Dear Kellyanne Conway

Dear Kellyanne,

I know you’re terribly busy, so let me begin by thanking you for taking the time to read this letter.

It’s hard to believe that only nine months have passed since Ted Cruz pulled out of the White House race. I can imagine it was a pretty big blow after all the effort and time you spent endorsing him.

The ads produced by your multi-million-dollar Political Action Committee (PAC) to ridicule Donald Trump hadn’t managed to dissuade the masses.

One of your commercials claimed he wasn’t a “real Conservative.” You even provided video evidence to back it up: footage from 1999, showing Trump expressing his support for late-term abortions.

You went on several television shows, arguing passionately that Trump was not fit for purpose. You accused him of intimidation. And you hounded him for refusing to publish his tax returns.

kellyanne_conway_by_gage_skidmore

Photo credit: Gage Skidmore Source: wikipedia

 

But nobody seemed to care about the facts.

Two months after Cruz quit, Trump became your boss.

It must have been terrifying.

And exhilarating.

Your journey to this point, you told NJ Advance Media in an article published last September (please correct me, if this is fake news) began when you were a teenager working at a farm in Hammonton, New Jersey.

You spent eight summers there, packing blueberries. And in every respect, you excelled.

You could reportedly pack 300 crates a day – a skill that ultimately helped you win the World Champion Blueberry Packing competition.

“The faster you went, the more money you’d make, you said.”I wouldn’t stop to drink for hours. I would just keep going.”

I’m not surprised you won. Years later, you seem equally indefatigable.

But packing blueberries is good work.

Knowingly selling rotten ones is not.

In a recent Tweet, you informed the world that you serve the “pleasure of @POTUS.” “His message is my message,” you wrote. “His goals are my goals.”

To a narcissist, there is no greater declaration of love. To anyone else, it reads as a cry for help.

Donald Trump has been forthright about his pleasures. In his own words, he is “automatically attracted to beautiful.”  As for his goals, here again, in his own words, is one he has admitted failing to achieve: “I did try and fuck her. She was married.”

His message is your message. His goals are your goals.

I wonder if this is the life you imagined for yourself as you were packing blueberries all those years ago.

Servitude and sycophancy.

Was this what you had in mind when you went to law school? Or later when you founded your own polling company?

You have many talents, Kellyanne. The most potent is your serpent’s tongue. With your glib and oily art, you can turn the truth into an alternative fact and back again, all in a matter of seconds. Your tricks might be easy to learn but they are difficult to employ because they rely on a trait exemplified by your administration but alien to most: shamelessness.

But please, please, please believe me when I say to you: you can do more.

You can do more than be ridiculed for failing at an impossible task: acting as a mouthpiece for a man whose own words and deeds make no sense, who operates only on whims, and whose extraordinarily thin skin needs constant massaging.

Never forget that Donald Trump is your inferior. He is less intelligent and less diligent.  He would never have had the stamina for packing blueberries  like you did. Had he entered the packing competition, you would have beaten him easily, even if he might later have claimed the contest was rigged.

When I think about the things you could do I get very sad. You could use your slick and artful oratory to challenge bigotry and hate. You could unravel the lies told by those in authority and give a voice to those who don’t have one. You could advocate for immigrants, for gay and transgender folk, for a woman’s right to bodily autonomy. You could be a role model, a person of substance.

But instead you elect to prop up a system rigged in favour of ignorance and fear.

History will be unkind to you. You will be described as the Goebbels of your time.

Here is a more frivolous example of what I mean.

When my boyfriend suspects me of bending the truth, he refers to me as Katzianne Conway.

It’s a joke. Still, it reveals an unpleasant truth: your name has become synonymous with lies.

All I want to say, Kellyanne, is that is never too late to do the right thing. The departure of just one of the high-ranking opportunists Trump has gathered around him could be enough to trigger the downfall of his administration.

And that, I believe would go some way towards Making America Great Again – a goal that for many people was bitterly redefined on January 20th.

Now, more than ever, your voice is needed. Your real one. The one you’ve buried deep inside you, where decency resides. The one you use when you look your children in the eye and tell them that everything will be alright.

That’s all I have to say.

Take care and good luck,

Kate Katharina

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Meat

Once upon a time, people thought black people should serve white people, gays should be killed and children should be seen and not heard.

Lots of people who thought that way were kind and charitable too. Among them were devoted husbands, loving wives and generous uncles.

It took hundreds of years for things to change. Now directors make films about Americans quarrelling about slavery, men loving men and sad, lonely children in big houses.

I think in the future, the films will be about charismatic vegans speaking out against factory farms.

Image Source: tmsfoodie.wordpress.com

Image Source: tmsfoodie.wordpress.com

This isn’t really a post about eating animals, but if you’re into that, I’d recommend reading Jonathan Safran Foer.

It’s about suffering caused by ordinary people.

Conditions for animals in farms the world over are so bad that watching a video about what goes on in ordinary farms almost makes me sick.

The suffering is so great you can barely even imagine it.

The animals we eat go through agony. The happiest moment is their death.

Most people know this in principle. They’ve seen the odd video about factory farming, read the occasional rant in favour of veganism and realised they’d feel pretty bad about eating their pet dog.

But they haven’t quite thought about it for long enough. Like me, they’ve turned off the videos when things get too uncomfortable and skimmed the final few paragraphs of those moralistic articles. They’ve conveniently and falsely associated the vegetarian/vegan diet with a hippy lifestyle, which they’re too busy paying taxes to support.

They’ve mistaken the argument against supporting sadistic cruelty with the one against eating meat at all. Some say “well, that’s the order of things” and others wear ironic t-shirts that say “Meat is murder. Tasty, tasty murder.”

Though I don’t eat meat, I’m not against it in principle. Having been a vegetarian for many years, the idea seems very strange to me, but should my health depend on it, I would go back to it. And I would sooner eat road-kill than a cheap burger. It is not the fact of the animal’s death that disgusts me, but the horror of the life it must endure.

The most important thing for me is to avoid contributing to needless, unimaginable suffering.

Living ethically is difficult. I’m no great example. Last week I bought six eggs from a lady with wild, white wiry hair selling her produce from a trailer. I made an omelette. Later when I looked carefully at the stamp on the remaining eggs, I saw that they had the second lowest rating for quality. I’d eaten eggs produced by hens kept in deplorable conditions.

Here in Germany, the “organic” industry is being rocked by a scandal of deception and mislabelling. It turns out that the expensive and well-sold “bio” products are not quite so bio after all.

According to my own principles, I should go vegan. I’ve thought about it and am held back by two factors: the fear that my health would suffer, and the high cost of animal substitutes designed for vegans.

Image source: www.change.org

Image source: http://www.change.org

The world we live in can seem farcical. I can follow the whims of celebrities across the world on Twitter, but I can’t tell you where my yoghurt came from.

I’ve lived in a city all my life. The only foods I’ve sourced have been blackberries from the garden, or the occasional potato at the bottom of the compost heap.

I am ignorant but not naïve. There is another way and it starts with widespread exposure to the horrors of modern farming. Looking away has always been the surest way of supporting what is immoral. Consumers of animal products have a moral obligation to find out about the industry they’re supporting.

The argument that everything is about profit has been brought to an immoral extreme in many industries, but in farming it has been bizarrely accepted.

Part of what makes humans put themselves on a pedestal above other animals is what many identify as a superior capacity for moral reasoning. The irony of that assumption in the context of the conditions allowed for meat production should not be overlooked.

I am no paragon of morality. But education and information have made me change my habits for the better. I’ve still far to go.

I firmly believe that the scale and depth of suffering being inflicted by humans on animals in our time will be the stuff of horror history documentaries in the future.

Our descendants will ask “How did people do nothing for so long?” They will consider us barbaric and sadistic. They will pity us for our immoral economy and greed. They will question how things went on for so long, even in a time of instant, mass communication.

None of that will happen soon. But give it a few hundred years, and people will say that among those who supported these practices were devoted husbands, loving wives, generous uncles, and even passionate pet-owners.

In defence of pigeons

People think it’s okay to be rude about pigeons because they’re clumsy, grey and ill-proportioned. But you’d never dream of talking about your grandparents like that. You’d never call them “flying rats” or “the scourge of the streets.” Even if they were part of a senior citizens’ drug gang, you’d probably find a way around it.

People think it’s okay to dismiss pigeons because they’re so common. But logically, most people are common too. Crowds flock to the zoo to see exotic birds like parrots and peacocks and pelicans. They stare into their cages with open mouths and say things like “would you look at those magnificent feathers” or “isn’t she a beauty?” meanwhile kicking the pigeon who has landed near their foot.

Last May, German daily Der Tagesspiegel published an excellent article in defence of the pigeon. The writer concluded that the bird had an “image problem” and dispelled many of the hateful myths associated with it. For one, pigeons don’t carry any more diseases than your average feathered friend. Their excrement is not as abundant as you think either. In Berlin, dogs produce 20,000 tonnes of poo a year. Pigeons, on the other hand, a measly 27. Pigeon expert Ludger Kamphausen claims the chance of picking up an infection from a flower pot containing mushrooms is higher than from a city pigeon.

This is nothing new. Birds have been maligned for not matching up to an aesthetic ideal for hundreds of years. Hans Christian Andersen’s The Ugly Duckling was published in 1843. It tells the story of a duckling who undergoes hardship because of its plain feathers, until one day it turns into a beautiful swan and is re-accepted into the community.

Here’s the thing though. It’s not pigeons that have the image problem, it’s society. We can blame it on evolutionary biology but it’s no excuse really. We think that if things are cute, they are good. And good things are more deserving. Take these two examples.

In 2007, Germany went crazy for a polar bear cub called Knut after he was rejected by his mother. He became an international phenomenon; books, DVDs, teddy bears and even songs were produced in his honour. After his untimely death, Spiegel Online ran an obituary of Knut which described him as an “innocent bear who enchanted millions.” A bronze statue was erected at the zoo in his honour.

Thousands visited Berlin to pay their respects to Knut. They mourned the loss of the bear while eating mass-produced pig meat which they bought from the hot dog stands nearby. Jonathan Safran Foer writes eloquently about this irrational behaviour in Eating Animals, which is worth a read whether or not you are a committed carnivore.

From Knut to Susan Boyle. Two years after Knut came on the scene, 47 year-old frumpy Scotswoman Susan Boyle appeared on TV talent show Britain’s Got Talent. The judges laughed at her and unfortunate members of the audience, whose faces have been immortalised on Youtube, scowled cruelly when she came on stage. Then she started to sing. She was very good and moved one of the judges to tears. They stopped laughing after that because Susan Boyle had compensated for the offence of not being conventionally attractive. She had talent, so her aesthetic shortcoming, or in other words the crime of looking like a normal person, would be quashed, pending a makeover as soon as she got a record deal.

The story of the Ugly Duckling and of Susan Boyle have been packaged as if they contain some moral message. But they tell us much more about society’s questionable collective morality than anything else. In the case of the Ugly Duckling, enduring years of hardship is rewarded by becoming beautiful and accepted. In the Susan Boyle saga, the message is that it’s possible to distract people from the obvious defect of not being glamorous by showcasing alternative accomplishments, like a beautiful voice or a talent for embroidery.

As for what Knut teaches us, it’s no more than the inconsistency pet-owners who eat meat recognise in themselves. We seem hard-wired to prefer things that look nice, but we’re also smart enough to know that acting on that bias goes against the equality mature societies strive for.

So next time you shoe a pigeon away while canoodling with a canary, think about whose feathers you’re really ruffling.