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"Just be who you are, calm and clear and bright." - Richard Bach, Illusions: The Adventures of a Reluctant Messiah

Critical Thinking

I mentioned in my first post on Main Street Vegan Academy that I’m learning to think more critically. Here are two examples:


Before: Gross. I can’t look at that.
After: So sticking capers in a cow’s corpse is art, eh? Way to obfuscate. Art is CREATION, not murder! I’m taking a photo of this for my first Powerpoint lecture.


Before: Grooooooooss.
After: It’s at least ninety degrees out, and who knows how long those boxes of beef and chicken have been sitting out on the sidewalk. This is a ridiculous public safety hazard; but then, you could say that of any animal flesh we choose to eat. Powerpoint!

* * *

Today in the dining hall I sat down with my friend Ryan, who was seated across from a middle-aged woman I’d never met before. We introduced ourselves, and Ryan started telling my new acquaintance (his teaching colleague) about my being a vegan. We talked about the health benefits, and Ryan (bless him!) complimented me for expressing myself and my beliefs in a non-judgmental way. I couldn’t help noticing that his colleague had tunafish and a few slices of ham on her plate.

“What I don’t like,” she said, “is when they try to teach chimpanzees English, or dress dogs up in stupid outfits. As if they didn’t have their own wants and needs.”

I’d only just met her, but I wasn’t willing to let this slide. “Can I ask you something? Isn’t that also true for what’s on your plate–the animals that food used to be?” She bristled, but I went on, making a special effort to express myself in a calm and friendly way. “It’s so interesting how we want to be kind to our dogs and cats, but then there are all these other animals we only see as food.”

“All right,” she said as she dropped her cutlery on her half-full plate and got up to leave. “I’m done.”

“I’m sorry if I’ve offended you,” I said pleasantly. (As I said this I thought of my new friend Stephanie, who says we should never apologize for speaking the truth, but in this case it was a social nicety. It’s important to me that people don’t feel I’m being an “angry” or “militant” vegan. If I keep my tone and demeanor light and friendly, they can’t honestly accuse me of jumping down their throats—which is, of course, thoroughly counterproductive.)

“You haven’t offended me,” she replied as she gathered her things. (Hmmmmm.)

As she walked away I said, “Have a good day!” Then Ryan and I had a nice little conversation about moral consistency. And because I’m certainly not perfect either, I invited him to call me out on my own bullshit the next time he detects any (though he already knows this, I’m sure). As Marty Davey (a.k.a. La Diva Dietitian) told us in her lecture for Main Street Vegan Academy last Wednesday, it’s a basic sales principle that “he who questions owns the conversation.” I asked the question, and now it’s up to my new acquaintance to consider it.

She might just decide that I’m a jerk, though, and for the first time in my life (thank you, Victoria Moran and company!!!), I’m totally okay with that. But I do hope she’ll think about it. It takes courage to examine your own entrenched beliefs, but I believe that each and every one of us is capable of it.

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Hi! I'm Camille. I only write stories that could never ever happen in real life, though I do believe in real-life magic. If we were in the same room I'd fix you a cup of tea, but for now we'll have to settle for a virtual connection. I'm really glad you're here.