Thursday, July 3, 2008

Inner conflicts

We all have them--those inner conflicts--the struggle inside ourselves between right and wrong, or more often than not just two different positions that seem antithetical (maybe they're not, maybe it's just a change in perspective or language that one needs).

Here are a few of mine right now--feel free to share your own:

*From both an ethical and environmental pov, it's better to eat less meat or eat no meat (certainly mammal flesh but I'd also add poultry and fish into this list), and yet I LOVE steak. I know I am contributing to the deaths, sometimes cruel and inhumane, of animals, but I continue to enjoy my ribeye steak rare.

*I really do enjoy playing golf, but I find the whole institution of golf to be sexist/elitist/racist/homophobic.

*I have no tolerance for intolerant people. I am bigoted towards bigots.

*I need to finish editing an article that is past its due date (I did get an extension, but as July 1 recedes into the distance, I recognize that I should get busy) yet here I am, spending time thinking of what I'm going to blog about.

10 comments:

Tami said...

Jennifer,

I with you on everything but the golf (I don't play).

I was watching a DVR'd episode of "30 Days" this morning (Y'know, the Morgan Spurlock vehicle?. this particular episode featured a hunter and dedicated meat eater going to live with a vegan/animal activist family for 30 days. Watching the show, I was struck once again how I morally disagree with the current way that meat and dairy gets to my table. I am not against the eating of mear, per se, as I believe humans are animals on the food chain. But I don't agree that animals are here on Earth simply for our use as food, etc. I also object to the way the greed of the corporate industrial complex has led animals to be grossly mistreated through factory farming, animal testing, etc.

So...I should be at least a vegetarian. I'm not, though. In fact, I had a burger for lunch. I am an aspiring vegetarian. I believe in the lifestyle. I think eating less meat would be healthier and more humane. I keep a SoulVeg badge on my blog. I subscribe to Vegetarian Times. I figure if I inundate myself with vegetarian stuff and hang around veggie folks, I might eventually "get religion" and give up the meat myself.

...such a moral quandry.

CVT said...

I think that post (all of them, actually) I linked you to on my blog pretty much covers a number of my inner conflicts.

Here's a nicer conflict to have - selfishly use my summer vacation time to just do whatever I want, when I want; or make plans to spend quality time with all the people I don't see enough during the school year?

Jason said...

I quit eating meat & seafood in 1990 after a casual conversation with a friend about whether or not we'd kill an animal. The next day I became a vegetarian. In many ways it is the decision I'm most proud of in life. I loved meat and come from a meat-eating family. I still salivate when I smell cooking meat and when I cook meat for my friends and family. Nothing to me smells better than beef on a grill. Ultimately, though, it wasn't that hard, I think because I immediately knew it was right--it's a choice without a lot of middle ground (though I realize that this doesn't make the choice easy). I'm so proud that I did it, I think, because I was young at the time (20), because I lived in a very small town during a time that it was very hard to be a vegetarian (food options wise anyway), and because I did it quietly. I still never preach it today, never try to convert anyone. I feel good to deny myself something that I desire when the reward is that a living creature can continue to live. That's the fantastic part (and the curse) of being human--that we can choose not to do what we feel or desire or that may even be in our nature. My dogs don't have this option/curse. Just this afternoon they dug up a den of baby rabbits. One got eaten. I was able to save the others. On the other hand, I often find myself throwing rocks at the rabbits that are trying to get into my garden. And I poison the rats that get under the house because my wife convinced me to kill the snakes that used to live there (to eat the rats). I've killed three giant black widow spiders in the last week as well as about ten pinkie-sized tomato horn worms in the garden. I don't like killing any of these creatures but I do it. You can't let a black widow or a copperhead snake bite your child, after all. I suppose you can let a big fat worm eat your tomatoes--but I don't want it to, dangit (so I suppose this is just selfish ultimately).

I struggle emotionally/ethically when I get too worked up about anything--running, writing, cutting wood, remodeling the house--when my kids are here and want to see me. It is when I get recognition for one of my various insignificant tasks that it gets very hard. It's that recognition/praise that makes me want to run or write more, or to develop the greatest class activity, when the rational part of me knows these things aren't important. I make a conscious decision to not try my best at most things. I know how to do that--to obsess over projects, to stay up all night, to push my body to physical limits--but I don't want to anymore. Well, okay, occasionally.

Here's a poem that I wrote about my snake-killing. (Please feel free to not include it in the post, as I'm taking up way too much space).


(what) I Do (for you)

Sparks from the rusty machete
nip at my bare ankles
as I slash and hammer
the leathery skin of amorous
copperheads entwined on
their warm sandstone bed
just steps from the back door.

Twenty years ago, after blasting
lead shot into the apricot
breast of a whistling bluebird
perched on a bare branched birch,
I promised that this would be the
first and last life I stole.

But on that miraculous day
when my cowardly trembling lips
finally gave birth to “I do,”
I was agreeing to kill these
snakes (and those spiders and
those rats and those wasps)
that called this place home
long before we did
because a man must
love his wife more than he
loves his principles.

My guilty eyes watch my loyal
arm swing the heavy steel
at the dying snakes
who hardly notice they’re
being butchered.

They too,
too too
busy being
in love.

Jennifer said...

Tami,
Thanks for comisserating with me on my inner conflicts--esp. the meat eating. I've done similar things--in terms of reading about the evils of factory farming, having vegetarian cook books, and making vows to reduce my weekly meat consumption--trying to contain it to two red meat dishes a week (often doesn't work) and to definitely have two meals a week where I consume no animal flesh.

So skipping to Jason, I have a lot of respect for your decision, because it is hard. Because I LOVE the taste of meat and while I normally think of myself as someone who is disciplined, I have yet to find the self control when it comes to meat eating.

I also want to add a nod to the cultural/family pressures. In some families and cultures, to declare vegetarianism is tantamount to ethnic betrayal. I don't think it would be that bad in my family, but meat is the central focus of our family meals, small but particularly large. And my family is very hospitable in the sense that there are rules of hospitality that would dictate making a special dish or accomodating my dietary needs. And I"m not sure I'm ready to do that either. Really, I should put a post about this, because when I've thought about becoming vegetarian, one thing that stops me in my tracks is realizing that one of the main ways I express my ethnic identity, through food, would be made very difficult for me in this choice.

Finally, CVT, you do face a more pleasant inner conflict than the ones I posted, although I would also feel torn if I were you between two equally pleasant choices. But I suspect and hope that the conflict will get resolved by a cordial balance between the two.

Jennifer said...

Jason, I also meant to add that I appreciate the poem--feel free to add more to our literary education!

The Constructivist said...

You had me with the golf! But I don't see that so much as a tension as a play the game for yourself and your own enjoyment and critique the institution here and in your academic writing. Have you followed the contrasting responses in the golf media to Anthony Kim's win at Tiger's tournament in DC and Seon Hwa Lee's in NW Arkansas?

Jennifer said...

Hi Constructivist,
I have been following Anthony Kim and just recently read about his win. And I am not surprised that there's more attention being paid to Kim than to Lee because (1) He's a guy--it's the PGA vs. LPGA (2) He's American--Asian American/Korean American, but American none-the-less. Also...and this is me being a bit ... controversial potentially...Lee isn't as attractive as someone like Wie or Kerr or even Mi Hyun Kim and Jeong Jang. And lets face it--the media follows women if they are attractive, or are more likely to follow them if they are attractive. I'm not endorsing any of these attitudes but merely observing that I'm not surprised.

Again, I don't think it's right--and I do think that Kim's win is also garnering interest because lets face it, in the post-Tiger-surgery-out-of-the-season media cycle, they are LOOKING for something to gather interest--and a non-white-twenty-something-golfer who *could* challenge Tiger is going to, potentially, stir up some interest.

Anyway, just my 2 cents.

The Constructivist said...

Ah, we'll have to agree to disagree on SH Lee's hotness! But she certainly doesn't have AK's charisma and style. And with Tiger out and Kenny Perry ducking majors left and right, I can understand the excitement about his 2nd win. I just wih it were more widely distributed. Lee is much closer to being the real deal than Kim is golf-wise.

Here's another one to ponder: the media's embrace of Stacy Lewis and relative lukewarmness about Jane Park. Both Americans, both have contended early in their careers, both have great futures, but it's Lewis who's overwhelmed with the media attention.

I wonder when Amanda Blumenherst and Tiffany Joh graduate next spring whether the media playing field for them will be a bit more even, as Joh is a quote-machine, already on Christina Kim's level....

It'll be very interesting to see how these younger Asian American pros (along with new U.S. citizen Angela Park and someday, when she gets her game back, Michelle Wie) handle the Asian/American thing and where they'll diverge from the paths taken by Pat Hurst, Leta Lindley, Stacy Prammanasudh, etc.

The Constructivist said...

Back to the subject of the institution of golf, I think it's worth noting that it's both a national and a transnational one, a point brought home if you click on the links on the celebrations in South Korea upon the return of Eun-Hee Ji and Inbee Park for a visit before the LPGA's European swing begins....

Wonder how it feels like to be almost a complete unknown in 1 country and a national hero in another?

Jennifer said...

You know, I'd love to see a major Asian American athlete--ANY major Asian American athlete in any sport.

I suppose I should amend that, because Tiger IS an Asian American athlete. But what I mean, is that it'd be great for someone who identifies as Asian American (and I think Tiger does, at least in part, at least from the scant things I've read I don't think he doesn't identify as AsAm, if that makes sense) to be SEEN as Asian American by their fans, peers in the sports world, and the general public/media.

Tiger is not seen as an Asian American athlete--his Thai heritage is barely recognized, almost always as an afterthought.

I suppose we can look to ice skating as the arena that has brought the most attention to Asian American athletes--Kristi Yamaguchi & Michelle Kwan leap to mind.

And I know that there have been many others in other sports, but part of taking Asian American atheltes seriously has to do with feeling like the "American" part gets recognized along with the Asian part.

Guess time will tell.