Derby Day in All Its Loathsomeness

I believe in animal rights, albeit I despise groups like PETA that blow small truths out of proportion and generalize entire industries.  I feel like PETA takes it about twenty steps too far.  However, I can’t help but to acknowledge some of the points the activists make and some of the faults they do manage to uncover.

3276.Peta_HorsePoster_Mulranen_RGB.jpg-550x0

It’s May, and so the hot topic has been Derby Day.  I was never a fan of Derby Day because I associated it with cruelty towards horses, thanks to my mom’s standpoint growing up.  But my friend challenged my opinions on derby racing when I came to Cleveland.  We were getting gelato in Little Italy a couple Kentucky Derby’s ago and I was appalled by the gaggles of city people lined up to watch a 2-minute race around a track.  I grew up with horses.  My first job was in the stables.  My mom rides western with me and paid for dressage lessons when I was younger.  I understand the deep relationship one builds with a horse and how one should respect these beasts, all their power, and realize how much work it takes to care after one.  Sitting in that room with those Clevelanders, I knew none of them knew the first thing about horses.  How could city people care so much about a dumb race?  I’d never seen people at home pay attention at the bar when the screen was on.  I remember sitting in Sharky’s one year and everyone was more fascinated by the Pirates and Orioles baseball recaps.  And is my mom right about the cruelty that those animals undergo?  I decided to look into it further.

One of my good friends from home actually owns an eighth of a race horse.  Yet her family doesn’t care about the races, just about the bets and the money it brings in.  I decided first to search about what makes the Derby so exciting and if anyone else feels the same sort of animosity towards it as I do.  I came across a post on Angelfire called “The Kentucky Derby Really is Decadent and Depraved”.  I feel like the author makes some good points.  For example, a quote on what makes it so popular:

“I despise the Derby for the same reason I despise 21st Century R&B and 2001: A Space Odyssey. They thrive by circulating so much hype around nearly non-existent substance until the hype becomes the substance. Of course what I call “hype,” Derby fans call “tradition. … Let’s not forget that all this tradition comes from the Deep South. Yup, from the countryside that brought you cotton plantations, the Confederacy, country music, and grits comes little men riding big horses in a circle for less than two minutes. Sell hot dogs in the stands and whiskey at the bar and you can garner enough fat alcoholics with no real lot in life to become obsessed with it. Instant tradition.”

This would explain why so many Clevelanders seem hooked at the bars and over social media.  They don’t care about the actual event, it’s just about the bets, the celebrities, the stupid meaningless stuff – and the hype.  To confirm this opinion, I read a few blogs and recaps from Derby parties.  Nearly every single commentary was the same.  People might add a comment like “Those hoses are so pretty and strong!”, but mostly it was blathering on about mint julepsoverdone outfits, and southern tradition.  PAH-LEASE.  Even PETA recognizes this.  I love the introduction from the PETA Files, which sums up my sentiments perfectly:

“There is a certain kind of person, it seems, who enjoys dressing up like a deranged escapee from some historical theme park and swilling mint juleps just to watch horses run around a dirt track for a couple of minutes.”

So, with the mystery of the hype solved enough for my satisfaction, I now began to wonder if my mom was ever out of line for finding horse racing cruel towards animals.  I asked her last week if she thinks PETA over exaggerates.  She agrees they do, but that they have some truths that shouldn’t be ignored.  Maybe some animal cruelty situations are localized, but the point is they still exist and that horse racing still supports it.  Searching some more, I found another person sharing bitter feelings about a party she attended in Maine with people who knew nothing about the race but supported the hype and didn’t blink once at the thought of what happens to the losing horses after the race.  She describes this night in “Why I Hate the Kentucky Derby”, where her date casually informed her that the losers from the race she watched would be sent to slaughter for the meat industry.  She even recaps the life of the horse who won that day, Real Quiet, and mourns his death as not a steak but as a tired breeding stallion whose genes were used to continue the age-old tradition.  I was still skeptical of tales of stun guns and horse meat until I watched some videos of horses being stunned and of trucks driving hours on end to take horses across the border.  Furthermore, the disappointed date provided an article from William C. Rhoden of the New York Times which seems legitimate enough for me:

“The most significant source of racehorse deaths is the slaughter industry, one driven by overbreeding and demand from the lucrative global meat market. According to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, more than 100,000 American horses are slaughtered each year in Canada and Mexico to satisfy horse meat markets in Europe and Asia.

Breeding operations produce thousands of so-called surplus thoroughbreds. What happens to the excess, the often anonymous horses? Some are sold to owners who take them overseas. Some wind up racing in Japan. Some wind up in slaughterhouses.”

PETA claims 80% of people are opposed to horse slaughter in the US, yet it evidently continues to happen.  PETA also reads of endless statistics about horse breeding, horse deaths, poor animal treatment, and all of those things I don’t have to bore you with.  My main point – which I think I’ve made – is that Derby Day is a loathsome event, yet so many people blindly worship.  I find it pathetic.  I believe in knowing what I support and, if these sheep weren’t so ignorant, I should hope they wouldn’t support it as well.  Alas, ignorance and stubbornness, the leading follies of humankind.

So all you Team Derby people out there, have fun dressing up, choking on mint juleps, and pretending to be southern for a day while you lose your money along with the life of your bet horse.

 

Advertisements

Where American Desensitization Does and Doesn’t Lack

For anyone who might not know, desensitization is quite literally being no longer sensitive to something.  It is a hot topic in the modern world.  There is growing concern in America for how desensitized the younger generations are becoming.  However, I see this fear as slightly ironic; for whilst we are becoming desensitized to some matters, we are hypersensitive to others.

I’d like to argue that our desensitization began with the World Wars.  Media became a huge part of society.  Women, blacks, veterans, even prohibitionists… people were standing out in ways they hadn’t before to make their points and make them heard.  Kids and young adults whose family arose from so much poverty, warfare, and other turmoil were ready to let go.  Then there came the age of Rock and Roll – the perfect cure.  A remedy to the youth, but a curse to the older generations who were clinging to their Bibles and traditions and morals.

This divergence in society is much like the bipartisan divide of our political views.  Conservatives and liberals.  Elvis Presley woke the generations to the sounds of a music revolution.  His successors included Jimmy Hendrix and Janis Joplin.  No longer was it sound and trends that were shocking the culture, but now we passed through a Hippie era with an openness to drug abuse, drinking, letting loose, and noncommittal sex.  Parents cringed at this, and understandably so.  But cracking down on such behavior only enticed rebellious attitude and an association of “coolness” with anarchy-inspired trains of thought.  Self-harm.  Harming others.  Global conflict plastered across kid’s TVs on their video games.

We have looked for a way out of our old lives and flung it into the open.  The media has snatched it up like it does with anything and accelerated this movement.  Kids are glued to TV and the Internet, exposed to global horrors and social degrade faster than our grandparents could have ever imagined.  But now we try to protect them.  We fought for our freedoms in this country, but now we are trying to contain the personal expression we’ve allowed ourselves to utilize in the past.

Cues Hypersensitivity.

“You can’t teach kids that in school!” or “You can’t teach just one perspective!  You have to teach them all.”  “Treat women like equals!  Sexism is a thing of the past!” then “Don’t give women special treatment because that’s sexist!”  These are just some examples.  Basically, POLITICAL CORRECTNESS.  It is sooo dumb.  I could say, “It is sooo retarded” and someone would have a fit.  You can’t say this word, you can’t say that word.  You can’t call someone that name, but they can say that word.  You’re going to hurt someone’s feelings.  Do you want me to hold your hand too?  I mean, people get upset about things that don’t even relate to them!  They take offense in things that don’t bother the people who are actually affected!

Check out this article: http://bleacherreport.com/articles/296783-the-wussification-of-america-how-hypersensitivity-distorts-perception

As the author states, “We have become so damn sensitive in our continued pursuit of equality that we are beginning to tip the scales toward isolative advantage for the easily offended.”  And it’s so true.  But, how could it be then we are so desensitized and hypersensitive at once?

It’s all interrelated, I think.  It’s all about freedom.  It’s all about expression.  It’s all about manners and how we present ourselves in society.  And a lot of it has to do with how the media reacts to certain tidbits of information and how it regurgitates others.  The cure?  There may not be one.  This divergence might continue until it is a division.  But, in the meantime, we can strive to practice full openmindedness, avoid judgment and hypocrisy, and not take personal offense to someone practicing his or her freedom of speech which we have struggled to protect for each and every last one of us.

Fear not the future and have faith in the country to which you have chosen to devote yourself in exchange for your freedoms, freedoms which you should protect for your own sake as well as others.  Peace.