On the weekend Lou was killed, I was attending a conference at Wesleyan University entitled “Finding a Niche for ALL Animals.” Sponsored by Wesleyan Animal Studies; the College of the Environment; the Ethics in Society Project; the Feminist, Gender, and Sexuality Studies Program; the Center for the Study of Public Life; and the Philosophy Department at Wesleyan University as well as the Animals & Society Institute and Feminists for Animal Rights, the conference brought together scholars and activists to honor and carry forward the ecofeminist ideas of friend-of-the-sanctuary Marti Kheel, who died last year.
I spoke on the “Feminist Ethics of Care” panel, and sanctuary Board of Directors member lauren Ornelas described the work of the Food Empowerment Project on the panel about “Contextual Moral Veganism.” Throughout the conference, discussion was lively and thoughtful. The mood was upbeat even though we were mourning Marti’s death and confronting emotionally wrenching topics.
Lou, all weekend, people kept asking me about you.
Lou, so many people tried so sincerely to stop those other people from killing you.
I arrived back at the Sanctuary on Sunday, enthused and energized by the experience. Seeing my face, Aram knew:
“You didn’t get the news?”
Oh, Lou. Nobody but Bill knew you.
Those people who said they loved you and then voted to slit your throat, they knew only what you–schooled by the whip never to express yourself too forcefully–allowed them to see.
Some of the same people who yoked and worked you also petted and cooed over you. I’m sure you did appreciate the scratches and treats. But you always knew: Step out of line and they might hit you. (They waved the whip regularly, just to remind you.)
And you always knew: What you wanted didn’t really matter to them—elsewise, why would they lock you into that contraption and make you walk along lines they drew, dragging heavy loads? Years of forced docility squashed your unique personality. I’d hoped you could come here to the sanctuary and that, over time, you would relax enough to be yourself, whoever that might have been.
Now nobody but Bill will ever know you.
No matter how much we wish they could, the dead can’t hear us singing their praises, saying how much we’ll miss them, or bemoaning the manner of their deaths. Memorials, then, are for the mourners.
So, let me address myself to the thousands who advocated for Lou and who may be feeling any number of emotions right now. Mother Jones (sadly, no relation) famously said, “don’t mourn—organize.” That’s pretty good advice except for the fact that suppressed feelings can get in the way of effective activism. So, I say, “mourn—and mobilize.” As we learned in the midst of the late 80s and early 90s, when people mourning friends or partners or their own likely-to-be-too-short lives poured their grief and rage into nonviolent direct action against AIDS, emotions can be extremely effective motors of activism if they are channeled rather than squelched.
So, let’s take whatever we feel about the death of Lou and use those emotions to motivate us to look out for all the Bills and all the Lous on all of the factory farms and family farms. And let’s look out for Bill himself, literally. We can’t ever know Lou, but we can be fairly sure that the one thing he would want us to do is make sure that nobody hurts his Bill.