Wednesday, November 25, 2015

An Extra Reason to Care

When I was working on my teaching degree, I had to take a class on educational law. It was an interesting subject, if a bit dry, and I always looked forward to that class.

 The room was set up with a number of round tables, likely in order to facilitate discussions (and there were many). This was helpful during group work, of course, but if you were unlucky enough to have to sit with your back to the front of the room, it could be a bit of a pain during lectures!  At my usual table, I normally sat with two other women who happened to come from the other two Abrahamic religions.  Looking back, it seems almost like the setup for a joke.  ("A Christian, a Jew, and a Muslim sit down at a table...")  But the three of us got along extremely well, and I suspect that if we'd been able to spend more time together, we would have become very good friends.  As it is, I think of M. And V. often, even now, and I hope they're well.

Especially V., these days, because she was the one of the three of us who was Muslim.  And since the attacks in Paris a couple of weeks ago, all the things I've heard of happening to Muslims, especially women—I hope that she will not be targeted for abuse.  In my years of postsecondary education, and in the years since my formal studies ended, I have met many people who are Muslims, or who at least come from Muslim families.  And every single one of them is a reason why I care about the discrimination which they face, and why I'm fairly vocal (elsewhere, not necessarily on this blog, if only because I've been neglecting it in recent years) about saying that Muslims are not the enemy: hate and fear are.

But let's get one thing straight here: I would still care about what's happening if I had never met these people.  I suspect that there's a lot of that behind other people saying, "Of course I care!  I know someone who's [insert marginalized identity here]!" as well.

I must admit, it annoys me a little when people accuse others of not caring enough because they've stated that they care about any given issue because they personally know someone who's affected by it.  Or saying that these people's caring is selfish or superficial or just an attempt to avoid examining privilege by hiding behind a marginalized friend, acquaintance, or family member.  And maybe sometimes it is.  I won't pretend that I think everyone's motivations are always perfectly progressive or altruistic all the time.  That would just be hopelessly na├»ve.  But I am willing to entertain the idea that knowing people who are marginalized in some way gives people who do not share that experience an extra reason to care, or maybe that initial impulse to do so in the first place.

It's a very human thing, I think, to be more engaged in a cause, or to be more open to certain ideas, when you know someone who's personally affected by it if you aren't part of that population yourself.  People need connections.  And that's not purely selfish; it helps with understanding to be able to put a human face on something that, to you, might have once been a far more abstract concept than it is to someone who has to live it.

So when I hear about discrimination against Muslims, I think of V.  And because she was one of the first Muslims I ever got to know particularly well, she is one of the reasons I care.  But she's not the only one, and I don't believe that the personal connection makes my caring less valid.  As long as I don't try to pass myself off as some kind of expert or authority just because I know people who answer a particular description, how is that personal connection a bad thing?

Sunday, November 8, 2015

I'm still alive!

It's been quite some time since I last felt like writing here—inspiration has been fairly rare of late.  But I've missed this blog, and I think I'd like to get back to it.

Few of the good things have changed.  I'm still singing in my church choir, still a practising Pagan, and still working with young students who are having trouble with reading.  My depression is still (mostly) in remission, though I've had a few small flare-ups and I'm still dealing with a certain amount of social anxiety and negative thought patterning.  Overall, life is good.  And if I return to my writing as I want to, it will only get better. :)

Monday, February 2, 2015

Please don't be THAT Vegetarian.

Before I get to the rest of the post, I want to make something clear.  I like vegetarianism.  I tend to lean that way myself, but for various reasons, going vegetarian full-time is not currently a good idea for me.  Yes, I've thought seriously about it (and tried it, which did not go well for my health, mental or otherwise).  No, I have not closed my mind to the possibility that I might do so in the future.  Yes, I agree with most of the ideological reasons for becoming a vegetarian.  No, I really, really don't think that all vegetarians are like this.  Most of THOSE Vegetarians I've met are ones who have recently adopted this eating style and I think it's profoundly unfair that the people who exemplify the idea of THAT Vegetarian are able to give other vegetarians, and those of us who are predominantly vegetarian, a bad name.

This post is the product of a fair amount of frustration caused by a few too many recent encounters with people who have been, often in more than one way, THAT Vegetarian.  I repeat: I do NOT think that all vegetarians are like this.

THAT Vegetarian is the one who never misses a chance to educate people about the benefits of vegetarianism, regardless of whether such education is necessary or welcome.

THAT Vegetarian is the one who dismisses as mere excuses the reasons why a vegetarian diet is not always ideal or even suitable for all people.

THAT Vegetarian is the one who ignores the psychology of eating disorders when pointedly saying, in a conversation in which a person has made note of their own eating disorder and stated that putting that kind of limit on their eating habits did indeed make it worse, that there is never any good reason to be willing to consume animal-based foods. 

THAT Vegetarian is the one who believes that omnivorous diets are a sign of a less-evolved and enlightened mind and never lets anybody forget it.

THAT Vegetarian is the one who won't rest until they've converted the entire omnivorous world to their way of eating.  (I've said it before and I'll say it again: you can't annoy people into believing that you're right.)

THAT Vegetarian is the one who claims that going vegetarian is a great way to lose weight and that there's no such thing as a fat vegetarian.  (Hint: this is not true.)

THAT Vegetarian believes that being vegetarian makes them superior to the rest of us, and won't let anyone forget it.

Please don't be THAT Vegetarian.