Saturday, May 21, 2016

The Lord Spoke To Me...In a Tow Truck

You have heard it was said, 'Love your neighbor and hate your enemy'. But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven.  
Matthew 5:43-44

Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you.
Luke 6:27

..And if you do good to those who are good to you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners do that.
Luke 6:33

If you love those who love you, what reward will you get?
...And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others?
Matthew 5:46,47

-Jesus


Having trouble seeing the video?  click here.

When I first read about this story, I thought surely no business person would be that petty or sink to such a level.  But I guess when someone believes "God spoke to them", that can justify just about anything.

To say the political climate here in the U.S. this year is volatile would be an understatement.  The protests, fights breaking out at rallies, and political parties eating each other alive from within, is at a level that I've never seen in the history of my voting life.

Unfortunately, the conflict doesn't stop with the players in this election season drama.
There are stories of family members and friends who have decided for the sake of the relationship, not to discuss their disagreements over the candidates they support.

And now, this division has apparently seeped into business dealings as well.

The story from several days ago in North Carolina, that's referenced in the video above, I found infuriating.  A young woman was in an accident, her car now undrivable.  So, like any of us would do, she called for a tow truck.  When the driver arrived, he proceeded to hook up her car to his equipment. Well, he did until he noticed the Bernie Sanders bumper stickers on her car.

See, Ken Shupe of Shupee Max Towing, is a self-described conservative Christian and Donald Trump supporter. When he saw the political affiliation of the customer, Cassy McWade, a stranded disabled young woman, he believed that the "Lord came to him" telling him to "get in his truck and leave."

This was for no other reason than her support for Sanders. Shupe believed that he wouldn't receive payment from Cassy because he assumed she was a socialist.

In his defense, he said he'd been "Berned" (his spelling)before by these socialist types and not gotten paid.  Ok, fair enough. If someone has had a number of people with particular political leanings refuse to pay for services, I guess that would explain the fear that it will always happen, therefore, needing to protect themselves.

Though to me, this appears to be just an obvious situation of prejudice.  Pre-judging someone because of their alleged beliefs. Sure I'm not naive enough to think that this wouldn't happen if things were reversed and the tow truck driver were a Hillary or Bernie supporter and the stranded driver had "Make America Great Again" bumper stickers on their vehicle.

Either way, in my humble opinion, it's wrong.  But here's the issue I really want to stress; Ken made a point of stating his Christian faith and that his actions were God-led.  

One of the important aspects about this faith(in It's more evangelical form) is that we are to share it with others throughout our lives so that they may come to know Jesus as well.

We are also encouraged to be a "good witness". That's basically Christianspeak for don't be an ass and expect someone to be all happy dappy doo to hear about the God you serve when you've just refused to do your job and help a customer, (cough, cough) I mean to behave like a decent human being..

Now, I'm not saying that Christians corner the market on being kind, friendly, giving, etc.  We don't, even if "leading someone to Christ" is not the goal in relationships, which in my opinion shouldn't be anyway. Otherwise, it becomes about earning brownie points with God. Few Christians would admit that (not even to themselves) but it's often the case.

My intent is not to judge this driver in a condemning way.  But to say that the Lord told him to leave a young woman stranded due political views and that he's a Christian in the same breath, (I'm going to use a churchy phrase again) hurts his witness as someone who professes to serve a God and Savior of mercy, kindness, and love.

No, I don't expect us to be perfect in all of our personal interactions, or in our business dealings, but to refuse to tow someone due to the political candidate they support?  Really?
Come on now.









Sunday, May 1, 2016

Barefoot Vegan



The May/June 2016 issue of Barefoot Vegan Magazine is out now and I've written an article that's included!     "How an Introvert came to Run the Vegan Society of Humboldt"

This issue is themed around ‘Business’ and features Mainstreet Vegan’s Victoria Moran on the front cover, who talks about her vegan journey and what it takes to set up and maintain a successful vegan business.


You can download a PDF of the latest issue for free or subscribe to read the magazine via a web browser or app that supports iOS and Android devices. Go to www.BarefootVegan.com. All profits go towards the Barefoot Vegan Farm & Animal Sanctuary.

Thanks for your support!

Saturday, April 23, 2016

On Their Own Terms: Animal Liberation for the 21st Century, by Lee Hall: A Book Review




 
The first (and only) time I’ve had the pleasure of meeting Lee Hall in person, was at the 2011 VegFest in San Francisco.
 
A friend and I sat in on Lee's talk in the main lecture hall. We found Lee to be as engaging as they are knowledgeable on the issues of animal liberation and the state of our planet.   
  
But, this was no feel good or warm and fuzzy presentation.  And to be honest, afterwards my friend and I had feelings of doom accompanied by a “it just seems hopeless” attitude.   This was no slight against Lee.  It was just that hearing in one sitting all the gory details of how we as humans have reeked such havoc on the Earth and all of its inhabitants, leaving so much death and destruction in our wake, was a lot to digest.

I have absolutely no regrets because it was worth it to hear and see one of my favorite activists in the vegan community.

Lee's work has always challenged me to think more critically about our relationship with animals and theirs with us.


So a few months ago when Lee asked if I would read a draft of their latest book and give my feedback, I felt honored.  Even more so when I learned that Lee would include my questions in the final draft when it was published. (In chapter six)


The book, On Their Own Terms: Animal Liberation for the 21st Century is an updated edition of the same title originally published in 2010.  The common thread throughout is one of uncommon respect for both the Earth and all its inhabitants.  I say uncommon because while the popular vegan slogan “why love one but eat the other?” comparing our pets (dog and cats) with animals raised for our consumption is compelling, Lee asks us to question whether it was ever right to do either?   


Lee makes a strong case for taking an active role in reversing the effects of centuries of selective breeding.  Universal neutering is presented as the most logical action to take, along with making the choice to breed no more.   Over time, this could enable their counterparts in the wild (like wolves and wildcats) to regain more of their original habitats lost due to domestication. 


While Lee concedes that much of our interaction with domesticated cats and dogs is positive and loving, there are still millions of them that end up abused, abandoned, or euthanized.  They are forever dependent and at our mercy because they’ve been bred that way. 


When it comes to farm animals, I hadn’t considered the negative consequences beyond the slaughter that awaits them at the end of their short lives. But they are not the only ones who suffer as a result of our appetites.  Those in the wild pay a high price as well.
From chapter one, page seven, “ …Meanwhile, free-living animals remain invisible. How do they stand a chance as long as we entitle ourselves to the lands on which they live, and they are not seen by us as having any such claims at all?”


Lee also questions the understandable feelings of outrage over factory farming and animal mistreatment as the motivation for going and remaining vegan and shares what else needs to be considered. 


I cannot recommend this book highly enough.  If you are open to stepping out of your comfort zone and having your assumptions about animal rights and veganism challenged, you will not be disappointed.

To learn more about Lee' and their work, check out the links below..



Lee’s blog

with Priscilla Feral



Thursday, March 10, 2016

The Jihad of Jesus, by Dave Andrews: a Book Review



I must admit, when I first saw this title it seemed to me a contradiction in terms.  Then with my next thought, I wondered how many of my fellow Christians had judged this book by its cover, denounced it, and ran screaming from their computers as if their spiritual lives depended on it.   So.. I knew I had to read it.

But, before I get into my review, I want to share a little bit about the author. Dave Andrews lives in Brisbane, Australia with his wife Ange, children, grandchildren, and others in a large combined house in the inner city of Brisbane.   If I were to imagine a happy, hippie, Santa Claus, he would look like Dave.

He and Ange have spent over forty years living in intentional Christian communities and working with people marginalized by societies in India, Nepal, Pakistan, Australian, and Afghanistan.  So after reading Dave’s bio I already liked the guy and was ready to dig in to what could be a very interesting yet controversial read.

Like many mis uninformed westerners, the only thing I knew about the word and the idea of jihad was that it was something akin to a  holy war waged against moderate Muslims, any non-Muslims, Europeans, and especially Americans.  What I learned though was that in Islam jihad is understood as a religious duty and in Arabic, it means “struggle”.

The two accepted definitions are an inner spiritual struggle and an outer physical struggle.

The inner struggle called the “greater jihad” is non-violent and refers to a believer simply fulfilling their religious duties.  The “lesser jihad” is the physical struggle against enemies of Islam and any oppressors. It can take the form of violence or non-violence.  Those who support the violent form have interpreted it to mean “holy war”.

But, what Dave points out and documents extensively, is that the Christian church has had its own history of “lesser jihad” that spans centuries.  During the colonization of the Americas and much of the southern hemisphere, if agents of the Church could not convince the “heathens” to accept the message of Christ willingly, they were forced to convert. And it wasn't pretty.  Often many were simply massacred for their failure to cooperate.  

Fellow Christians were not safe either as thousands (maybe millions) were condemned as heretics and brutally murdered for espousing beliefs that conflicted with the doctrines of whatever church body (Protestant or Roman Catholic) happened to be in power at the time.

But the author doesn’t just give us all the embarrassingly gory details of the Church’s history of atrocities.  He shares Islam’s as well.
He talks about how Muhammad was a prophet and mystic.  But he was also a military innovator, and used his command of the armed forces to reach his goals.
Dave states that Islam may have begun as an attempt at reconciliation of tribes in Medina, and laying a foundation to work towards peace with the People of the Book, both Christians and Jews.    But after a while, it wasn’t long before there were campaigns of slaughter and enslavement of these groups, including Jewish tribes.

These historical events are laid out from as early as 100 A.D. through to the 21st century for the Church and 620 A.D. through the 21st century for Islam.

But what does this have to do with Jesus and jihad?   Both Islam and Christianity look favorably on the person of Jesus. Muslims don’t see Him as a deity, though Jesus (Isa to them) is honored as a great prophet. But for Christians, He is accepted as equally God and human.
What David is making the case for is that Jesus lived in the realm of jihad (nonviolent struggle) by way of love and justice.

Here, from page 129 is a list of five phases as he saw them unfolding:

     1. The first phase of his nonviolent jihad for love and justice Jesus followed on from John the Baptist in denouncing the exploitation of the poor by the rich.

     2.   In the second phase off His nonviolent jihad for love and justice Jesus denounced the oppression of the powerless by the powerful and actively advanced liberation of disempowered groups of people through the power of the Spirit.

     3.   In the third phase of his nonviolent jihad for love and justice Jesus advocated communities with leadership that would serve rather than oppress people.

     4.  In the fourth phase of his nonviolent jihad for love and justice Jesus created communities committed to doing justice to the marginalized & disadvantaged.

     5. In the fifth phase of his nonviolent jihad for love and justice Jesus demonstrated active, radical, sacrificial nonviolence to free people from the cycles of violence.

I really enjoyed this book, especially the historical references. I only shared a small sample here, but I appreciate how the author presented what I think is a balanced view of people’s actions in both faiths, the heavenly as well as the horrific.
I no longer have a one sided, negative view of jihad. I know now that the concept is much more nuanced and layered than I was lead to believe.

Check out the Jihad of Jesus site here

Dave Andrews' site


*I received a complementary copy of this book in exchange for my honest review..



Monday, January 4, 2016

Black Vegans Rock!




Black vegans rock, oh yes we do!

Does that mean that vegans of other persuasions don't?  Of course not.
Speaking personally, I love all the shades and flavors of my vegan tribe.

Enter Black Vegans Rock, a new site (which launched today) created by my friend Aph Ko, that highlights the lives and work of black vegans from around the world. 

Why is such a site needed and isn't that racist? Good question. 
The thing is, veganism often carries a stigma in communities of color and black communities especially, that says "Oh that's for rich white folks."

Well, Black Vegans Rock turns that stigma and stereotype on its head in a major way.

It all began back in June 2015 when Aph Ko compiled a list of 100 Black Vegans to check out. I was honored to be included as well.  Her list certainly proved a point. A point that needed to be addressed.  There are of course way more than 100 Black vegans in this world.  But you wouldn't think so based on the assumptions I mentioned above.

Check out the site, then bookmark and/or subscribe. They feature a different person daily.

The next time you have a conversation with a Black individual who is interested in plant-based living, or becoming an ethical vegan but is concerned there are no resources that speak to their cultural experience, share the site. There are more of us out there than you think.  :)





Plant-based Eaters are Selfish







I’ve been vegan for a little over 8 years now.   Seventeen years before that I was what many would call a health nut vegetarian.

As I’ve said in a previous post, I saw the effects of a rich, heavily meat-centered diet on my family and others in the black community. Diabetes and high blood pressure are all too common.
So I was determined to do what I could to escape the same fate.   Already pretty health conscious when it came to food, it wasn’t much of a leap for me to stop eating meat.   That decision was made without the knowledge of the ethical issues with eating meat and as it turned out all animal products.

Fast forward a few years and now veganism has gained more acceptance and no longer seems as weird or militant as it once did.  Are there weird, militant vegans? Sure. They’re just no longer the only type of individual the mainstream imagines when the subject comes up.  In fact, on several occasions when it’s revealed in a social situation that I’m vegan, the response is often one of admiration.

People say things like “wow that’s great. I know it’s healthier to eat that way, but I could never do it. I love ______ too much.”    One reason that I see for the cause of the gradual acceptance of vegan eating is the plant-based health movement of recent years. Raw foodism has had an effect as well. 

Testimonies, books, and documentaries abound with stories of people who made major changes by removing all animal products from their diet, some even at the instruction of their doctors. 

Veganism had finally arrived!  There was now proof that not only was going vegan good for the animals but might be the best thing for our bodies as well.
But when looking closer, most of these new converts were actually plant-based eaters.  And yes there is a difference.  Now, this is not some elitist post on the superiority of true vegans as opposed to those who changed their diet for health reasons.   But, for those who are new to this concept and not familiar with the distinction, here it is.
Modern veganism as defined by the Vegan Society in the UK is: 

"a philosophy and way of living which seeks to exclude—as far as is possible and practicable—all forms of exploitation of, and cruelty to, animals for food, clothing or any other purpose; and by extension, promotes the development and use of animal-free alternatives for the benefit of humans, animals, and the environment. In dietary terms, it denotes the practice of dispensing with all products derived wholly or partly from animals."

A plant-based diet and lifestyle are mainly adopted to better the health of an individual, often in an attempt to prevent or treat degenerative disease.

Concern for animals is not usually part of the equation.  Though by default, fewer animals are killed as a result.

So while plant-based, whole foods diets are growing in popularity and acceptance, not everyone is supportive.    
Many of us in the vegan community look on plant-based eaters as selfish, shallow, body conscious individuals who will abandon their diet as soon another food fad comes along or they become convinced they’ll feel better once they resume eating animal products.

But I wonder, is it really selfish to want to increase our chances to have more years with those we love and who depend on us?  Or to be healthy enough to care for our companion animals?

It seems to me that those who have the luxury of youth on their side are the ones who most often tout proudly “I couldn't care less about my health, I’m vegan for the animals”.
Ok, to those people I would say, I know right now old age and the ailments that often accompany it seem like eons away and you’re indestructible.   It’s easy to be careless about your health when you still have it.

I'm not saying that we should all live on nothing but kale and quinoa, striving for some super skinny (unless it’s your natural size) “ideal” vegan body. Everyone should be whatever the healthy size is for them, despite society’s attempts to push us into conformity.   But dare I suggest that going vegan for the animals while giving no thought to our own health can be selfish in the long run?

I think I read somewhere once or heard on a podcast that “what good is it to the animals if there are piles of sick and dead vegans?”  Extreme yes, but a powerful word picture none the less.

Hey, I love Cracker Jack, vegan cupcakes, and the evil purple bagged Doritos as much as any junk food vegan.  So I’m not pushing this issue as someone who’s arrived.  Whatever that means.

But has the importance of sensitivity and not wanting to be guilty of fat shaming, caused us to become completely averse to celebrating with those who’ve experienced positive health changes? (Often including necessary weight loss) What about those who’ve turned their health around so dramatically that they’ve reduced their chances of an early death?   Is it right to attempt to silence their voices?  Their truth?   Believe it or not, I see it all the time on social media.  

As a side note, I think many in the mainstream vegan community don’t realize that often for vegans of color specifically, a plant-based diet is the vehicle by which they seek to decolonize their bodies and souls in addition to preventing or reversing degenerative diseases that plague those communities is such great numbers. 
And let’s face it, for many a plant- based diet is the “gateway drug” to compassionate, ethical veganism…for the animals.

No, becoming vegan or going plant-based is not magic or a guarantee of optimal health. Veganism is at its core a philosophy of nonviolence that includes diet yet goes way beyond what we eat. 

How many things in life carry a 100% guarantee anyway?   We’ve all heard the stories of someone’s cousin’s, friend’s grandpa who smoked cigars, never exercised, and drank whiskey every day of his life, yet lived to be 100.  Then someone else who never smoked a day in her life succumbs to lung cancer.

Recently, a wonderful vegan food blogger that I’ve followed for years was diagnosed with cancer. This blogger specializes in low fat, but super flavorful vegan recipes.

When they shared their story, one of the things they mentioned was the shock of it. They did everything “right”, yet still developed a life-threatening disease that they just knew they were immune to.   Others will swear up and down that becoming a low-fat eating vegan literally saved their lives and they have the medical records to prove it.

Does that mean we should make grand promises to the world, saying that if they just go vegan all their health problems will disappear?  In my humble opinion, that would be foolish and irresponsible.  But let's not ignore or worse attack those whose health has improved as a result of removing animal products from their diets.

Perhaps it’s time to rethink the belief that it’s nobler to go vegan for the animals while not caring how or if we nourish our own bodies.  We’re not on this planet for just ourselves, but also for those we love and those who love and depend on us.  And for the many who have no voice, they need us to have the strength to fight for them as long as we possibly can.

Now off to fix me some kale and quinoa..


Tuesday, December 16, 2014

What (not?) to Say When Cancer Comes Close to Home



 A few years ago my friend Rachel*, a vibrant wife and mother of 2 young children in her late 30's, was diagnosed with breast cancer.

 The shock and horror of that diagnosis and at such a young age took its toll on her family.  I know when I found out it really hit me that for the first time, I was now old enough to have a friend that could God forbid, lose their life from a degenerative disease.

  I spent hours crying and praying for her well being and for the strength to face the surgery, chemotherapy and possibly radiation that she would be exposed to.

 Before our first visit after receiving the news, I was struggling internally for what to say. How could I convey understanding, be supportive, yet without resorting to pity and condescension?  

  But then it came to me! The perfect and most certainly fear reducing response I could share. Words that would surely give her and her family comfort and peace as they navigated through the uncertainty of what was to come.

 The time came. I greeted my good friend with a hug and sincere inquiry on how she was feeling. How were she and her family were coping?  Did they need anything; meals, housecleaning?

  Then, I shared what I just knew would be well received and appreciated..

  I said, “You know Rachel, when I first heard the news of your diagnosis, I was so shocked and scared for you. Cried and prayed for you. But then, I realized and remembered that cancer isn’t the only disease that women your age are stricken with. Yeah, heart disease is actually the number one killer of women. And thousands of women die every year of ovarian, lung, pancreatic, and brain cancer. Too many to name really.”

  I continued, “So, what I’m saying is yes, you are dealing with breast cancer right now and a rare type at that.   But we really need to talk about building  awareness for ALL diseases that kill women, don’t ya think?  I mean, isn’t it just a bit selfish of you to expect me, your family and all your friends to be so focused on your experience when there are so many other illnesses out there that people are suffering from?  Come on Rachel suck it up, accept your diagnosis with some guts and dignity, because ALL DISEASES MATTER..”



 Now, if you are the kind of individual that I would be proud to call a friend, I hope and pray with every fiber of my being that you were mortified and disgusted by what you’ve just read.   Do I have a friend that was recently diagnosed with a rare form of breast cancer? Yes.  While I admit to exaggerating her story here for effect, I did not actually attempt to bring ‘comfort’ to her by defensively  creating memes  throwing back in her face all the other diseases that women suffer and often die from, smugly listing them one by one.   How do you think that would have made her feel?    



*Rachel is a pseudonym. 



BLACKLIVESMATTER










Sunday, June 29, 2014

Breakdown

We'd been talking on the phone a while and I don't even remember how we got on the subject, but I was not happy. My birthday was coming up soon.  He tried his best to be encouraging and to reassure me that I had indeed made valuable accomplishments in my life. But in that state of mind, it was hard for me to hear, hard to accept. All I knew was that I was about to turn 40 and in my mind had not achieved the level of whatever success I thought I should have by that time.  Funny thing is, the birthday that I was on the precipice of during that fateful call with my boyfriend, now husband, was not 40.     I was a couple of days from turning 37.

Yes, I half-jokingly call it a 'breakdown'. And I mean no disrespect to those who have truly struggled with mental illness and challenges along those lines.  But for me that night, my world seemed overwhelming and I was coming to the realization that I was not where I wanted to be in life or where I thought I should be 'by then'. 

Now, this may seem like a pretty depressing post for a woman who celebrated her 50th birthday only a few days ago and had a wonderful time doing so.  
The funny part about that late night conversation with my ever patient boyfriend/husband, is that while I was whining away about how tough I had it, unbeknownst to me, he had planned a wonderful birthday celebration for us at a dinner theatre including a concert with one of my favorite recording artists, Kenny Loggins.  He told me later how helpless and frustrated he was feeling, yet couldn't say anything or else spoil the surprise.

For fun, I asked my husband for his take on that little chat of ours and how he remembered it.  First, he chuckled, shook his head, and then proceeded to break out into: " I'll never....wa wa wa..i'm old...ugghhhhh....I still haven't....!"
You know, kind of like this..

Sure it seems funny now. But believe me, that night it was anything but.

So, contemplating life now at the half century mark, I'd like to believe I've gained some perspective.    Are there still things I want to accomplish?  Yep, tons.  Do I have regrets? Sure.

But I'd like to think I've come to a place of more peace and acceptance with who I am, warts and all.

What about you? Any particular birthdays that threw you into an emotional talespin?


Sunday, June 22, 2014

Happy Veganversary to Me! Sort of..




I went vegetarian waaaay back in 1990. My motivations at the time were for health reasons. Two close relatives had died of diabetes complications and from what I learned from my research into nutrition and disease, those who followed a more plant based diet, seemed to have less degenerative diseases and longer lifespans.

Fast forward a few years later, a story I've shared from a previous post, I began to seriously look at the ethical reasons behind not eating animals and animal products.  I don't know if I would have been open to it all those years ago back in the 90's. The horrific treatment of veal calves being the exception.  I had never eaten veal before, so I had no culinary attachment to it  them. Cheese and eggs on the other hand? I think you see where I'm going with this.

So, around the end of 2006, I began to discover the invisible world of the animal rights/vegan movement. Well, invisible to me anyway. I soon learned there were conventions, cookbooks, websites, and podcasts.
 If I had to share the one method that the animals unintentionally worked their way into my heart, I would have to lay that at the feet of several, but mostly two tireless activists and their podcasts.

Today, I want to highlight one. His name is Erik Marcus, creator of the site vegan.com. His podcast (no longer on unfortunately) opened my eyes to the atrocities of animal agribusiness I had previously been so ignorant to.  His passionate conviction, coupled with the many guests he interviewed from across the spectrum of the animal rights community,aided in winning me over in a matter of a few short months. That and his sarcastic dry wit and sense of humor..  :)

Erik's site has recently been updated and relaunched. Tons of fabulous resources and info whether you just have questions about this vegan thing or are a long-term vegan. And all presented in an honest, approachable, non judgemental fashion.

Looking back, when I attempt to pinpoint my exact veganversary or vegan birthdate, it's tough. But, I do know that around this time of year in 2007, somewhere between late April and June, I made the decision to live as compassionately and nonviolently a possible. And for me, that meant choosing to become vegan.




Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Red What?

So in recent months I've become more informed of the history of Native Americans in this country, especially when it comes to the oppression and lets be honest, genocide perpetrated against them.

One issue that has been getting much attention over the years is the use of Native symbols as mascots for sports teams.  In fact, the first high school I attended in the Midwest had the same mascot as a certain NFL team in Washington State. I was curious to see if the same controversy had touched them and indeed it had. What I found disturbing though, was that there was such an outcry to keep the offensive mascot name, that nearly half of the student body refused to vote in protest when it came time to pick a new mascot. I sit here shaking my head. The arrogance of a group of people who when confronted by the very people that a symbol is claimed to honor,yet refusing to listen to or have any sensitivity towards them whatsoever.

I love this video below released by the National Congress of American Indians. Really gets the point across.
It aired in a shorter form during last night's NBA finals telecast. 

 Newsflash.  If I (or anyone) tell you that a word or symbol you're using to describe me is offensive and hurtful, guess what? It is. And it needs to stop. Now.