We all have choices. That is one of the great privileges of being an American. We have the right to live the life we choose. As long as we don’t abuse our neighbor we can travel whatever silly road we want.
I point this out because of an event I wanted to share with you. A friend of mine recently announced he had decided to become a vegan. I said you mean like a character from Star Wars? “No,” he said. “I have decided to become a committed vegetarian. From now on I refuse to eat meat or any animal product and will only eat vegetables.” OK. Whatever you think. But you do realize as a human you are an omnivore? That means you are designed to thrive and prosper eating a diet complete with both vegetables and meat. If you just eat vegetables, you will have to supplement your diet with vitamins and minerals that just don’t exist on a vegetarian diet.
He assured me he had this all under control so I decided to drop the subject. But no. My friend wouldn’t just drop the subject. He went on to tell me what my requirements would be with his new diet choice. For example, when he is at my house I would have to dispose of any and all foods containing any animal parts. If he decided to eat at my house, I would be required to prepare only accepted foods and drinks. Then he went on to tell me he will be visiting local restaurants, requiring them to change their menus to exclude any meats or animal products. After all, he would be offended by just looking at a menu with meat on it, not to mention the smells he would have to encounter.
He had decided to live the “lifestyle” of the vegan. That would mean no leather shoes or leather belts. No leather sofas or clothing. After all, that would amount to cruelty to animals. He went on to tell me he is sure he was born this way and it was not a matter of choice.
So I asked my friend why would he think his vegan decision, whether by birth or by choice, should be the responsibility of anyone else? Because, he said, vegetables are better for you and eating meat is just wrong. I intend everyone will be vegans. I intend to protest all meat-packing plants and butcher shops. I will petition Congress to make eating meat illegal. Soon the whole world will be a paradise for all the animals and we will all be rewarded by eating all the vegetables we want.
Now I like some vegetables. In fact potato chips and popcorn are among my favorites. But I also like to sink my teeth into a big juicy steak, or a cheeseburger, or ham and eggs. While I don’t think I was frightened at an early age by a stalk of celery or a piece of spinach, I prefer the steak. So, is this a choice I have made or was I born that way?
This point is clear to me. Whether my lifestyle is by choice or by birth, it’s my lifestyle. It doesn’t involve anyone else nor should anyone else’s lifestyle involve me. I don’t require my friend to alter his life to suit me and he should not make any such requirement of me.
Our friendship is probably on shaky ground right now but really, isn’t that what choice is all about?