Category Archives: Personal Viewpoint

Did China give us all the greatest gift?

Here we are, on week whatever it is, in an upside-down world. Facebook warriors, long held in the trenches of tired arguments are suddenly thrust into the position of becoming communicative disease specialists. Doctors and nurses are the new heroes, along with supermarket workers and truck drivers. Stock indices are diving, and people are becoming self sufficient in new, innovative ways. Executives and reporters are working from home swarmed by children and barking dogs.

When the virus began to take hold, I remember thinking about how we may finally have the common enemy we have needed as of late. As the adage goes, “good times make weak men.” We have had too long a stretch of good times. People were growing complacent in their ignorance. Polarization was dividing us. We had no common focus to bring us again, together.

I have seen people, companies, and governments work together, bringing the best out of humanity. And that has been so refreshing. The IV drip of catastrophe experienced too long of a delay, allowing social decay to seep in. This is the dose we have been thirsting for, a dose to put things back into crisp perspective.

I think China may have given us a wonderful gift.

Of course, this is exempting the loss of life that is sweeping the World. The economic impacts of those that are suddenly without work, or school. These are certainly not gifts.

But is there a silver lining? Is there some lemonade from these lemons?

First, people are craving each other. We can’t shake hands, hug, or go for walks. Grandparents can’t hold their grandchildren. Friends can’t just meet for a beer. The simplest personal interactions are limited. And now we want what we cannot have. When this is over, I expect (at least for a short while), people to connect and not take that element of humanity for granted.

Second, this is a huge test and teacher. While this strain of Coronavirus is not as deadly as many past pandemics, we never know what is next. People have been able to wake up and realize how we need to be prepared for that next, perhaps much deadlier pandemic. Governments can test what works best, and families will hopefully learn the importance of cash savings and self-sustenance.

Parents are learning not only the true value of teachers, but how to re-engage with their kids and teach them.

Third, it has shined a light on civil liberties. Staunch anti-gun states have seen lines around the block at gun stores. Previously voted-for laws are now in question. People are trying to learn about – and interpret – where the right spot is on the spectrum between willful lockdown and civil trampling. I expect the lawsuits are stacking up like cord wood, waiting for the dust to settle. We will see some interesting case law changes come of this.

Last, people have been working together. Car companies are making ventilators. Clothing companies are making masks. Neighbors are helping the disabled and elderly. Government and private enterprise are working together. Schools are delivering meals to needy families.

To me, this is the greatest revelation of them all – that we all still have that thick bedrock of humanity that has long been buried under layers of confusion, ignorance, and deliberate polarization. While we have been played by those in power for far too long, it is so relieving to see how little is needed to bring out the best in all of us.

And for that, I’d like to say “thank you” to China, or at least to that one bat-eating nutcase.

Can you be vegan and be pro-choice?

As I look back on my own personal journey of discovery and awareness (or at least an attempt to be aware), sometimes I laugh at myself out of embarrassment. I used to be anti-gay rights. And that’s really embarrassing. Today I am a staunch supporter of gay rights. So I hope somehow, I have repaid my debts to my gay friends and fellow Americans through my activism in that space.

But I have also made a more recent change in a position I have long held – abortion. For as long as I can remember, I was pro-choice. I mean, no one has a right to tell a woman what she can and cannot do with her body, right?

Wrong. Honestly.

Who has the right?

Many pro-animal agriculture people claim that “no one has the right to tell a private business what they can and cannot do.” Sounds familiar, huh? And yet we chain ourselves to machines and gates in an effort to physically impact those factory farms and egg houses.

When pro-life people chain themselves to abortion clinics, they are labeled as “religious nut-jobs” and the mainstream media propagates this stereotype. As a vegan, I also hate being called a nut-job when fighting for what I think is right and just. We may share more in common with the pro-life crowd than we think.

I remember even being spit on when leading a demonstration for Sea Shepherd in Burlington, Vermont. I also remember flipping off a pig transport truck for hauling pigs in sweltering heat. He called me a nut-job.

So why on one hand is it OK to defend the voiceless with intervention (when it comes to animals) and yet simultaneously support a human’s ability to murder the defenseless?

Irony hits the streets

I felt a twang of irony, as I often stood at animal rights demonstrations, in an effort to “defend the voiceless.” We’d march in Anchorage against the fur and trapping industries. Fight to end aerial wolf hunting. Bear baiting.

And yet, many friends and colleagues were supportive of abortion. Which is, the exact same killing of the voiceless.

How can we, as vegans, support the voiceless when it comes to animals, yet deprive the voiceless a chance at life because it is a human? Isn’t that the definition of speciesism? Just in reverse?

Per Wikipedia:

speciesism is a form of discrimination based on species membership.[1][2] It involves treating members of one species as morally more important than members of other species even when their interests are equivalent.”

On the blog “I am Going Vegan” they also address this apparent hypocrisy. What’s interesting is that many of their points center around when a fetus feels pain. But as vegans, we know that is only part of the story when defending animals.

We hate seeing a scared animal. One that knows it’s next for the bolt gun. Or a goose about to be force fed. Or a male chick headed to the shredder. They just know. But to me, at least, the foundation of my desire to be vegan centers around one key principle:

Just leave them alone. I believe animals (and now, human fetuses) are sentient beings, and should be free to live. I don’t want to ever dictate the future life or death of a pig. Or a cow. Or a human.

Sistah Vegan also has a very interesting poll. The majority (although slim) of vegans are actually pro life.

Celebrating Life

One of my favorite moments as a vegan is during the holidays. I absolutely love eating a feast, while also knowing that NOT ONE SINGLE animal suffered so that I could enjoy that moment. And I know many fellow vegans share the same sentiment. It boosts my soul.

What is the impact to one’s soul knowing their entire life, that they chose to kill?

In Closing

I understand there are circumstances where abortion is the only option (medically necessary, incest, rape, etc). I am not addressing these examples in this opinion piece. I am talking primarily of abortion for convenience.

Just as we look to “ignorant carnivores” sometimes, and are shocked at their unwillingness to challenge themselves and inconvenience themselves for positive change, I also look to those abortion cases with the same thinking.

And let’s not forget the hypocrisy on the other side of the spectrum, too – the meat eating pro-lifers. How you can defend human life, while eating a cheeseburger is beyond me.

What is the Biggest Threat to Veganism? Vegans.

I cannot imagine the struggle of 1970s vegans.  While I was not alive, I assume most food was literally veggies and fruits.  Which, looking back was amazing from a health perspective.  But socially?  Probably not so much.  You couldn’t belly up to a fast food restaurant with your friends and order an Impossible Whopper, or Beyond Meatball sub at Subway.

We have collectively, worked so hard to prove the market importance of veganism, that large, multi-national corporations are finally paying attention.

And what is the fundamentalist vegan community saying about vegan options at places like Burger King, KFC, Del Taco, and Carl’s Jr?  Are they recognizing this as a milestone in our societal march to more and more veganism?


They are whining. 

And it could disrupt all this progress.

On countless Instagram posts where companies like Beyond Meat are announcing yet another huge entrant into the vegan market, there are countless comments whining about how such a place runs in conflict with their own vegan drum-circle morality.

Just a few gems from some recent posts on IG:

“I am not giving my money to an industry that supports factory farming.”

“…they don’t give s sh*t about the animals, they just want a wider demographic. It’s all greed.”

“I advise the [vegan] community to be wary how we can fathom a murdering corporation will take the steps necessary to ensure a purity on a vegan standard.”

Purity on a vegan standard?  What is this, scientology!?  Are we all aspiring thetans?  Come on PEOPLE!

  1. Aren’t we supposed to be focused on the animals?

Let’s be real.  This whole thing – all the sacrifices and ridicule we have made and sustained are not for us.  We are doing this to save animals.  And, if you think for a minute that KFC or Burger King will ever stop selling animal flesh, you are mistaken.  So these companies will always profit off animals.  However, every single Impossible Whopper, or Beyond Chicken bucket sold at KFC will at LEAST save one animal life.  If that consumer likes it, and replaces more meat items with the vegan options, that turns into real change.  And real animals saved.

Furthermore, if vegans shop at these places and prove the market exists and is healthy, they will continue to offer these options.  That is meaningful change, albeit at the hands of an animal-exploiting company.

2. Where do Thetan-vegans draw the moral line with their superiority?

The common theme in these posts is that vegans should not give their money to a company that profits off meat.  Which is, on the surface understandable.  But what about grocery stores?  Even the hipster-loving “cruelty-free meat” purveyor Whole Foods sells seafood, chicken, and meat products.  Trader Joes, a close second cult favorite for vegans, also does.  So does Safeway, Wal-Mart, and others ad nauseum.

Our older vegan stand bys like Taco Bell also do.

So the effort of maintaining what meat-profiting businesses you will and will not support will become pretty complex and time consuming.

At the end of the day, if you are truly in this for the animals, you’ll put down the animal-tested Kombucha, and apply some common sense. This is not about you. This is about animals. And if we wish to continue driving change and seeing the massive wins we have, we need to change our personal definitions of veganism.

After all, the whole world is changing.  Won’t you join us?

On Eloquent Liberalism and the Failure of Portland

On a recent trip to visit family in Burlington, Vermont something struck me.  There are a lot of refugees (my mom is active in supporting the refugee population).  According to conservative logic, that would equate to a lot of people living “off the system” and getting government checks for nothing. And a general downfall of ‘murica.

Fast forward a day or two and after a walk down Church Street I was amazed at the number of retail stores designed to sell the stuff the refugee population made.  Amazing textiles, baskets, artwork, and clothing.  It was refreshing to see an outlet for the cultural value this population brings to Vermont.

Another thing I noticed?  The abundance of community gardens.  These areas of open space are given by the city to people that want to raise their own produce.  The number of folks I saw walking these rows with baskets on their heads and vibrant clothing was a stark contrast to the old brick walls and green mountains in the distance.

It is no surprise that Burlington is a liberal anchor in a sea of liberal cities.  It has born the likes of Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield (Ben and Jerry’s co-founders) and other liberal monoliths. But what was a surprise is how Burlington has pulled off something amazing – an eloquent version of liberalism.

Not once was I asked for money from a junkie.  Not once was there an ANTIFA protest blocking the streets.  Not once did a Prius sit in the left lane on highway 89.  Not once was a tent city of homeless even seen. And, more importantly, the refugee population seemed happy and engaged.  Almost as if the entire system was done the right way.

In contrast, I look at Portland, my local city.  The city that made me disavow my liberal identity.  It is a city where anger is the new cool.  If you are white and not angry about how “underserved” or “underprivileged” other people are, well, you just don’t belong here.

It’s a city where every morning, I walk past tent cities full of homeless people that shoot up heroin in safe centers. I step over sidewalk chalk with angry scribblings of last nights protest-du-jour, the pending rain our only hopes to remove it from our collective memory.

It’s a city where ANTIFA literally calls the shots while the police sit idly by, their hands tied by an insane mayor. Oh, and the same police refused to assist federal agents during a protest at their local facility, too.

The contrast of these two cities could not be any sharper.  And, while they share similar DNA (I have often called Portland “Burlington on steroids.”), Burlington has proven that liberalism can be done well, and done right.  And I am proud to say the liberal side of my political foundation was built there. Back when Vermont passed one of – if not the – first civil union bills in the nation.  A political anger that is kept in check and leveraged only when truly needed, which avoids Portland’s issue of crying angry wolf.

Maybe the conservative base should examine the areas where liberalism actually does win, as an example of what is possible.  And how it can be so eloquent.


What Happened in Vegas Does Not Stay in Vegas

Well, here we are yet again.   Staring down the harsh reality of yet another madman killing many people for no reason.  The videos I have seen, show it was in fact a massacre.

And, yet again, the media and the majority have shifted focus away from the madman himself, and put the responsibility of the event on the weapon – and the millions of Americans that own the same exact rifle.  Myself included.

Even on NPR this morning, people were barking the familiar rhetoric of gun control, and passing “tougher” laws to prevent these shootings from happening.

Want the reality?  You will never be able to pass ANY law that will prohibit these events.  They will continue to happen.  There are two primary reasons for this.

Continue reading What Happened in Vegas Does Not Stay in Vegas

My Take on the Impossible Foods Burgergate

Just a week ago, I was in new York City, staring across the table at 3 beautiful, vegan, Impossible Burgers.  I had waited years to try this meal, and it was finally in front of me. For me, a milestone, but for the two carnivores, I feel it was just something new to try.

However we all left stunned.  I, with a renewed sense of excitement for the future of veganism, and my friends with an interest in vegan products they never thought they would have.


So I was a bit disheartened this week to see some media outlets raising ethical concerns with the Impossible Burger.

Continue reading My Take on the Impossible Foods Burgergate

Is Ideology the new Case for Concealed Carry?

As many of my readers know, I am a strange blend of liberalist, centrist, and conservative.  While I voraciously support equality – marriage equality for one, I also advocate strongly for second amendment rights and smaller government.

I also believe unequivocally – that without our second amendment, we cannot protect the others.  That single right – to keep and bear arms – allows us, the citizenry, a poker chip against a future government that steps too far.  It was baked into our rights from a group of founders, that had just recently witnessed an armed citizenry resist an oppressive government – and succeed. It is core to our nation.

IMG_20170520_105451_980 (1).jpg

That all boils down to the fact I am a staunch believer in concealed (and even open) carry.

Continue reading Is Ideology the new Case for Concealed Carry?

Should Vegans Have Kids?

This question, oddly, seems to have been bubbling among vegan Facebook discussion groups and pages lately.  And I am not sure why.

From what I have seen, most people surprisingly say “no,” with their primary argument being that more people = more consumption and more pollution.  There is more to it, but that is the basic gist.

A few years ago, I too would have probably answered with something similar.  I was pretty anti-child, and vegan (not anti-child, really, just not into it for me).

But a few years ago I was blessed with a little boy and he has changed my life and my view on things.

Continue reading Should Vegans Have Kids?

A True Friend, Indeed

About fourteen and a half years ago (almost to the date) I turned my Jeep around in the middle of a busy Boulder, Colorado intersection.  It was a literal U-Turn in the purest sense of the word.  As I floored my Jeep, I raced back hoping he was still there.  This little brown chocolate lab mix, at the time, named MacGuyver.  He was at the Boulder Humane Society and we thought it was best to “wait” after meeting this sweet little pup.  Five minutes after leaving the lot and we were headed back to pick him up.  So fast, and deep was the connection with this truly beautiful spirit.

Cooper at my very first Jeep offroad trip in Nederland, Colorado

After a quick rename to Cooper (aptly after a Cooper Tires sign after leaving the humane society the second time, with the dog in the Jeep) he was home and making himself a permanent part of my life.

Continue reading A True Friend, Indeed

My Manifesto on Gun Control

Like a broken record, it has happened again.  And, like a broken record, legal gun owners must mix defensiveness with their mourning for the victims.  And, I am pretty sure it will happen again.

Perhaps the one potentially positive outcome from these shootings, is that the national consciousness comes together for a discussion about guns and gun ownership.  That debate is often heated, and polarized with little needle movement from either camp.

In my opinion however, we do need to look at current and future gun policy with an eye to both rights preservation and compromise.

I submitted my thoughts to Vice President Joe Biden’s “Gun Control Committee” in the wake of the shooting in Newtown and was thankful to hear from his staff that my comments were included.  Most of that stance remains unchanged.

Continue reading My Manifesto on Gun Control