Friday, October 17, 2008

something to get off my chest.

It has been over a year since veganism was first introduced to me. Just one year and it seems like so much longer. I don't collect many details in my long term memory, so I don't remember how long I was considering vegetarianism prior to January of 2007. However, when I saw Fast Food Nation that last weekend of winter break, I knew I could never eat a hamburger again. It was the last straw. That's wasn't even the point of the movie; it's pretty much about corruption and the fast food industry. Vegetarianism barely made an appearance. But the blood and flesh and gore of the movie's slaughterhouse was something I just couldn't stomach - literally.

That summer I discovered the Post Punk Kitchen videos that piqued my interest in both cooking (a love that had gone on the wayside) and veganism - a subject that I'd barely considered months before. After all, I was "vegetarian" for more than two months until I finally gave up fish (I would guess that we could get Pacific Northwesterners to give up meat long before they would give up salmon). Then I discovered books - so many books. And the blogs - oh, my, the blogs! And it snowballed from there.

And now that I'm vegan... I'm a little shocked and appalled. And I don't mean by the Standard American Diet and the food industry (though I am) or by the crazed looks from people who ask me, "How can you not eat cheese? Ice cream?! MILK?!" because, let's face it, I expect that. Hell, that was ME two some years ago! In fact, maybe I haven't been on this side long enough to warrant complaints. But is seniority necessary to be repulsed by particular words and actions? It is one thing to disagree, to make your own choices, and still coexist with my values. It is another to be so blatantly abhorrent to the concept. That, my friends, is repulsive.

I like a newspaper called The Stranger. It's a Seattle-based paper - I get them at the transit center and it's something to read on the bus ride home. One column is called "I, Anonymous" - as the name suggests, they are anonymous ventings. About three weeks ago, a rant entitled "You Vegan Fuck" was published, and I came across it while browsing the archives.

You can read the selection yourself; I'm not even going to comment on it. I can defend the fact that restaurants should just fucking offer more than a measly salad, and I can bemoan those choice vegans who are far too uppity and plenty and make the rest of us look bad (after all - since when did a vegan have to get all bitchy and uppity to get a decent meal in Seattle?). The fact is, I don't know the situation or the relationship or the parties involved - so why bother? I will, however, be appropriately miffed by the comments that follow.

Vegans drive me nucking futs, most aggravating, pompous, self righteous asswipes I've ever had the displeasure of meeting.

You're wrong. all vegans are dicks.

I think the biggest argument against the ideological vegan or vegetarian is that plants are alive too, bitches.

I agree that vegans of both genders tend to be self-righteous, humorless dickheads. I wonder how long they'd cling to the high holy ground they think they occupy if they had the balls to travel outside their western comfort zone, and dined with a Tibetan family that depended on meat for their basic substinence?

And if you were in an especially self-loathing mood, you wouldn't have to stop at the comments. You could really just get your internet connection onto Google and search for the typical anti-veg propaganda - you know, your government-enforced protein requirement agenda, one of those silly debates circling the blogosphere about Jessica Simpson wearing that ridiculous "Real Women Eat Meat" tit-hugging excuse for a shirt, going to and clicking on the door until Bambi gets wasted...

Aside from my general disgust with the way people sometimes receive vegans, the base argument is... nonexistent. Plants are alive too? Well, until the next time you open a bell pepper and find a brain and a central nervous system comparable to that of any animal up in there with all them seeds and pith, I don't accept that argument. All vegans are dicks? I, personally, won't dispute the statement - I just wish it had been appended with "Just like all people who are gay will hit on you, and all of your grandparents are racist homophobes."

It isn't that we as a collective whole don't have a sense of humor. One would know that if they ever sat and had a conversation, just any conversation, with the average vegan instead of getting all out-of-sorts by the sheer mention of the word. Granted, there are some pompous hipster assholes who are vegans - as is true for ALL PEOPLE. It's simply that, perhaps, the omnivores have less of a sense of humor than we do. I'm the only vegan I know personally; it wouldn't bode well for me to get offended by every little comment. But God forbid the vegan makes an animal-cruelty joke to the omnivore. The defensiveness kicks in and the retorts start shooting. I've experienced cases that when explaining my values (as briefly as possible, because as a relatively reserved person, confrontation makes me uncomfortable) that some omnivores take it as a direct, personal attack. It takes me aback. Once, I was with an omnivore and we were talking about the gluten-free diet because we have a few friends with celiac disease. We were talking about what that means and what that restricts one's diet to, and I said, "I love eating out with people who are gluten-intolerant; they're as much of a pain in the ass as I am at a restaurant." She quickly shot back, "Yeah, but I don't think they made that choice the way you did." I was confused. How did what I say warrant offense? Perhaps she only meant to point out the obvious flaw in my joke, but in what place was she to come off as offended as she did? We both brushed it off and moved on, and there's no indication she ever meant anything malicious. But it still puzzles me.

We can debate the concept of humor and dietary choice as long as we want. Perhaps saying something as flippant as "How's your flesh-and-pus breakfast this morning?" comes off as a more obvious "attack" than "Ah! 'Soymeat,' I see. I guess you do stray from the hemp-and-granola path every once in a while." After all, who wants to think about the food they eat as living flesh and residual animal pus? Isn't that the point of our fundamental diet as vegans? Even in a day where vegans can fortunately manage their diet comfortably in almost every part of the country, societal rejection of veganism does not exist solely in our everyday comments. I mean, has anyone SEEN that bullshit about "VEGAN TERRORIST POTLUCKS?" (Here too!) I don't even want to go there tonight.

It is the last bit of that last quote that has left the most unpleasant taste in my mouth. Self-righteous? Possibly; the writer probably reads more offense into that attribute than need be, but what good would a vegan who will shy away from their values be to the community? "Outside their western comfort zone?" Um, does anyone else find this analogy moot? Because I'm so sure that the average meat-eating American would do so much better. Because the indication that the hypothetical Tibetan family in question's only assured sustenance* is meat DOES NOT indicate to me that their environment is any more oppressive than the average cushy American lifestyle. Or perhaps, the hypothetical vegan would embrace the culture and observe this or this on Buddhist nature or Tibetan vegetarian awareness. Additionally I would suggest that most people who make the argument that citizens of other nations require meat ...and that our failure to do so is somehow ignorant and selfish... have undoubtedly heard the basic "World hunger would be exponentially aided under a worldwide vegetarian diet" argument, stopped at "If we all stopped eating meat..." and refused to hear the discussion from there. My opinion on the average American's daily overconsumption can be discussed at another time.

Perhaps one day "vegan" will no longer be synonymous with "pretentious." Perhaps it will be the same day that there isn't anyone sass-snapping and shrieking, "Uh-huh, Jess, you go girl! You eat that meat! Bitch, I just ate a whole damn piglet! With barbecue sauce! AND CHEESE!" "Bitch, fuck you, PETA - you's a danger to society! You's should be executed like them bitch-ass chickens I eat!" "Real women hunt moose, too; I'm a mother-effing MAVERICK!" (Or, er, anything to that effect.) Until then, I'll be carrying my smack-stick around with my laptop, granola, and Oreos.

And, no, not all omnivores are dicks. I'm friends with great people who are very considerate of, and sometimes even interested in, my values. They may never go vegan for me, but I can just keep making cakes and hope.

*Because, according to Blogger, "substinence" is not a word.

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