5.3
April 5, 2019

Why I’m Tired of hearing about Animal Rights.

 

I couldn’t sleep the other night, so I started rereading an old article I wrote about America’s unwillingness to do much to help the poor.

That topic seems to put our apathetic society as a whole to sleep, so I thought it might help me nod off.

I didn’t find sleep like I hoped. In fact, my mind began racing in the still of the night, and I had an epiphany instead.

Lying there staring at nothing in the dark, I finally realized what it is that irks me about gun rights advocates. I know what you’re thinking…how on Earth did this nut leap from feeding the poor to guns?

Well, they’re linked in my mind. It’s about priorities.

We get terribly bent out of shape about guns, ranting and raving and shouting passionately at each other. Both sides do this; the gun control advocates are every bit as bad.

It’s not just guns, either. Pick another hot button issue like abortion. Good lord, if you want to see an amateur sh*t show of a fistfight, complete with plenty of biting and slapping and kicking and scratching, just let a right-to-life and a right-to-choose protest group get too close to one another without a few cops to hold them apart.

Hell, even animal rights stirs plenty more emotion than human suffering from poverty. If you don’t believe me, walk through a PETA march wearing a fur coat.

After you recover from your injuries and get out of the hospital, try walking through a feed-the-poor rally with your fat gut hanging out, eating a big ole, super-sized submarine sandwich. You probably see where I’m going with this, and as funny as it might be to tell you you’d swagger right through unscathed, the reality is even more pathetic.

I’m actually sending you on a snipe hunt; there’s no such thing as a feed-the-poor rally, because we don’t give enough of a sh*t about the poor to rally around them. Hell, forget rallying—most of us would rather step right over homeless people lying on our sidewalks than lift so much as a finger to help them.

If my somewhat ludicrous examples about protest marches don’t do much to convince you that I’m making a valid point, I have a real-life example that might.

I used to work as fundraising director for a homeless shelter in Hawaii, a thankless job advocating for those who truly have no voice. I had a small staff who were thanked even less than I.

One was responsible for entering donations into our database and sending out acknowledgment notes. He wasn’t very busy—shocking, right?—except near the end of the year when we’d get a few more last-minute tax write-off gifts, so I sent him to this training and that and tried to involve him in other little projects to use his talents.

One of these projects involved helping our volunteer coordinator make arrangements for some group we were hosting. One day, as they were working together on logistics for this event, I overheard a conversation.

“My husband is a Gifts Processor just like you,” said the volunteer coordinator, “only he’s so swamped entering gifts for the animal shelter he’d never have time to help out on any other projects.”

“Really? That’s crazy,” came our gifts guy’s dumbfounded reply.

“Oh, yeah. As a matter of fact, he’s so far behind they just hired a second gift entry person.”

“Wow!”

Wow is right, I thought, slinking over to join the discussion.

Probing a bit, I extracted more information that led me to believe the animal shelter was bringing in substantially more donation revenue than we were at the homeless shelter. Later, I pulled a copy of their annual report from their website that confirmed my assumption.

As if I needed more evidence that I wasn’t very effective at raising money to help Hawaii’s cleverly-concealed-by-its-marketing-machine-yet-crisis-level-nonetheless homeless problem, I now had to face the hard truth that my office was being lapped by some mutts. It didn’t seem to matter how many stories we told about homeless children going to school hungry or not going at all; those images of sickly looking dogs were simply far more impactful.

When Oahu was threatened by an approaching hurricane a few months later, all the animal shelter had to do to be deluged by its own flood of donations large enough to win its fundraising team an award at the annual fundraisers’ meeting was share a photo of a soggy dog standing helplessly in a downpour. Our 400 or so residents could have floated to sea using their army-issue cots as life rafts and our meager fundraising efforts wouldn’t have been met with anything approaching that outpouring of support.

I’m trying hard not to judge and to interject a bit of humor, but I still struggle to understand why. Even my social media feeds are regularly filled with posts imploring me to adopt a pet, yet I don’t recall ever seeing a single plea about feeding the poor.

Maybe someone mentioned passing out turkeys at Christmas, but I guess they figure those degenerates can fend for themselves the rest of the year. Lord knows homeless people put themselves in this position by making bad choices anyway—insert eye roll—let them figure their own way out of it.

I certainly get helping oneself and one’s own family first. That is, and should be, our number one priority.

But don’t most of us have everything we need and then some? Sure, we might be driving an older car than we’d like, but we have plenty of food and stylish enough clothes and a warm bed and at least some small amount of money left over every month for leisure or to put away for a rainy day if we’re smart.

As I see it, the basics are covered and then some. Once that’s the case, it’s time, both as individuals and as a nation, to do what we can to help the poor among us.

If we don’t start getting serious about doing that, we may find ourselves among them one day soon. Even with those basics covered, the reality of the new American middle class is a paycheck-to-paycheck existence as we struggle to keep our financial heads above water and maintain our precarious position in that middle class.

In December 2017, The Washington Post reported in this enlightening story that “the top 1 percent of households own more wealth than the bottom 90 percent combined.” The story outlines extreme wealth and income inequality that’s getting worse every year—not the kind of normal inequality capitalist societies expect.

This disparity snowball careening downhill may very well swallow many more of us up in the coming years if we don’t start addressing poverty both with individual action and sweeping policy change. Forgetting my moral arguments and approaching the issue purely from a standpoint of self-interest, the likely outcome of continuing to turn our backs is that wealth will further concentrate over many decades into fewer and fewer hands.

What happens then? I don’t know; too bad Marie Antoinette isn’t around to ask.

National security is the only issue that should top tackling extreme poverty on our list of priorities. Gun rights and animal rights and abortion rights and every other cause du jour should take a back seat to first making our citizens safe and then figuring out a way to provide basic necessities to as many of them as possible.

It shouldn’t even be such a hard sell; it’s both the logical and compassionate choice. In a country that so often conveniently moralizes enacting many strange pieces of restrictive legislation, I’m baffled as to why we aren’t able to pull the morality card in the one instance where it might actually be justified in order to advance some major reforms that could really help our poorest citizens.

Looking back, most every negative thought I’ve ever had about guns wasn’t really much about guns at all. I don’t give a damn about taking anyone’s guns.

I’m just pissed off no one seems to care about, or even acknowledge, this issue that’s so much more important to the prosperity of our entire country. Whether we see it or not, we’re measured not only by the greatness of our highest achievements, but also by the disappointment of our lowest failures.

Have all the guns you want if you’re a responsible citizen. Stockpile an arsenal.

But, Jesus Christ, would it kill you—would it kill any of us—to get even one-tenth as fired up about getting poor people off the streets as we do about all these other issues? None of them cut to the core of our humanity or pose a threat to our democracy like poverty does.

Consequently, none of them deserve higher priority attention.

Otherwise, our demise may well come from within our own carefully maintained borders—the predictable and avoidable outcome of our selfish refusal to give those on the bottom rung just a small sliver of pie and the hope that comes with it.

author: Chuck Miller

Image: Nick Fewings/Unsplash

Image: Elephant Journal on Instagram

Editor: Kelsey Michal

Reply to Rohan Rishi cancel

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carolineherda Apr 10, 2019 5:38pm

Spot on! Iv gone around and around with this myself and what I have concluded is empathy is only given if others feel they are truly a victim. People feel animals are 100% a victim as they are in shelters do to no fault of their own. People on the other hand people feel the homeless are on the street because of their own doing. They don’t see them as victims so their is no empathy. I read a great artical about a study where they had people read three stories. All three stories were the same with one exception the characters, one with a animal one with a child and one with a adult. When asked to rate how sorry they felt for the characters most if not all felt empathy for the dog, some for the child and none for the adult. Then they asked why, they all said the adult had control and was suffering because of their bad decisions or choices.

John bates Apr 6, 2019 5:09pm

First there are some good comments made and I agree to some degree with most.

Secondly, playing devils advocate to some degree I suppose. There are huge numbers of people that are homeless and living at or below poverty level. Some take welfare help and some do not by choice. Welfare and assistance is a two sided coin. There is a large number of people that once getting welfare or assistance stop looking to improve or better themselves because, what the heck, someone else will give me money and food and I don’t need to work as hard or I don’t need to work at all. Mind you, there ARE people that are doing everything they can and still need help. I am not opposed to giving a hand up to anyone, but that doesn’t mean I want to support another individual who truly just doesn’t want to better themselves and be productive. I believe what this country needs is a complete reform of its welfare system. This is needed before we provide AID to other countries. But people also need to understand that welfare is a helping hand not a job.

Keep in mind that of those homeless people there are some that have mental illnesses that go uncared for. And if you really look at helping that group of homeless people then you will need to look at mental health in the US and how there are many people regardless of level of living that do not receive the care and help they need or ask for.
Just my two cents.

R. Apr 6, 2019 9:20am

Nicely done. Housing elicits strong emotion. A problem so vast is easy to feel small and helpless before. Property prices in the UK are absurd. And we see such bad ideas in public about the efficacy of Policy, it’s tough to balance wanting to different from those who bought the bubble and bust the market. Being homeless is far down a long spiral of opinion these days.

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Chuck Miller

Though some readers may have the impression I only recently began writing, I’ve actually been at it for quite awhile. I started by writing about the niche topic of strength training all the way back in the 1990s. It was the one thing I knew the most about, so that’s the one on which I cut my teeth.

 

I wrote for two popular magazines. Anybody remember magazines? They were printed on this stuff called paper. We used to write on it. With pens and pencils. Ah never mind. The magazines I wrote for were called HARDGAINER and MILO, and I’m still proud of those articles. They contained some really great training instruction.

 

When HARDGAINER ceased publication in 2004, I stayed in touch with its intensely private publisher, Stuart McRobert, and hounded him for over a decade to grant me an interview. When he finally relented, we found enough material to publish a book in 2016. That book is called Inside the Mind of an Iron Icon, and writing it fulfilled one of my big life goals. I wish everyone would buy it and train with weights as it advises.

 

Strength training is the only thing I wrote about for a long time, but then my precious daughter, Ruby, died. My heart was broken and I needed an outlet, so I started grief blogging. My blog is called Roo-minations. Get it? Catchy, right?

 

I don’t even know where those words came from, but they’re some of my best. They reached a fair number of people too (27,000 and counting), and they gave me confidence that maybe I had something to say on some new topics.

 

Then I started writing essays. I just wrote about any subject that inspired me and sent my words off to see if anyone would publish them. To my surprise, a few websites did. I wrote about a conversation I had with a kid from Estonia I met on a bus in Honolulu. The kind folks at Elephant Journal thought that was an interesting exchange and published it. I wrote about how to be happy, even though I’m really grumpy. They liked that one too. I told people to say “I Love You” to people they love. They thought that was a good idea, and they published it.

 

I learned a whole lot from my daughter in just a few short years. I wrote an article on the lessons she taught me about how we can all be nicer to each other. They thought she was pretty smart, so they published that one, too. Over 7,500 people who agreed with them read it and made it one of my most successful. Thanks Roo for being so smart and making dad look good!

 

I wrote about homeless people and they published that. Not as many people read it, but they should. Even when some stuff wasn’t as widely read, I kept on writing because I love to write. Thought Catalog was gracious enough to run my ramblings on a strange dream I had about karma and a lost love and a disastrous job search and an all day search for my coffee creamer.

 

You get the idea. I found a voice, and I started using it to rant, to try to do some good, to make you laugh, and to make you cry. I love the feeling I get on those rare occasions when someone tells me my words had an effect.

 

My latest writing venture is a children’s picture book that’s beautifully illustrated by Jacob Below. It’s called Will Little Roo Ever…?, and it’s about a little girl with developmental delays who’s struggling to catch up to her peers. It’s inspired by my daughter, but it’s not entirely her story. It’s my take on the emotional journey of every child and family who finds themselves in a similar situation. I hope the story empowers children and comforts parents.