She doesn't know I'm doing this and I hope she'll forgive me the liberty, but I want to talk to you about one of my hero's- my sister.
In the movie of her life, she would be played by Liv Tyler- she's beautiful both inside and out, and she's wicked smart. Because of, or in spit of, our being "Irish twins" we are best friends. I can talk to her about anything and vice versa. I know that she'll give it to me straight and I'm never one to sugar coat my opinions on what she might have done wrong (or right for that matter).
I've spoken about her before on these pages, but I feel further exploration is needed. As long time readers know, she is vegetarian and has been for many years. This has not always been easy in our household, but I think recent family events have helped turn our parents on to her train of thought. She is currently studying to be a veterinarian and is a leader in her class. I couldn't be more proud!
On a daily basis, she overcomes diversity. As a democrat in the land of republicans and an atheist in god's country; she is constantly trying to defend her point of view while offending as few people as possible. Her personal and political views make her easy cannon fodder for those around her, for those who call her "friend". Amidst all of this, she maintains a brave face. It is more important to her that she represents the subcultural groups she defines in a positive light than to stir the pot. Whether she thinks of it this way or not, her dream is to open the eyes of those around her to be more understanding and tolerant.
"I want for them, if they meet another vegetarian, [etc.] to say, 'I knew a vegetarian in college and she was cool, maybe this person will be cool too'".
It's hard for my city mind to understand that for many who know her, she is the first vegetarian they've ever meet, the first democrat, the first not to go to church even on a holiday basis. She puts her own feelings and discomfort on the back burner everyday in hopes of building and bridging ties within her community.
Growing up in a diverse metropolitan community and to a family of liberals, we were exposed to all sorts of things others can only imagine. We've traveled the country (heck- I know people who have never left the state), left the country to travel, been to museums and musicals, plays and operas. We've talked with people of all socio- and economic persuasions. We are renaissance ladies and proud of it!
My sister is my hero because I take all of these things for granted. I live in a city that puts republican, democrat, liberal, and green party candidates on the ballot. I can eat delicacies from Ethiopia to Italy. I can go to church, synagogue, mosque, or stay home. I am surrounded by amazing friends who may judge me or poke fun at my choices, what they see as my idiosyncrasies, yet they love and respect me just the same. To be reminded that this is not happening all over the country hurts my heart. When will the prejudices and naive hatred for those that are different from ourselves end? When will we all learn to respect those who give us respect, to think about others feelings? When will we, as a country, grow up and out of the past? Who cares if someone is vegetarian or vegan or 100% carnivore (seriously, I worry about those of you who refuse to eat any vegetable. PS- Potatoes are not a vegetable)? If someone is Catholic, or Baptist, or Jewish, or Muslim, or atheist, or if they worship at the shrine of the almighty "boob tube"? How does that effect you? How does that harm you?
In an effort to help my sister, I did some digging into her college town, trying to find vegetarian restaurants or groups she could join. There weren't any. I understand that she goes to an agricultural school, but how can there not be at least ONE vegetarian club? When I asked Urban Spoon for a recommendation, it listed one vegetarian restaurant- a sandwich place. Uh, I think we can do better. On another search, I came up with a better option, The Village Cafe/Art979, which has mostly vegetarian options and is completely local. Yea! Now if only we can get a few more cool places down there...
I also came across a blog from Fair & Feminist entitled: "Is Vegetarian a dirty word in Texas?" I would say it is. In the same spirit as yesterday's Women's Writes assignment, I further call you all to action. Be respectful of those around you. If you can't do that for a friend, who can you? Try to learn something new everyday. If you know someone with a varying point of view, ask them about it! Be respectful and listen. Try to see it from their side. Share your own feelings. Remember, and this may be most important of all, that they have feelings too. If what you want to say would hurt your feelings, why would you say it to someone else? We can never get along and end discrimination and hate until we learn to listen to one another and accept our differences.
[side note: Have you heard the story about Constance McMillan, the teenager from Mississippi who was barred from attending her high school prom with her girlfriend? It went to court and the judge ruled that the school was incorrect, but stopped short of saying they still had to throw a dance. Instead, parents and community members offered to throw one, which was then cancelled. Constance was invited to another prom that was being thrown instead. When she got there, there were only 5 other people there and some chaperone's from the school. It turns out, the original prom was not cancelled and she was sent to a "reject prom". Adding insult to injury, a Facebook page teasing and ridiculing her was created by her classmates. This sickens me. Please join me in signing The Human Rights Campaign's petition to the local school board stating our outrage that this was allowed to go on and seemingly sanctioned by them. You can read more about what happened by visiting The Bloggess' website (where I learned of this latest development) here. Thanks in advance!]