On Petitions and Grizzly Bear “Actors”
The proposed budget cut in the State of Florida that would have involved a dramatic reduction in funds for foster youth and emancipated foster youth has been rejected, in part (from what my contacts tell me) due to the overwhelming response from Floridians, like me, who signed a petition and called legislators to register their discontent. Over 2,500 people signed the petition! my contact enthusiastically reported.
That doesn’t seem like a lot to me, considering the millions of people since I became an "animal rights activist" in 1986, who signed petitions to stop the seal slaughter. And who continue to sign.
I have had numerous petition experiences with positive outcomes when the issue had to do with humans, and particularly if it was an election year. I signed a petition a couple of years ago to ban gestation crates (yes, that was me, thinking the elimination of gestation crates would lead to veganism, mea culpa, mea culpa), and I know that similar welfare reforms that are a win-win-win (allegedly) have succeeded.
However, I have yet to see a petition produce any change that I would campaign for. (And I welcome suggestions, as it’s not as if I have a list in front of me so I could be missing something.) It makes sense that no abolitionist measure would come from a petition, as the economic reasons underlying the use of animals will always prevail, for now. And then there’s the reality that legislators are supported by the animal-exploitation industrial complex.
The fact that it only takes a couple of seconds to sign a petition isn’t a plus, in my mind. Everyone knows it’s a no-risk venture, it takes virtually no time, there’s no commitment attached to it, and no money. It does make a statement when delivered, I’m sure, particularly if it has hundreds of thousands of names on it (or even thousands, as with the Florida budget petition). But how strong can that statement be when it took so little to create it (especially if it was created on the Internet)?
When I first started working with nonprofits and raised the meager $3,000 it would take to go, with two other teachers, to Haiti to deliver medical and school supplies in 1991 (can you say coup d’etat? And debacle?), I was given a bit of advice I’ll never forget. I was collecting clothing to bring to the children and amassed so much I had to ask the people in the community to stop sending me clothing and give it to a certain local church that served homeless children. A nun at the church wasn’t surprised by all of the clothing. She said (after she expressed her gratitude): "That’s what you get in middle class neighborhoods. They give you clothing–and anything else they don’t want–and they sign petitions. That’s what they think supporting a cause is. Just don’t ask them to do anything that would actually cost them something."
A nun said this. Ouch.
This is probably me being cynical again, but I have the old-school notion in my mind that when you believe in something and you want to change the way things are, there must be sacrifice. I don’t find in this lifetime that you get something for nothing. And I find it difficult to believe that massive social change of the variety I’d like to see is going to come from signing petitions.
But I could be wrong.
I already know what some of you think because you e-mailed me and made me want to write this post, and I thank you. I suspect a lot of people will disagree with what I’ve written.
But I could be wrong.
Finally, I was going to post about "Hollywood Grizzly Bear Kills Trainer," but I have little to say other than: What did you expect?