Not really, but that side of my personality that doesn’t like to be bossed around (and by “side,” I mean ALL OF IT) gets bent out of shape when other people try to gag me with their dogma.
This, by the way, is an expanded version of a post I originally published on my own blog after being unpleasantly surprised by the following scenario:
A few days ago I published an article here on Elephant Journal called I’m a Buddhist, but my cat is a serial killer: a somewhat tongue-in-cheek but also basically earnest diatribe about how Budapest (my cat, not-so-aptly nicknamed “Buda”) has been busy gleefully slaughtering the songbird population in my neighborhood and shattering mommy’s already-fragile nerves.
I swear I wasn’t trying to be provocative, but for some reason I seem to be a magnet for angry vegans, although the article had almost nothing to do with my eating habits. Somehow, many of the readers took a story about my kitty’s hunting skills and decided to apply it to my personal ethics as a conscious meat-eater. I say “conscious” because I’m actually quite mindful of where I get my food from, whether it’s animal, vegetable or mineral (shout out to a great Barbara Kingsolver book on real ethical eating). But…. I’m not a vegetarian. I was a vegetarian once. For eight long years. It didn’t work for me. I feel like I gave it a pretty good shot.
That’s not the point though, and I am completely disinterested in getting wrapped up in yet another flame-war about the ethics of my food choices (although I’m well aware that’s exactly what’s gonna happen).
The point is this: please don’t boss me.
I don’t boss you! I don’t care what you eat! I don’t care who you voted for! I don’t care what God you worship! I don’t care how you feel about environmental policy! I really don’t!
Of course, there is a time and place for expressing your oh-so-passionate opinions in the interest of making the world a better place. I am all for kind, compassionate education—sans rhetoric or condescension. I read Eating Animals by the brilliant Jonathan Safran Foer, every Michael Pollan book ever published, and watched Food Inc in utter horror. I get it. The atrocities of factory-farmed meat are plenty of incentive to go the extra mile and source your food from more ethical places. I do my best, and 90% of the food I buy is from local farmers with presumably good intentions and practices.
These are my choices. Mine. I’m fortunate because I live in the Bay Area, where we have a lot of variety and we’re apt to be well educated about where our food comes from. Also, I’m lucky because I’m a middle class girl with the means to spend a little more on my food. I am well aware that not everyone has that liberty. Or interest.
So, if my friends eat factory-farmed meat, I don’t judge them! If my friends, hypothetically speaking, asked me to stop at McDonalds on the way to L.A. last weekend so they could get a box of Chicken McNuggets, that’s cool! Cuz, my friends are adults! And so am I!
Sorry about all the exclamation points. I feel passionate about this. Not in an “I feel passionate that it’s my way or the highway,” ironically-violent-and-dogmatic-vegan kind of way that lacks in holistic compassion and a deeper understanding of the nuances of human nature; rather, in a lighten-up-cuz-life-is-hard-enough kind of way. In a don’t-you-have-bigger-problems-than-to-judge-my-choices kind of way. In a you’ve-gone-too-far-when-you-tell-me-you-think-I’d-be-a-bad-mom-because-you-don’t-like-my-values kind of way.
The ironic thing is that I really do respect and admire the choice to be vegan.
I’m not one of those people who thinks vegans are nutjob loonbags with a chip on their shoulder. I actually lived with a fairly respectful vegan for two years and I know that it’s entirely possible to be vegan and still be cool and open minded and accepting of other people. So we’re not talking about putting the vegan lifestyle choice in a big bad box right now. We’re talking about the small faction of hyper-righteous and unfortunately literate vegans who are vegan because they are angry. These are the same vegans who threw hot cayenne pepper pies on Vegetarian Myth Author Lierre Keith in March as she gave a talk about her book at the San Francisco Anarchist Bookfair.
Being vegan, like all other lifestyle choices, is a personal one. A lot of my friends are vegans, and that’s just fine with me! Is it fine with you that I’m not?
Cuz honestly, it’s none of your business what I put in my belly. And it’s none of my business what you think of me.
I’ll leave you with this Rumi poem about the true nature of compassion:
Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing,
there is a field. I will meet you there.
When the soul lies down in that grass,
the world is too full to talk about
language, ideas, even the phrase each other
doesn’t make any sense.
Brilliant illustration uptop by my very talented friend Vanessa Fiola: www.vanessafiola.com