having faith in humanity

June 4, 2009 at 8:39 am (thinking)

“The better I get to know men, the more I find myself loving dogs.”  Charles de Gaulle

On the day that New Hampshire legalized gay marriage, I also read this article over at The Huffington Post. It is getting increasingly harder and harder for me to maintain my faith in humanity. Perhaps describing things as inhuman, such as radio hosts advocating psychological and physical violence toward transgender children, is the wrong way to think about it. Besides the fact that the pejorative “inhuman”  is an inherently speciesist term, especially given that apparently animals have moral codes, more and more I think perhaps kindness, sympathy, understanding, and acceptance are the “inhuman” traits.

Sometimes I think all the goodness in people comes from our animal ancestry, and whatever changed when we got opposable thumbs and developed frontal lobes and walking on two legs or whatever the heck else makes us different from our ancestors– that’s what’s wrong with us. There are just so many people doing awful things that I can’t help but feel that goodness is the aberration, and cruelty, hate, and violence are the norm for our species. Factory farming, callous environmental destruction, animal breeding for pleasure, terrorizing women and the people who help them, denying rights to those different than us, being assholes to kids (one host advocated beating a gay male child with high heeled shoes), shutting down state parks, an eight-year administration in this country based on fear, torture, and worldwide cowboy-swagger bullshit and the backlash against any sort of change to that, it is all so overwhelming.

It is hard to remember sometimes that there are green places in this world. It is hard sometimes to take a step back to think about the expression on a cat’s face when she rolls around in the sunshine, or remember that there are people who do have more love than hate inside them, that there are hopefully many more people who think those radio hosts are despicable rather than amusing. 

But then also there is the truth that even if you come home at night to a person who loves you, or people who love you, that you have something special and unique and you are lucky. No matter how many hugs you might get there is suffering out there of intense, unknowable magnitude–human and animal alike. And it seems like trying to make a difference is so abstract, so impossible, as to be laughable.

But it is not laughable, not if one person’s, or one animal’s, life is improved by kindness and love. Despair is unhealthy. It takes us to a place where we cannot act. But sometimes it is hard to fight, when you know there are people in the world who “look forward to when [transgender children] go out into society and society beats them down. And they wind up in therapy.” 

I need to be better about doing my part to make the world not suck quite so much.

*Update: over at the Post Punk Kitchen the thread on this topic generated this letter by one of my favorite posters:

Dear every right-wing goon in the country:

It cannot be deduced from the pleasurable feelings you experience while producing or listening to this garbage that what you’re enjoying is comedy.

Instead, you are delighting in a vicious desire for violence directed against people you hate. That’s not a sense of humor, it’s a character defect.

Please stop pretending that what you’re doing is funny.

Love,
Everybody else

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