Tuesday, October 20, 2009

"You're so brave!"

Today, boys and girls, we will examine something that is both well-intentioned misconception and carefully crafted excuse, the “You’re so brave for being vegan!” So often do I tell someone I am vegan only to hear people ooze with amazement at my stores of courage, bravery, and strength. After all, to someone who has never had to wrap their brains around the idea of giving up convenience for ethical principles, it would seem like a lot, and it seems like it would be a nice thing to say to a vegan friend. It hardly needs to be said that veganism is a big change from the normal omnivorous lifestyle (at first, but that’s another post). But really, it’s not hard. I don’t wake up in the morning biting my lip, getting ready for another difficult day of ethical challenges, glad I was blessed with the heart of a lion.

Are you strong for not enslaving another human being even though it would be easier for you to have someone else do all your work?

Does it take courage and grit for you to not throw around gender epithets (e.g. slut, skank) with abandon even though other people around you may do so?

Is the bravest thing you do all day refrain from narrowing your eyes at a homeless person because it’s their fault for being lazy and stupid?

No, no, and no. You just wake up and do those things because it’s second nature to you. Veganism is no different. I wake up and live my life in line with my ethics, square against the things I think are wrong and cruel and shameful, celebrating the things I think are good and true and beneficial for the world. That's all I do. That's what veganism (and other things, like feminism) means to me, and it's not hard at all. To an omnivore it may seem as ridiculous or unnecessary as not wearing the color purple for ethical reasons, but for vegans it’s something that goes far beyond simply not eating x, y, or z. It’s believing that all creatures – animals, humans, men, women, the poor, the rich, all who share this earth – deserve, at the very least, to belong to themselves and no other, to be in control of their lives and happiness. No matter who you are or what you eat or care about, it takes far greater strength and effort to silence one’s conscience than it ever would to live it.

So in other ways the “You’re so brave” is just an excuse, a justification, however subconscious, for inaction. After all, if being vegan takes extraordinary courage, then it’s automatically beyond the call for “normal” people. If it’s something only the truly strong can hack, then no one should feel bad for not being able to handle it, right? In the post of mine in another blog on which this one based, Gary Francione summed nicely, “As we know, however, a better way to avoid cognitive dissonance - in this scenario, at least - is to not engage in the morally troubling activities that cause the dissonance.” Wait, you mean, not do things that are ethically wrong? Crazy talk…

And to round out the overall tone of this post, here is Gus the bulldog having a snack. I love you, internets!

Monday, October 12, 2009

oh, Portland

Everything you have heard about Portland being a vegan Mecca is entirely true. I grew up in Kansas City, and although we did have one vegetarian and one vegan restaurant, it was still the Midwest and one of the barbeque capitals of the nation. That was about it. And although any city of decent size – especially those on the coasts – is going to have a lot of vegan options and vegans, period, just because they have large populations…Portland is different. I moved here at the end of August for college and I'm falling more in love with it by the day. It’s not weird to be vegan here. Did you read that? It’s not weird to be vegan here. We have a vegan minimall, multiple vegan bakeries, a vegan grocery, a vegan bike shop, vegan salons, vegan tattoo parlors, a few farm sanctuaries close by, vegan doughnuts, vegan everything. It’s so nice not worrying about going to a random restaurant, just knowing that they will know what vegan is and, other than chain restaurants, are going to be able to provide for you.
My favorite things I’ve done in Portland so far:

Met Isa Chandra Moskowitz. Yes, of Vegan with a Vengeance, Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World, Veganomicon, and Vegan Brunch fame. She was at VegFest a few weeks ago and made a total fangirl out of me. Now I want chocolate beer waffles…

Speaking of food, we have that, too. Things I have eaten here: a club sandwich with housemade fake turkey, guacamole, and two layers of sandwich (Vita), a doughnut shaped like a penis (Voodoo), a salad with perfectly-cooked tempeh and just-spicy-enough Thai peanut dressing (Paradox), a fried coconut crème pie (Whiffies), cheese made of sunflower seeds – not mindblowing, but something I’d never seen before (Papa G’s). Come prepared to either ride your bike or get fat.

Veganism is just normal here. At home whenever I would see someone in a ‘VEGAN’ t-shirt, I already knew them, and if the v-word was on a menu, it was only at the vegetarian restaurant. Here I have gotten used to seeing random people with vegan-message clothing/stickers/etc. and banners that say ‘VEGANS WELCOME’ around. This can’t be unique to Portland, but still. It’s nice.

Another thing about Portland is that so many people here are transplants who heard of our city’s glory and migrated, so everyone is welcoming because they know what it’s like to be new. And we have public transportation that works, and trees and mountains and waterfalls, and a great literary community, and naked bike rides, and lots of pretty people doing cool things, and a bookstore that takes up an entire city block, and....
If you want to come here, you should. It’s amazing.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

sometimes you just have to laugh

Highlights from the first few weeks of college:

"You tell Japanese people not to whale-hunt and they're like, ha ha, what? They don't get it. It would be like someone telling us that killing cows is wrong!"

"Eating vegan desserts gives you irregular bowel movements. Unless you're already vegan."

"*speech about how you need to eat meat to survive*"
Me: "I haven't eaten meat or any other animal product in four years and I'm alive.."
"Do you take a vitamin?"
"Well, yes, but -"
"That's why you're alive."

No matter where you are or how long you've been veg*n, you're going to come into contact with stupid people. Sometimes you need to educate them, but sometimes it just won't be worth your trouble. Laugh. Loudly. And be glad you have a brain.