On Labels and Trying to be Good…


Why is every attempt to do good met with so much resistance from those who think they are doing better?

It is so hard to be a “good person” these days, isn’t it? Shit, I said “these days.”

One of my mottos (“good people” have many mottos) is “do no harm.” I work so hard at doing no harm, especially to those who have done no harm to me – animals and children. Well, MOST children – some parents are raising certifiable miniature monsters, these days. I said it again.

There are so many labels we put on ourselves and others, these days. I said it again; just label me “old.”

I don’t eat meat, I don’t think it is healthy for me or the animal. So, I am labeled a “vegetarian.” I also do not consume dairy products. I don’t believe milk or milk products are good or necessary for humans and commercial dairies and feed lots are cruel places. I only cook with eggs from my own chickens. I do eat honey. For the most part, my diet is “vegan.” Some people would label me “veganish” or “vegan adjacent” or “fake vegan.” If I had to pick a label for my way of eating, it would be “health focused while reducing strains on the environment, cruelty, and suffering,” but that is a bit long to fit on a name tag. Members of the vegan police have labeled me “a convenient vegan” in that I abide only by the rules I like.

Strict vegans do not allow or humans using any animals for anything. Riding horses or asking a dog to perform tricks in exchange for food is exerting dominance and power. Suggesting a cat provide companionship is exploitive. But I think animal-human relationships are important for all our survival. I would not want to live in a world without animals. They need us and we need them. Humans domesticated many species of animals and we cannot undo that. We and they have evolved into a symbiotic relationship – we need each other. A visit to any animal shelter will drive that fact home. Thus, humans can either live up to our responsibility of taking care of the species we domesticated (and by not domesticating additional species), or leave them to their own devices and see how that turns out. It won’t be good.

I don’t ask my hens to give up their lives – just their eggs. Hens will lay those eggs regardless of me. I don’t force them to live in tiny boxes and feed them hormones to make them grow. I don’t hatch chicks and toss the rooster babies in the chipper. I like to cook with fresh, hormone free, non-GMO eggs. My hens eat expensive food and bugs and grass, have space to roam or take a dirt bath, and a warm dry house during cold wet weather. If I don’t provide a safe enclosure for them to roost, they will be eaten by foxes or coyotes. I give them what they need to live safe and happy lives. Their rent is eggs and my pleasure in watching them do chicken things. Given the price of quality poultry food, they are getting a bargain.

Contrary to what the “true vegan” believe, when my bees arrive next month, I will not clip the queen’s wings and force her to stay in the hive. I won’t lock her in a tiny rape box to be assaulted by drone after drone. None of the beekeepers I have met do these things. The queen and her subjects are free to come and go as they please. Beekeepers cannot force them to stay. They must work to keep the bees healthy and happy. If they are stressed or unhappy, the queen will snap her tiny fingers and the entire colony will follow her out of the hive in search of better living conditions. They will fly up to a mile in search of nectar and pollen and, as long as their hive is a welcoming place, they will come back. I enjoy fresh local honey. I do not want it shipped from somewhere over the pond, in bear-shaped bottle made of plastic. I can do better for myself.

I call myself a “conscientious environmentalist,” and someone else labels me a “liberal idiot.” Another person will call me out as “a environmental fake” saying I’m talking the talk and not walking the walk because I drive a gas fueled car and my house is still on the grid. Baby steps, my dear naysayers.

It is hard to be good, when the world is looking to point out ways in which I miss the mark, and label me as “not good enough.”

My home is planted 99% with native flowers and trees. I believe in the cultivation and protection of native species. I have Indian Paintbrush, Black-Eyed Susan, Indian Blanket, bluebonnets, milkweed, along with redbud, sugarberry and native oaks. But, I also have a rose garden. While the state flower of Oklahoma is a “Oklahoma Rosa” a hybrid developed here, most roses are not native. I also have forsythia, Rose of Sharon, irises and tulips. My old German Shepherd dog’s grave is covered in bachelor’s buttons. None of these are native. I am in a couple of native flower groups on social media and many will call me out if I accidentally allow a non-native in a picture I post. “Is that a mimosa I see in the background? Burn it immediately!” “Bluebonnets are native to Texas, NOT Oklahoma!” If it is native to the United States, are’t we doing OK? True native purists only grow natives, I am told. “There is no place for non-natives, they are invasive,” they say. I don’t know. My forsythias are having a hard time filling out their appointed space, I can’t really see them in a full out invasion.

My small stand of mimosa trees aren’t native, but they were growing on this property when I moved here. Truthfully, I have never lived in an Oklahoma without mimosas. I grew up climbing their low hanging limbs. White clover is not native either, but it has been a part of the scenery for my entire life. I loved to pass time looking for four-leafed clovers. Most fruit trees aren’t native. Like most of you, my ancestors migrated to the United States from other places (some with fruit trees and bees in tow) many years ago. But I’m considered a “native-born American.” Just saying. You know what else is not native but enjoys the fruit trees, mimosa and clover? Honey bees.

I was told recently by a vegan that my making and eating bread was cruel. Vegans are only cruel to people. “Yeast is a living organism,” she pointed out, “and animal bones are used for bleaching flour and sugar.” I use unbleached flour when I’m baking bread and use mostly maple syrup and honey for sweetening things, but I didn’t know about the bones. I swear I didn’t know. I did name my sourdough starter “Bug” though. So there is that. It is hard to be a good person while the world waits to label me a “screw up.”

I found a good vegan cheese that melts perfectly on a grilled cheese sandwich, which I love with tomato soup. Non-vegans say I can’t label it “cheese” if there is no milk in it. Then, a vegan told me my imitation cheese product is not “vegan” because the company was bought out by a Chinese pharmaceutical giant which tests on animals. Now, I’m trying to learn how to make my own cheese adjacent product from cashews. I noticed the vegan emphasized the Chinese aspect – does that make her a “vegan racist?”

Unless someone is being intentionally cruel, I make an effort to mind my own business. Sometimes I have to mind my own business even if the cruelty is intentional, because it is legal and my interference is not. My son’s family and my brother’s families are all hunters. I understand the need to keep the growth of deer and other wild animals in check, but I can’t do it. Most of my friends drink, I do not. We are still friends. All of my loved ones (except my daughter) are meat eaters. I still love them. Some of my friends are Christian, some are Jewish, some are atheists, and everything in between. All are kind and loving. My husband eats a mostly “health focused while reducing strains on the environment, cruelty, and suffering” diet, but he also enjoys the all-you-can-eat shrimp at Red Lobster with his friends, and there is the occasional Whataburger bag in his truck. That’s his business.

My beloved’s biggest flaw is he cannot abide a gopher on the property – it is the literal hill he is prepared to die on. To keep the peace, I just have to hope the little bodies he leaves behind are nourishing one of the fox or coyote families that live nearby. Some of my animal activist friends declare they couldn’t tolerate the killing of innocent gophers and say I am complicit by allowing it – but then they are single and haven’t seen the rest of his tremendous heart.

I don’t need others to point out every time I fail – they would be exhausted. I drive to work and there are dead bugs on my windshield. While I practice no-till gardening, I accidentally killed a garden snake last fall while harvesting sweet potatoes. I used a grocery delivery service to save driving into town, but then the grocer uses plastic bags to excess.

I had to have a heart value transplant to save my life, and the cardiologist used a valve taken from a cow. Please, please don’t tell my vegan friends, they may rip my heart out.

It is hard to be “good.” But, I think if we all do what we know in our own hearts is the best we can, then we can label that “good enough.”

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