On Fur-Wearing Friends, Republican Husbands and Nina Planck
Inevitably, when I write about my (transitioning-to-vegan) Republican husband or my girlfriend who wears fur, I get e-mails asking me how I could have married a meat-eater and why I would be friends with a fur-wearer. (She’s a Republican, too. I’m surrounded by them.) And now with what I hope is the final chapter of the Nina Planck episode, I’ve received e-mails condemning Planck and heard podcasts that insult her.
May I remind everyone that most of us were raised on animal products, wore leather, shearling, and maybe even fur-trimmed clothes, went to the circus and the zoo, and didn’t think twice? Sure, most animal people probably felt a deep sense of injustice regarding human-nonhuman relations early on, and that’s why we’re vegans now, but most of us share the experience of growing up a certain way and still thinking we were good people.
I don’t look back on my childhood and say I was a bad person, and I don’t think my parents, one of whom is a flexitarian (I know, ridiculous), and one of whom is a meat-eater with a doctorate (and thinks there’s a god who put animals on the earth for us, I kid you not), were bad people either. They were doing the best they could.
This notion of doing the best you can is ripe for contradiction and hypocrisy. We can all do better than we are doing, yet at each moment, we do the best we can. So when my mother orders fish at a restaurant, I don’t say a word. She knows better, yet she’s simply not able to do better in that moment. But if I reprimand her, the likelihood of her doing better in the future is diminished because she’ll feel judged, ridiculed and angry, and genuine behavioral change doesn’t occur when you feel that way. You must feel supported and loved in all your humanness.
Finally, my karma, my fate, whether I go to heaven or hell, and whether I achieve a favorable rebirth (not that any of that exists, but you get the idea), is contingent upon my actions, not my mother’s. I should be a vegan because that is what my moral compass tells me is right; it’s part of my idea of justice. I may kindly, compassionately educate others about why I do what I do, but I cannot have any expectations about their behavior. If they choose to act on their new knowledge–great. If not, much suffering and injustice will occur because of them, but that’s not my responsibility.
I say we each concentrate on being the best people we can be, and living by example. And when someone says or does something anathema to our beliefs, we always speak up in a kind, compassionate way that doesn’t judge or insult.
We are clearly in need of a makeover for our image. The mainstream will always despise new ideas and see them as threatening, so part of our image problem comes from the fear of the mainstream. But part of it comes from us and the way we handle their fear. We must take responsibility for our part.