Friday, April 4, 2014

Afflicting the comfortable...

is part of a phrase I like that describes one of the effects of a protest on behalf of victimized Earthlings. A second part of the phrase is "...comforting the afflicted". I didn't know the author until doing some research via the magic of the internet. It is attributed to a fellow named Finley Peter Dunne who was writing about the power of newspapers (according to the wikipedia article). You can read some of his writing online if you want.

OKC circus protest...3-29-2014

This past weekend saw the Shriner's circus make their swing through Oklahoma City and because of the efforts of a few dedicated folks in the area a group of us got together to ensure that the event didn't happen without some accurate information being presented to those attending.

Standing and holding up a sign while car after car goes past gives you a lot of time to think. I noticed that many people would stare intently at the signs and the protesters. After awhile the whole experience became a little surreal (we stood at the entrance before the start of 3 scheduled shows). Having that many people staring at you while moving by must be a little bit like what happens to the prisoners in wonder they often appear to be bored and spaced out.

Many looked disturbed as they drove by and that's when it occured to me that one of the things we wanted to happen is described by that phrase "afflicting the comfortable". It just is not ok for something based on fear and pain and confinement and misery to happen and that happening be promoted and publicized as a happy, festive event without some countering voice. Challenging culturally supported distortions, lies and untruths is an obligation we all share. At least that's what I believe. Protesting on behalf of circus prisoners kicks a cultural fantasy in a tender place (reality). is another way of trying to say something "well enough".

Some people honked, some gave a thumbs up, some stopped and took literature we were passing out, most ignored us but some shouted some really really peculiar things. One fellow shouted out that he was a hunter and liked to kill animals. Someone noticed that this same shouter had a confederate flag sticker on his bumper. Killing the innocent and support for human slavery do seem to go together. The most interesting yelling came from a disturbed looking older woman who shouted at us to "get a job, get a real job". It struck me that maybe she was saying that if people were enslaved intensely enough by their work then they wouldn't be objecting to anything...much less cruelty. Maybe that's true.

While driving up to the first protest last Saturday I found my self getting sadder and sadder and what I realized that this was a sad sad thing. What is done to the elephants and tigers and lions and all the other prisoners of that circus is sad, that such things can be done is sad and saddest of all is that the great majority of us see nothing sad at all about it. And rarely does anyone object.

But we did and in the midst of all that sadness something very uplifting and happy making occurred. I met some people who seem to feel very much like I do about hurting others...and that was exciting and nearly giddy making. Several of us talked about why we were there and why we were vegan and it felt phenomenal to know there were others (besides the very very few that I know or have met) who felt much like I did.

That was a very unexpected bonus. The only other AR protests I've participated in were organized by Mercy For Animals and they were fine and welcome but they were also very scripted and, I don't know, sort of stilted or something. They weren't homegrown like this one was nor was there much interaction between the folks that showed up to object to how we treated our fellow Earthlings. This one was all Okie, and the fine folks that pulled it together, who put together the signs, who coordinated the where, when and how were energetic young people from Norman and OKC and Edmond and Yukon and Midwest City and and. It was, in those respects, just fantastic...even though what caused it was not a good or happy thing (a circus "using" living beings without their consent).

So. The bad (a circus) resulted, in an odd way, in a good...a little convocation of rather like-minded human animals and that was an enjoyable and lovely aspect to what was/is an otherwise bleak and sad and dismal thing (harming those with less power). One of the young women there was quite vocal and would ask people to not take their children to see cruelty or ask them if they wanted literature. She was quite energetic and managed to never tump over into being obnoxious or objectionable. One loud remark that came out of her cracked me up, enough so that I smile as I write about it, she shouted at someone: "Do you want to see me hug a tree?" That was a gem.

I'm very very grateful to everyone who came out and participated, to everyone who helped in ways small and large. We didn't stop any cruelty, but we were there and we spoke out...and somewhere....somehow...maybe those prisoners in that circus knew they weren't totally surrounded by humans who could care less what they felt but there were some who objected to what was being done to them. And maybe that was a small, very small, plus for them. And even if it wasn' least some of the comfortable had a taste of discomfort.

Want to do your part to help? Go vegan...and...if you get the chance (or can make the chance) go protest. Maybe somehow...someway...those for whom you protest will know...and...for certain you will know that you didn't stay silent when faced with injustice. And that's a good thing.


Anonymous said...

Way to go!!!! I have done many an elephant-in-circus protest! We in Winnipeg finally got these circuses banned. Yes!!!

Christina said...

You might not have stopped any cruelty but you made at least 1 person think about it. That is a good thing.

Shouting and bragging about killing animals is the weirdest behavior. I don't get that at all and thank goodness I don't.

I took my nephew to the circus once, when he was small. Awareness came over me all of a sudden while watching the elephants give rides to little kids. I vowed to never go again.

Have Gone Vegan said...

Good for you! But yeah, I can imagine that it would feel a bit like being in the zoo yourself.

And good that many look disturbed. At least they may think a bit more about what they're doing and why. As for those yelling rude things, sounds like you really rattled their cages, snort. And you never know, they may be the ones who feel most guilty, and perhaps will one day take the leap.

Sounds like you had a great group there. Maybe you can meet up again for future protests?

veganelder said...

Thank you for commenting DEM, Christina and HGV.

DEM: Hooray for y'all! That's a terrific thing you did...thank you!

Christina: True, first the thinking and then the changing. Good for you both for the awareness and the vowing.

HGV: Yes, here's hoping the disturbed did some thinking differently about the victims. Future protests are a definite possibility.

Bea Elliott said...

I like this grass-roots, home-spun group too! Rather than a big "outside" group, it was fellow neighbors urging the rest of the community to wake up. It certainly must count more when your peers have taken the leap towards kindness and sanity.

I know what you mean about watching people watch you. Last Ringling protest I did I also saw something else while watching circus patrons. On at least three instances I witnessed a joyful reuniting of families. You could tell they were grandparents, toddlers, sisters, new babies - All kin in assorted mixes. I wondered then as they exchanged hugs, kisses and other affections, how can we make them see that every quick-bit of their momentary celebration is had at the cost of denying others family bonds for a life time? These humans were so very blissfully happy. They were for the most part drunk in their own joy. And there could have been a thousand of us protesters and they still would have remained comfortably unaffected.

Others know the issues all too well. They are openly hostile. Defensive. Abusive. "I bet your shoes are leather!" "Get a life." "They're only animals! Go protest an abortion clinic!" And the unforgettable: "You commie-fag, hippie, b*tch!" (sigh)

But then --- There are the few who willingly take fliers and who ask questions. Even those who attended last year's circus but who now held signs this year. Yep, it's true!

I admire all you wonderful advocates at the OKC circus protest. Yes afflict the comfortable in as many ways as you can. It all matters! ;)

veganelder said...

Thank you for commenting Bea. You mention:"...the few who are willing to take fliers and who ask questions."

I think protesters are the means of giving permission for questions to be asked. "It all matters!" Yes.