouldn’t do, to stop it.

Now would be my first choice. A year from now, after trillions more animal and human lives are lost, is also acceptable. I’ll still forgive any former meat eater ready to come to the right side.

Former rancher who used to raise families of cows to sell for slaughter for decades? Great! Former slaughterhouse worker? Wonderful. Michelin star chef who has been disparaging vegans for years? Welcome sir.

Democrat? Great. Republican? Win. Atheist? Yes. Christian? Amen. Jewish? Shalom. Muslim? Salam. White? Join us. African-American? Perfect. Japanese? We love you. Gay, strait, old, young, male, female, and everything in between; whether you have been eating meat for five years or 95-years, the animal rights community is ready to accept you.

Wherever you are from, no matter how many years you spent on the wrong side of the animal rights movement you are welcome to join me, Bambi, Dumbo, your childhood, and everything that is pure and good in the world over here with us animal rights loonies.

You’ll have the milk of human kindness running through your veins, mark my words. You’ll feel better, be happier and in better health than you have enjoyed in years, maybe ever.

We are the original inter-sectionalists. Animal rights groups got the first laws against child abuse passed in the U.S.

You’ll be way ahead of the boycotting competition; both sides! Nikes? Slave labor, haven’t bought them in years. Most of us have never tasted Chik-fil a in our lives, no plans to. Fashion magazines? Fur! Exotic skin handbags made in a sweatshop? Never!

The Washington Post asked us last week: Did you know that the majority of the commercially available chocolate you eat is brought to you by child labor? Animal rights loonies did! We learned about right around the time we learned about the exploitation of animals by that industry.

It might surprise you, though it should not, to learn that people and corporations willing to exploit one vulnerable population are more than willing to exploit another and call it commerce as long as consumers let them get away with it.

If you are part of the animal rights/serious environmentalist set, you are so used to companies trying to trick you with pictures of happy cows frolicking on green grass and green washing, every purchase is a research project.

I don’t like Miley Cyrus’s music. That’s fine, I don’t have to; she’s cool to animals she’s cool to me. She supports Planned Parenthood and I don’t? No problem! I’m still glad she is one less person not hurting animals, and one more person using their power and influence to help animals.

Natalie Portman, Ricky Gervais, Bob Barker, Betty White, James Cromwell, Sir Paul McCartney, Captain Paul Watson, Jane Goodall, Bridget Bardot. Joaquin Phoenix and Mara Rooney who each carried a dead animal through the streets in a protest march for animal liberation, bless them.

Even that guy who snatched the mic out of Sen. Kamala Harris’s hand at a recent town-hall event. I don’t love his methods, I fear he may be hurting the cause more than he is helping it (hearts and minds, people!). But I’ll still claim him.

Violence is the only thing we must not tolerate. Animal rights is about reducing the amount of violence and suffering in the world; you can’t do that using violence and suffering. It’s been tried.

Converts? Converts we tolerate. Converts we welcome to the fold with open arms.

If you truly want change, you must welcome the changed. If you want reform, you must welcome the reformed.

If I meet you and you are already vegan for the animals, or for any other reason, we can hug and commiserate about the many challenges of existing in a world where eating animals is so deeply and socially entrenched. And that is a treat, it truly is.

But that is not where the real work is. No, no. The steak lover, the butcher, the farmer, the slaughterhouse worker; the defiant and/or oblivious carnivores everywhere.

If a “win” for your “cause” means a complete vindication of past wrongs…well, that is a very high bar you must admit, if not outright impossible. Unless you can turn back time and restore life to the dead, I’m not sure it can be managed.

We’ll have to settle for changing the future, by working on hearts and minds right now. That means converts.

That reminds me, do you have a minute to talk about animal sentience? You say you love steak? That’s perfect.

(contributing writer, Brooke Bell)

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store