Friday, June 10, 2011

"Don't you speak American?"

So this has been on my mind since we went to the wonderful Maple Farm Animal Sanctuary Farm Fest last weekend.  The farm does a fundraiser once a year to help pay the costs of caring for the animals who have been rescued and brought to them. It's a remarkable place run by remarkable people. (The link below is a movie that has the couple that run it. They are the couple you see with the goats.)

We were really excited to go, mainly to see all the animals and hear about their stories, but also to meet other like-minded folk. What struck us both when we got there was how very earthy-crunchy it was. Which isn't to imply that there is anything wrong with earthy-crunchy. I grew up in a commune and couldn't imagine a cooler way to experience the world as a kid. All the adults were such fun -- there was always an adult around to play with or draw pictures with! I became a lifelong fan of molasses, and I'd heard the whole Lord of the Rings series at bedtime by the time I was five. Top that!

But -- both Ryan and I talked about this afterward -- it was really hard to connect to a lot of people there because the majority of the fair stands there were New-Agey, which I find interesting, but it's not quite my thing. I do yoga, yes. I've had acupuncture done and was amazed at what I felt during my sessions. I'm crazy about the Beatles and love-love-love Rubber Soul and the White Album. But I have no unusual piercings, tattoos, tie-dye, etc. Patchouli's not my favorite scent. I had a pair of Birkenstocks about ten years ago when they went a bit mainstream, but that's about as hippy as I've gone.

I'm still sorting all this out in my mind, so forgive me if this all comes out wrong. I mean no harm. But I kept thinking, "No wonder people think veganism is weird. These people are the only folks that meat-eaters probably notice as plant-eaters." Which is, to me, a pity. If folks saw that this diet change as something do-able by ordinary folks -- and yes, I'm lumping myself in there. Feel free to make jokes and comment. I'm walking right into this one -- then maybe it wouldn't seem so fringe and out-there to some people. It definitely used to seem very extreme and unhealthy to me and I dismissed it as a activist-tiedye-thing. But my perception changed when I started noticing ordinary-looking people adopting that food lifestyle and I wondered if there was more to it. It suddenly seemed interesting and worthy of checking out, though I still truthfully never thought I'd actually go there. But the majority of meat-eaters (I can't think of a more original term) don't notice the ordinary veg*ns, because the folks with the dreadlocks are much more visible.

I should note too that there were indeed middle-of-the-road people there at the Farm Fest, but they were harder to notice amongst the bell-lined skirts and lip-rings and a few starry-eyed folks who were most definitely on something.

It was similar to my experience living in France years back. I was in a small city with relatively few English-speakers. All of us students tried to blend in and fit in and get to know the French culture. (We didn't actually blend in, I'm sure, but we did try!) Months later, I went to Paris to pick up a friend and all I could see around me were those ugly Americans that make the chill-Americans cringe. The ones who walk up to people loudly and yell, "Do you speak American?!?" and complain about everything and insult the French way of doing things.  "No wonder they say Americans are obnoxious!" I realized. I hadn't understood it until that moment. But the loud people were the only ones that stood out. In truth, there were very cool Americans all around, but you just didn't notice them because you couldn't take your eyes off the loud ones.

So I guess I'm comparing the earthy-crunchy folks to loud Americans. Boy -- I'm getting myself into heaps of trouble. Dig deeper. But it's unfortunately the best analogy I can come up with right now.

Another thing I noticed -- and this was just one person so it is by no means a generalization of all the people who were there -- was this one woman who gave Ryan a look when he made a funny and very benign joke. There were a bunch of llamas there by the fence where we were standing, and Ryan and I were discussing with a fellow our age whether the llamas liked to be patted. Ryan quipped, "I think they like very sudden movements!"  Clearly it was just a light-hearted joke. But this woman turned around and glared at him (he had his back to her so he didn't notice) and all I could think of was "Come on, lady! He wasn't joking about eating the llama, for crying out loud!"  I kept my thoughts to myself, because I've heard it's in bad taste to start a fistfight at a festival based on compassion. I know that what some of these animals have endured is serious stuff, but giving people the vibe never makes them open to your way of thinking.

So my point? I think we middle-of-the-road veg*n folk need to be more vocal. Not necessarily in your face. (Though that can have its place certainly ... well behaved women/people rarely make history, after all.) But just be proud of the choice to abstain from eating animals and their secretions and more willing to talk about it with a sense of humor. I've already had a few people come up to me and say, "It's not something I think I could do myself, but I'm really curious ... " I think those conversations are fabulous. Even if those people never give up eating animals or lessen their consumption, it might change their perception of animals and, at the very least, be food for thought, pun intended. I've always loved it when someone can make me look at something "normal" in a whole new way. If nothing else, it's a great workout for your brain!

So are hippies bad? Of course not. I love 'em. Don't always understand them, but I love them. They are not ugly Americans. I think you follow me here, right? I think we all need to speak up for what we believe in, be open to listening to others, and to have a sense of humor. And learn some frickin' French.

Peaceful eating!


  1. VERY well said, Katrina! I know just what you mean.

  2. Thanks, Holli! You were one of those folks who originally got my brain-cells thinking more about vegetarianism, partially because you were so chill about it and nonjudgmental about my meat-eating habits.