My favorite food group is meat. Beef, in particular. I’m not sure why, exactly; maybe it’s because I grew up eating a lot of it. I like pretty much all forms–steak, burgers, hot dogs…
When I was young I read some article online about the environmental impact of factory farms. It made be feel shitty–I ate a lot of meat, and thought global warming was really bad. So did what everyone would do in that situations. I found some corner of my brain I didn’t care about very much, stuffed the article within those idle neurons, and disconnected it from it’s neighboring lobes. Lo and behold, I no longer felt shitty.
Occasionally that dormant area of my brain would have to take on a larger burden, like when I read this. But it wasn’t so bad. And one thing was clear to me–those fucking vegan activists were pretty incoherent. The combination of anti-science naturopothy, backwards-looking desires to keep nature preserved in the pristine state of five years before whenever they happened to live, focus on a death which should by their own account be mercy, and condescending certainty made them easy to dismiss.
Eventually I admitted to myself that just because some people were vegan for bad reasons didn’t mean there weren’t also good reasons for it. And I didn’t really have much of a response to the broken legs chickens stand on, ammonia-filled air chickens breathe, raw wounds chickens develop on their sides from rubbing against their cages, ipad-sized space each chicken had to live in, rampant diseases chickens incurred from their proximity, chronic pain chickens feel from having their beaks cut in half, and lack of bodily freedom chickens live with on factory farms. So I did what everyone would do in that situation: I stuffed more sentence fragments and uncomfortable jpegs into the quickly metastasizing tumor of stuff-I-can’t-think-about in the back of my brain.
Eventually the tumor became quite unpleasant, and with the help of a bit of peer pressure I snapped. It’s been about 5 years since I last ate meat.
There are a bunch of really great animal activists out there, dedicating their lives to the billions of animals we torture each year. But there’s also a strong undercurrent of shaming and blaming that runs through some areas of the animal rights movement. Y’all probably know one or two–the article about how people who eat meat are selfish monsters who only care about themselves, the friend who won’t every really respect you again because of what you eat, the protests against vegetarian food makers because they still use butter and vegan-friendly supermarkets because they also have some meat, maybe even the relative who won’t go to family gatherings anymore because they’re too offended by a dish on the dinner table (even if they have plenty of vegan food to eat). They’re really fucking annoying.
I now think that some of what they’re saying is literally correct. I think it is true that eating meat causes a rather large amount of pain to exist, and that the trade-off you’re making is, roughly, two weeks of torturing a chicken for a slightly tastier meal. I’m sympathetic to the argument that it’s literally the worst thing happening in the world right now, and that 95% of the population is not just complicit but actively contributing to the crisis.
But about 90% of my friends eat meat, and they’re not bad people. They don’t hate animals, they care about others, they can be kind, smart, selfless, and considerate. This pretty much has to be true, unless you think that 95% of the people in the world are evil, irredeemable scumbags. It certainly has to be true unless I think that I am an evil, irredeemable scumbag, because for 28 years I ate meat, and I did so willingly, knowing what happened on factory farms; and I did it often, and with gusto.
Good people sometimes do bad things. Two hundred fifty years ago most of our country’s most celebrated men literally owned slaves and seventy five years ago one of our nation’s most celebrated presidents, as we sacrificed our army to help save millions of people against fascism in Europe and Asia, decided to intern an entire race in prison camps.
Good people sometimes do very bad things.
In 2012 we re-elected the nation’s first black president, who has presided over a period of large economic growth, a rehabilitation of the country’s image oversees, a smart expansion of intentional trade, and continued the steak of years-without-a-major-world-war. A president who viewed policy with nuance. A president who gave speeches filled with hope, and humility, and respect; and a president who, after finding out that he would be replaced with probably his least favorite major party presidential candidate in the last hundred years, consoled his staffers and spoke about the importance of helping moving on and helping ensure of peaceful and efficient transfer of power.
On November 8th we elected Donald Trump.
That really sucks. Who knows what Trump will be like as president, but as a candidate he expressed disdain and malice towards just about every everyone but himself, managing to find a set of policies that was somehow much worse that what either of the parties was running on, and showed no interest in maintaining the sinew of our government and democracy.
And on November 8th 47% of voters voted for him.
And I do sincerely believe that 47% of voters actively helped elect a really, really bad president. Someone who might ruin the lives of millions of immigrants because he thought it sounded good in a speech; someone who might desert the allies who need us the most because he either doesn’t care about them or cares less than he cares about seeming strong; someone who might do significant damage to the gains from trade and specialization of labor; someone who’s worked to incite hatred, discrimination, and xenophobia in the country because he thought it would help him get elected; someone who is, probably, a total douchebag. His presidency might turn out kinda ok, but that’s the best case scenario, and there’s a really, really long way down.
Many people I know, and many reporters and bloggers I read, are understandably pissed. They’re pissed at the 47% of people who seem like they might have been willing to vote for Voldemort; who did just voted for someone that expressed–at various points–disdain for Hispanics, women, immigrants, other countries, the president, his opponent, democracy, and just about everyone and everything else who had stood against him. Those voters, it seems, just declared themselves to be OK with qualities that you probably wouldn’t put up with in a friend.
But if we attribute to voters every flaw in those they support–if we accuse 47% of the country of holding minorities, women, immigrants, foreigners, and democracy in disdain because of who they voted for–then we are the ones who are OK with holding a large minority of the country in disdain, with considering their opinions worthless, their friendship unwanted, their right to vote suspect, and their citizenship unfortunate.
As implausible as this would have seemed years ago, Glenn Beck has lead the way with a compassionate and humble plea in the wake of the election.
Our country spent decades enslaving an entire race; years interning a nationality when the world needed tolerance they most; a hundred years denying women the right to vote; and centuries holding gays in contempt. I spent 28 years of my life responsible for torturing 30 animals each year so that I could eat chicken, as have most of my friends, and most of the world. And on Tuesday 47% of people voted for Trump. Sometimes good people do bad things. That doesn’t mean they’re evil.