A Vegetarian Journal for Quakers and Other People of Faith
The Peaceable Table is intended for the mutual support, education, and inspiration of people of faith in the practice of love for our fellow animals and observance of a Peace-full diet
A Glimpse of the Peaceable Kingdom
What Arms Are For . . . .
Editor’s Corner Essay: Blessed Are the Peacemakers
The Hard Word to Hear
On September 16, 2017, in the National Mall in Washington, a political rally entitled the “Mother of All Rallies Patriot Unification Gathering ” in support of the Trump campaign was underway. Black Lives Matter counter-protesters were also present; members of the two groups began shouting at one another, then moving toward one another. At this point, the ominous situation took an unexpected turn: Tommy Gunn, the leader of the Unification Gathering, invited the leader of the Black Lives Matter group to come up to the platform and state his position for two minutes, because “You have the right to have the message.” Hawk Newsome, the leader of the other group, took up the invitation. “All lives matter!” someone shouted. Newsome responded, in effect, ‘You’re right, brother; all lives matter. But when a black person’s life is snuffed out, we get no justice. But the beauty of our country is that we can work together to set things right.” A few in the audience booed, but more of them cheered. At the end of his two minutes, some people from opposite sides even hugged.
Arthur C. Brooks, who reported the incident recently in the NY Times under the title “Empathize With Your Political Foe,” commented that the two sides very likely did not reach agreement on their differences. But, because they listened to one another, even for a few minutes, most of them were able to acknowledge their common humanity--a crucially important gain. They empathized, and hostility diminished.
It seems that events of this sort are becoming increasingly rare in the political climates of major countries today; partisanship and tribalism usually prevail over attempts to find common ground. Shouting abuse is common, in person and in print, but the shouters seldom hear one another. The fact is that it is uncomfortable, often painful, to hear or read the message of those with whom you disagree sharply. It feels better and safer to keep your distance from them both in person and in media contact, and associate only with persons who share your convictions.
This observation is not meant to put down gathering together and sharing with our fellows. It is important, even crucial, to have the company and support of like-minded persons, particularly for minorities who seek justice, as animal advocates know as well as do oppressed racial minorities. Such contact fosters growth in understanding and love and strength. But if we are to communicate with those who disagree, we need to emerge sometimes from our respective ghettos and try to understand what they are thinking, and, if possible, why.
“Blessed are the Peacemakers,” from the Sermon on the Mount, is usually imagined to refer to mediators who step in between belligerents and help them find a way of coexisting (or convince members of an aggressing party to stop violating their weaker neighbors). It is far from easy. But suppose there is no mediator, and it is up to one of the parties involved to start the mediation? That is far harder, especially for the victim of aggression. (For a remarkable example of such action, see the story of Louise Degrafinreid, who became a peacemaker when an armed escaped convict invaded her home http://www.//vegetarianfriends.net/issue121.html ) Very few of us have Louise’s stunning spiritual power of love, but there are less threatening situations of conflict in which it may be possible for a person who is not a saint to check her or his feelings of alienation sometimes and find a way to reach out to the foe, as Tommy Gunn did in the incident described above.
Some readers may feel that trying to check impassioned demands for justice in order to empathize with the Other is a compromise with evil. Evil, after all, is is not just a mindset, it is more: it is a destructive power that infects, stunts, warps, even kills its victims: humans, other living beings, societies, and the living earth. We cannot compromise with it. But empathy is not necessarily sympathy or agreement. It is an act of the imagination that, on its most basic level, may be cognitive only; it is trying to put oneself in another’s position, (partly) in order to connect more effectively. Cognitive empathy can even be used for nefarious purposes, as when a fraudster studies his or her marks to be able to anticipate their responses. But of course, our intent here is just the opposite: to bring about transformation and healing.
It is important for would-be empathizers who would also become peacemakers to assess their strength and maturity before proceeding in highly emotional conflicts, and they may need the help of others in doing so. There is little question that a young child witnessing his or her father battering his mother (rarely, the reverse situation) is seldom in a position to intervene as a peacemaker, however great his fear or his rage as a witness. He might be able to distract the aggressor; if the batterer is unwilling to strike a child, a rare and very brave girl or boy might actually be able to step in between attacker and victim, as actor Patrick Stewart (pictured, with mother Gladys Stewart) as a child sometimes did to protect her from his violent father. But many children are not that brave, and despite his efforts, Stewart was unable most of the time to protect her. He felt responsible that he could not stop the violence, which all the neighbors could hear, and was deeply ashamed of it.
The damage virtually all children of violence and/or verbal violence sustain growing up may be with them for life. Some may become tense, nervous and withdrawn, freezing when only witnessing violence, even the verbal sort; males may become batterers themselves, visiting their suffering on their mates and the next generation; females may find themselves repeatedly attracted to potential partners who turn out to be violent. The pain goes on and on.
Suppose that, in adulthood, such persons want to become peacemakers for others? Stewart has made use of his celebrity status to sponsor organizations that protect battered women and seek to educate violent or potentially violent males that to be unable and unwilling to rule over oneself is not manly; rather, it is immature and irresponsible. It is a choice, and a bad one. But he has gone further; in recent years, while researching for a documentary he was to narrate, he studied his father’s WW II record, and discovered that Alfred Stewart, something of a war hero--virtually the last one to be evacuated at Dunkirk, later a paratrooper under fire--had suffered from PTSD. It was was, of course, never treated. Imagining the fear, mental pain, and rage his father must have suffered throughout the long war years deepened Patrick’s compassion, and heightened his ability to speak to both victims and batterers.
Through the therapy the stage provided him, and his peacemaking work, Patrick Stewart has gone far toward healing himself. But many grown children of physical and/or verbal batterers, especially if they were battered as well as their mothers, may not be ready to step into dangerous situations and attempt to make peace. The same may be true of persons wounded by major traumas in adult life. It is crucially important to seek and find healing. On the other hand, venturing with appropriate caution out of one’s comfort and safety zone to take peacemaking action may result in increased strength and confidence. There is something to be said for courage in the face of fears. Ultimately, the individual must decide whether to act in a given conflict or not. In either case, empathizing with the other is of great value in making action, or future action, effective. It is also to echo what is ultimate in the universe, for we are all one, whether we like it or not.
Closer to Home
The conflicts which animal activists and supporters face stem, of course, primarily from our prophetic word and actions against our culture’s carnism, to use Melanie Joy’s term. While the cultural atmosphere has become friendlier toward toward us in recent years, hostility from others against our witness has by no means disappeared, ranging from family members to those who profit financially from the status quo; an answering hostility from some animal advocates also continues. Here is where the obligation of a would-be peacemaker to empathize comes in. People’s insistence on continuing to eat flesh cannot be reduced to their caring more about the pleasures of their palates than about the hellish suffering of victimized farmed animals, as we often hear said. Objectors’ motivations may have a number of elements: fear of being socially marginalized and isolated, conflict with job expectations (that company dinner), fear of being psychologically overwhelmed by the horrors and suffering in animal agribusiness, fear of scarcity, fear of erosion of basic human liberties, anxieties underlying semi-addictive cravings--not to mention the old fear of not getting enough protein. No doubt there are others. A less obvious issue may be an enveloping, semi-conscious anxiety about the breakdown of ultimate meaningfulness, the sort of thing that can happen both to an individual who ventures beyond her subculture, and to a whole culture when its back is broken by a victorious aggressor (see “The Sky is Falling,” ( PT 61 ). Listening empathically to the excuses a meat-eater gives may help to alert us to which issues predominate for him, and can enable a more sensitive approach that will help to allay some of these fears. However, it is unlikely that a person’s anxiety about the breakdown of meaning will be conscious enough to be expressed; we can only be mindful of it as a possibility that can help us to be more compassionate.
In the House of My Friends
Probably the most painful and difficult conflict to deal with is the one between members of one’s own biological or spiritual family--the attack by a friend, a fellow activist, especially by the person who was both. Some activists have experienced sexual predation by fellow activists in positions of influence. Such exploitative actions must feel to victims like the ultimate betrayal of the defenseless we seek to protect. Even hearing about them feels like a sock in the gut. In many cases victims have felt they should keep silent for the sake of the animals--a position understandable, but ultimately one that keeps the infection spreading, and hinders or prevents healing. The problem has to be addressed.
Besides these deep wounds received in the house of one’s friends, there are less conspicuous wounds that few of us can avoid altogether, whether in the animal concern movement or elsewhere. There is the difficult person who reproves us in the presence of others “for our own good;” there is the person who gives vent to his anxieties with periodic tirades; there is the person who doesn’t seem aware that she alienates one potential friend after another by a pattern of subtle put-downs. I once embarked on a friendship with a fellow activist whose name I’ve now forgotten, but she kept playing poor-me-lucky-you games in our dialogues, till I couldn’t stand all my good luck anymore. I, too, disappeared from her life.
It is important to differentiate between the dangerous person going through the world leaving a trail of destruction, and the difficult and insensitive people who are often hard to take but who with some help are capable of learning from ordinary life experiences. Unfortunately there are a range of levels between the two, and it may be hard to tell whether one is dealing with a person nearer the everyday level, or to one of the toxic people who should usually be left to psychotherapists Louise Degrafinreid
and other relevant authorities. Unfortunately, I can’t offer a talisman that, in ambivalent cases, would quickly enable readers to distinguish them.
Looking back at my own experiences, I now regret deeply that I didn’t try to be a peacemaker with my “lucky-you” friend. There may have been no tactful way to tell her what she clearly needed to hear, and it would have been unpleasant, especially for a conflict-avoiding person like me. But it would not have been dangerous, and it might have been the beginning of the end of her isolation and loneliness. It’s too late now; all I can do is “hold her in the Light,” as we Quakers say: surround her with Light and peace, in hopes that someone else will act where I failed.
Sending light and peace is not enough when concrete help could be provided, but it is not to be despised. It gains power when many do it. And it may be even more important for the sender than for the intended receiver. The vitriol that fills the media on political and social topics would be checked if more people would try the Light; there might be more Tommy Gunns and Hawk Newsomes. It would become easier for more of us to listen to our opponents, and to discover their and our common humanity.
Precious few of us are on the spiritual heights of Louise Degrafinreid, but her astonishing love that brought about the transformation of a killer confirms the Quaker conviction that all, even the very violent, remain bearers of the Divine Light/Love. We non-heroes can affirm the humanity of our foes; we can show reverence for that Light, hold them in it. As one of my favorite sayings has it, “If there’s hope for Darth Vader, there’s hope for anybody.”
--Gracia Fay Ellwood
Lead photo is of Hawk Newsome of Black Lives Matter of Greater New York
For an essay by pattrice jones on sexual predation within the animal defense movement, see http://blog.bravebirds.org/archives/3162
“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called the children of God.”
--Matt. 5:9 (Portrait of Jesus, 1648, by Rembrandt)
Grouse Shooting Banned on Moor
The Council of the city of Bradford, Yorkshire in the north of England, has voted overwhelmingly to ban grouse shooting on Ilkley Moor, west Yorkshire. This welcome ceasefire comes none too soon, as various species of bird population on the moor are in serious decline [especially the Hen Harrier, of whom only three pairs are known to have bred successfully in England last year]. See Don’t Shoot
--Contributed by Marian Hussenbux
Another Dairy Plant Closing
California Dairies Inc. announced that they are closing their Los Baños plant due to declining milk sales, while their other five remain open. This closure is part of a nationwide pattern; other dairies closed plants in 2017 and 2016, and two in 2015. The US population is consuming thirty-seven percent less dairy than in 1970. The decline correlates with increase in sales of plant milks, especially almond. See Closure
--Contributed by Judy Carman
Ben & Jerry’s Adds Two More Vegan Flavors
Major ice cream maker Ben & Jerry’s have added “Peanut Butter Half-Baked” and “Cinnamon Bun” flavors to the seven nonviolently-sourced flavors they already produced. Their total offerings are now no less than twenty percent vegan. See Ice Cream
Women’s Shelter Adds Animal Companion Facilities
A shelter for abused women in Ventura, California, has added facilities for animal care, so that battered women who were unwilling to leave their abusers out of fear that beloved animals would be attacked can now take them along to a safe house.
This news was reported recently in the Ventura County Reporter, date unknown.
--Contributed by Maria Parisen
Book Reviews: The Skeptical Vegan
Eric C. Lindstrom, The Skeptical Vegan. New York: Skyhorse Publishing, 2017. xv + 264 pages, $24.99 hardcover.
Vegans, like human beings generally, come in all flavors. Apart from sharing a refusal to eat meat and other animal products, and values that go with that principle, their personal styles range from extrovert to introvert, from boisterous party-goers and chatty eat-outers to quiet homebodies.
Eric Lindstrom, the author of The Skeptical Vegan, is definitely in the extrovert and partygoer categories. As he tells the story of his pilgrimage from near-obsessive meat-eater, who could consume as many as sixty-eight Buffalo wings at a sitting, to no less enthusiastic vegan, we see that this author is clearly the kind of impassioned person who is goes all the way in whatever he does, almost like some Dostoevsky character. His veganism is, as he puts in, "all in," extending to scrutiny of cosmetics and eschewing of silk, and he worries about such things as the traces of animal products in cars and photography.
Thus perhaps some of his upfront assumptions are projections of his own vegan style rather than everyone's. At the beginning he says, probably with humorous exaggeration, such things as, "Vegans will inevitably let you know they are vegan." "Vegans will complain. They don't mean to, but the world is against them. This menu doesn't have enough vegan items. . ." etc., etc.
I, in contrast, am one of those vegans who tend to go to the other extreme: I want to blend in and give the message that vegans are not troublemakers. I just take the good stuff and leave the rest without fuss. No doubt both types could use a little bit of the other. Here on these almost-purple pages we have an excellent and (overall) appealing example of the noisy but good-humored vegan: the converted lion who now enjoys tasty greens in contrast to the quietness of the green-cropping lamb.
So this skeptic's tale is one of countless social occasions in which his coming-out seems to be the main focus of attention, and leads to many arguments around such staples as "Where do you get your protein?" "Why are there animals if we weren't meant to eat them?" and "Don't plants feel pain too?" All this is told in a lively, sometimes almost "hip" style, that keeps the reader engaged and cheering his side on. Although some repetition permeates the pages -- after all, there are only so many variations possible on the standard anti-vegan arguments Lindstrom got thrown at him time after time--he tells each story differently, with a novelistic eye to the diverse settings and personalities involved. Vegan readers will find his responses helpful in outfitting their own argument armory, although with the benefit of hindsight I could think of other replies than Lindstrom's as well. But then one often thinks of what one should have said a day later.
The book goes on to such uninhibited topics as veganism and sex ("If you love sex, you'll love being a vegan"--the extra lightness and energy makes it so much better), raising vegan children and dogs, and vegan replacements for meat. Chapters include, "The History of Milk, Eggs, and the World," "Poop and Other Bodily Functions Vegans Go On About," "Potatoes: The Other White Meat," and "The Angry Vegans." (The last do have good cause, but anger is not the best way to go.) There is an alphabetical list of 28 fast food outlets, from Arby's to White Castle, including at midpoint the notorious McDonald's, assessing in the usual entertaining style the vegan potential of each--mostly limited to fries and salad, though occasionally a veggie burger is offered. The best option in his opinion (and mine) is usually Denny's--their Build Your Own Burger with a vegan patty and fries is great when you have a good appetite and feel like solid traditional American chow.
The Skeptical Vegan ends with Lindstrom's personal list of "meaty" dishes like Meaty Vegan Chili, Tofu Wings, Portobello Steaks (a favorite of mine too), and Nana's Italian Meatballs, an adaptation of a specialty from the maternal Italian side of his family. Try them all.
This book is highly recommended to vegans both new and experienced, and to others who want a taste,so to speak, of that world. It's a quick but unforgettable read. It would be a good gift to the right person, and should be in every library. When you read it, you may occasionally be irritated, but you'll keep on reading, and end up drawn to the author despite yourself. You may imagine him, as I do, sitting at the head of a festive vegan table, a gifted raconteur holding forth with delightful vegan anecdotes, jokes, arguments, platitudes and wonderful insights, one after another, and the time going by like nothing. Take him home with you, and enjoy.
Gilda Trillim, Shepherdess of Rats
Steven L. Peck. Gilda Trillim, Shepherdess of Rats. Alresford, Hampshire, UK: Roundfire Books, 2017. $21.95. 272 pages.
Gilda Trillim, the heroine of this story by Mormon novelist Steven Peck (pictured, below), was famous as a writer and as a volleyball player. She can no longer play volleyball because of the loss of her right hand as a result of consuming the psychedelic Ayahuasca, but she is famous enough as a writer that she was included in a USO tour of Vietnam in 1968, reading from her writings. She certainly was a civilian, and the Viet Cong had no logical reason to capture her, but they did, and they sent her to a horrible prison.
This hellish place was apparently somewhere in Laos or Cambodia. Her one-handed condition freed her from the hard work all the other POW's had to perform, but this did not make her condition any easier; it added boredom to her burden. And it was here, about halfway through the story, that she befriended the rats. The rats, bless them, were a big comfort to her. And she was happy to lead them in songs. So why is she "shepherdess of rats" rather than “choir-mistress of rats"? I think perhaps this means she is, so to speak, the "goddess of rats." She gave all her food to her rodent friends, and they more than returned the favor. The scenes describing how they fed her are, frankly, disgusting. (I do not recommend reading this part while you are eating; you could lose your own meal.)
Her captivity ended when a Soviet delegation visited the prisoners; one of the Russian recognized her because he had a relative who had also competed in international volleyball. More importantly, Gilda, just as she is about to be released, had a beautiful vision of the Heavenly Mother, an event profoundly suggestive about the nature of a universe in which a human woman nurtures and befriends despised rodents, and brings music out of them.
The basis of this vision is the LDS concept that Heavenly Father and Heavenly Mother together are God. In Genesis 1:26-27 we read that "The Elohim said, 'Let us make humanity in our image and our likeness....male and female.” The plain and obvious meaning is that the word Elohim (which is basically a plural) refers to both female and male beings. Peck in fact speaks in this book of Heavenly Mothers and Heavenly Fathers. (This is a bit unorthodox, but who am I to split hairs or to be pedantic? Interested parties with access to Wikipedia know I'm the most heretical of heretics, and am in no position to throw any pebbles.) Non-LDS readers might think that this aspect of the book would be of no interest to them, but I believe they are wrong. Other spiritual traditions revere an archetypal or Divine Mother, and one need not be committed to LDS theology to be moved by the power of this scene, and its deep implications for the rest of the story.
A purportedly LDS theological concept presented in this story is said to be derived from founder Joseph Smith himself through John Taylor, by way of a fictitious LDS Apostle named Arnfinnur Skaldskapur. The teaching is that Joseph, through his great spiritual and physical strength, was able to pull the Nephite metal plates from the earth, in spite of the resistance of earth spirits. And as a result, "Where once was ordinary history he pulled into the universe sacred history." A charming idea; we might wish it were more than fiction.
I am ambivalent about this book. Parts of it are excellent, insightful, and enjoyable, but the one feeding scene might well gross out many readers, and lead to their putting the book down. You have been forewarned, so go ahead and enjoy the good stuff.
Recipe: Ricardian Guacamole
“We hereby decree this avocado dish worthy of our royal table.” --H. M. King Richard III
3 ½ ripe avocados
1 Roma tomato
½ medium-to-small yellow onion
7 sprigs of cilantro
1 clove garlic
¼ teas salt, or to taste
Slice avocados lengthwise and twist to open; remove stone and scoop out pulp. Chop the tomato and cilantro leaves fine. Peel onion and chop fine. To peel garlic cloves, lay on board concave side down, place knifeblade on victim, and press down; chop fine. Mix and mash these ingredients together. Squeeze lime juice into mixture, sprinkle on salt, and stir. Taste before serving, and enjoy.
Serves as dip for about ten. Also good on tacos.
--Richard Scott Lancelot Ellwood
Poetry: Robert Frost, 1874 - 1963
An ant on the tablecloth
Ran into a dormant moth
Of many times his size.
He showed not the least surprise.
His business wasn't with such.
He gave it scarcely a touch,
And was off on his duty run.
Yet if he encountered one
Of the hive's enquiry squad
Whose work is to find out God
And the nature of time and space,
He would put him onto the case.
Ants are a curious race;
One crossing with hurried tread
The body of one of their dead
Isn't given a moment's arrest--
Seems not even impressed.
But he reports to any
With whom he crosses antennae,
And they no doubt report
To the higher-up at court.
The word goes forth in Formic:
"Death's come to Jerry McCormic,
Our selfless forager Jerry.
Will the special Janizary
Whose office it is to bury
The dead of the commissary
Go bring him home to his people.
Lay him in state on a sepal.
Wrap him for shroud in a petal.
Embalm him with ichor of nettle.
This is the word of your Queen."
And presently on the scene
Appears a solemn mortician
Who taking formal position,
With feelers calmly a-twiddle,
Seizes the dead by the middle,
And heaving him high in air,
Carries him out of there.
No one stands round to stare.
It is nobody else's affair.
It couldn't be called ungentle.
But how thoroughly departmental.
The Peaceable Table is a project of Quaker Animal Kinship, a non-profit organization also known as the Animal Kinship Committee of Orange Grove Friends Meeting, Pasadena, California. It is intended to resume the witness of that excellent vehicle of the Friends Vegetarian Society of North America, The Friendly Vegetarian, which appeared quarterly between 1982 and 1995.
The journal is intended to be interactive; contributions, including illustrations, are invited for the next issue. Deadline for submissions for the March, 2018 issue will be February 25. Send to firstname.lastname@example.org or 14 Krotona Hill, Ojai, CA 93023. We operate primarily online in order to conserve trees and labor, but hard copy is available for interested persons who are not online. The latter are asked, if their funds permit, to donate $15 (USD) per year. Other donations to offset the cost of supplies and printing are welcome. Send checks to Robert Ellwood, Treasurer, 14 Krotona Hill, Ojai, CA 93023.
Editor: Gracia Fay Ellwood
Book and Film Reviewers: Benjamin Urrutia, Pamela Hedrick, and Robert Ellwood
Recipe Editor: Angie Cordeiro
Technical Architect: Richard Scott Lancelot Ellwood
Issue copyright © 2018 Vegetarian Friends