Attached below is an old column that I recently came across, and thought that I'd post it here. It originally published in the Fort Worth Weekly in February of 2004. This very column helped me to get hired as a guest columnist for my local newspaper (The Fort Worth Star Telegram) in 2005. After 2005, I got the idea to start a blog in order to keep in the practice of writing.
It just goes to show that sometimes, ya just gotta take that chance, because you never know where it will take you after that. The lesson here is: Follow your dreams, folks! Below is the text of my column.
Living up to your ideals? Bummer.
By JOHN ARAUJO
American society is built around “feelgood.” We want to feel good — about ourselves, about how we live our lives, about the direction we’re taking toward our goals. There is the annoying problem, however, when the ideal meets the reality. Our usual response is not to adjust the ideal or the reality, but just to change the definitions to suit our politics, religion, or lifestyle.
Let’s say that Joe Rocko is a man with an ideal: He wants to be a vegetarian. However, being a vegetarian means giving up something that he enjoys doing — eating meat. Joe really wants to be a vegetarian, but he also really likes to have a steak — just a small one — on Saturday nights. The logical response would be for Joe to say, “Well, if I can’t make the sacrifice, then I don’t deserve the label” and just move on.
It’s a logical response, but it isn’t the American response. Joe wants to be a vegetarian, so he says he is a vegetarian —meat denial be damned! Thus, according to today’s postmod “you are who you say you are” dogma, Joe is a vegetarian. Of the meat-eating variety. A meat-eating vegetarian, of course, is a conflict in concepts. It is illogical. But it is also American.
Head Vegetarian Bob, or HVB for short, hears of Joe’s claim, and he is not pleased. HVB en-forces the prime directive of vegetarianism. To allow a meat-eating vegetarian would be a slap in the face to the vegetarians who make the effort to abstain from meat. So with the authority vested in him as the Head Veg, HVB formally excommunicates Joe Rocko from the community of vegetarians.
Joe is outraged at this. “How dare HVB shove his views down my throat! Who is he to tell me what I can and can’t call myself?” Joe is so outraged that he takes to the media and the talk show circuit. “Shameless power-mongering!” “Heavy-handed HVB hammers dissident vegetarian!” scream the headlines. Despite the heavy flak, HVB holds his ground. Being a vegetarian means abstaining from meat, and HVB will not budge from this.
Now a group of vegetarians comes out for Joe, because they believe that “It’s time to open our doors to Saturday-night-steak-eaters.” So they decide to accept him into their vegetarian community. HVB declares them heretics and excommunicates them. Meanwhile, Joe’s state representative has succeeded in getting victim status for meat-eating vegetarians, so Joe now qualifies for public funds to help educate the public at large about his plight. A web petition circulates, demanding that HVB accept Joe as a vegetarian and reverse the excommunication of the vegetarians who supported Joe. Even after all this, HVB still will not budge. He still insists that vegetarians do not eat meat. And so it goes.
It would have been easier on everyone if Joe would just admit that he isn’t a vegetarian, no matter how much he wants to believe otherwise. Obvious, you say — but is it so easy in real life to spot the meat-eating vegetarians?
Who would I give that title to? How about “pro-choice Catholics.” Abortion, of course, is against Catholic teachings, but politicians who use this label are trying to have it both ways by appealing to their pro-choice constituency without alienating their Catholic constituency. It would be easier if such politicians would just own up to the fact that they aren’t Catholic anymore —but when did honesty and politics ever mix anyway?
Of course not all lies are so obvious as meat-eating vegetarianism, but no doubt you wouldn’t have far to dig to discover some contradictions of your own. To admit to these comforting delusions, however, would require a level of mental self-examination beyond the patience or desire of most Americans. It’s easier and faster to just believe in the lie. Socrates once said that an unexamined life is not worth living — but then Socrates wasn’t an American. Vegetarianism is an ideal, but meat-eating vegetarianism is an American moral shortcut. Shortcuts to enlightenment are the American way! So pass me the carrot stick, please. Yes, I know it looks like a hamburger, but trust me, it’s a carrot stick.
John Araujo is a Fort Worth freelance writer and cartoonist.
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