There's this statistic I encounter every so often about how conservatives donate so much more money to charity than progressives. I guess it must be true since there's supposedly hard data to back it up, but I wonder how much religion pays a role. After all, conservatives tend to be more religious than liberals, and donations to churches count as tax-deductible charitable contributions. Mormons, for instance, are expected to donate 10% of their income to the church. That's a lot of charity.
That's a lot of charity even for me personally, considering that I started paying tithing before I turned eight. When I was a poor college student with a part-time job, after I wrote that big monthly check the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, I didn't feel like I had a lot of money left over to give to other organizations.
When I quit going to church and could give specific amounts to specific groups, I found that I favored organizations that took care of animals. But instead of saying, "Well, I care a lot about animal welfare, so I'm going to give money to groups dedicated to that," it was was more like I figured out that I cared a lot about animals because I preferred donating to the Humane Society over writing a check to the Red Cross. It's not like I never give money to organizations dedicated to taking care of people; I just give more to groups focused on animals.
For a while, one of the organizations I supported was PETA. I was never vegan or anything like that, but I wanted to support groups even more progressive than I am because I wanted to push the conversation further to the left. But then PETA got too weird and annoying, and like pretty much everyone else, I just started ignoring them.
But last week a link to the PETA website showed up on Facebook. There was a photo of a tabby cat, zipped up in a little blue bag that immobilized it, with a horrible metal contraption on its head. There were photos and explanations of what was deliberately done to this poor cat in the labs of the University of Wisconsin Madison. There was the absolutely shocking revelation that these photos were recent and the not at all shocking revelation that PETA had to file a lawsuit to force UW to release them--the school was smart enough to know how much outrage and horror the photos would generate. There was the fact that experiments like these are currently being supported by large grants.
There was a video, which I could not watch beyond the first 30 seconds, but I could listen, and by the end, I was sobbing. And after it was over, I couldn't stop crying. I won't go into a lot of detail, because I don't want to trigger anyone (though if you are easily triggered you should probably stop reading now), but what was done to this cat was so very, very cruel, and it went on for MONTHS. The day before I read that, I had seen an awful story about people using dogs and cats as sharkbait. There were horrible photos of young dogs with massive hooks through their snouts. The spectacle made me sick when I saw it, and at the time I thought about how awful the last few hours of the poor animal's life would be: from the insertion of the hook to either drowning or being eaten by a shark would be a matter of several very painful, terror-filled hours. It's horrible and unforgivable. But it still beats month after month of surgery and recovery and having big pieces of metal drilled into your eyes and brain and being maimed by chemicals and being starved every so often so you'll cooperate with whatever nasty behavioral experiment these people with complete control over your existence decide to subject you to.
For days after I saw this cat's story I would start crying every time I thought of it. It woke me up at night. It sill upsets me. I'm crying right now, actually. If you're squeamish and or tender-hearted when it comes to animals, don't click on this link to the video and so forth, but do please click on this link to a petition asking the National Institute of Health to stop funding these horrible experiments.
There's so much cruelty and suffering in the world but there's something about the utter helplessness of these animals that people occasionally choose to torture that really gets to me. It's that power differential that makes it so appalling and so wrong. I'm sure that's part of why Jesus said that adults who intentionally harm children are so culpable that they'd be better off cast into the sea with a millstone about their necks.
And it's well known that people who end up torturing other human beings often start out practicing on animals. I guess they have to start out with creatures whose ability to fight back is very limited before they work their way up to someone of their own size and species.
Speaking of which, here's something else I found on Facebook last week, an analysis of another form of training for torture: childhood bullying. More specifically, it's about the sort of bullying that took place at Cranford School, the private prep school where Mitt Romney bullied his classmates. This graduate of the institution concludes that "You can't be schooled for power in that kind of school and forget."
And to round out the week, I watched Beneath Hill 60, a terrific Australian movie from 2010 about World War I. As I believe I have mentioned here, I have a thing for World War I: it was so tragic and pointless and traumatic and transformative. I really do recommend the movie: the plot was interesting (and based in truth), the writing good, the performances strong. But it was just one more thing that made me cry in a week where I'd done too much of that.