Unless you make a concerted effort to avoid television, radio and serious discussions you know that the discussion in the U.S. for the past few months has been dominated by the topics of morals, morality and values. The majority of the talk has involved women’s behavior and the consequences thereof. Most of this rhetoric has been coming from the Right, primarily due to the Republican presidential primaries and Rush Limbaugh. These players have dominated the conversation.
Unlike the political shows that I regularly watch and blogs that I regularly read, I want to talk about the values that I hold dear and my take on morals and morality. Why? Well a friend recently directed me to the latest post by George Lakoff, a linguist and professor whose work I greatly admire. To check out the inspiration for this post, go here: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/george-lakoff/santorum-strategy_b_1338708.html
First a disclaimer: these are my beliefs and are not a part of a tradition, codified ideology, religious doctrine or political party. While as a self-described ecofeminist, my point of view is what I arrived at after evaluating my life experiences and the books that I have chosen to read. I haven’t had any formal training, taken any women’s studies classes in college, nor undergone any sort of indoctrination process. Feel free to identify with one from Column A, two from Column B or any distribution you want, including rejecting all of the following. For the time being, at least, this is a relatively free country.
In my formative years I attended the local Lutheran church. In preparation for confirmation in the faith, I attended a 2 year long, weekly Bible study program with others my age. Because of my affinity for animals, most likely from birth, I frequently questioned some of what is in the Bible. Animal sacrifices bothered me immensely. Additionally, the absence of women in the many lineages (a man begat this man, who begat that man and so on), I was disturbed by this omission of half of the human race’s participation in populating the world. Where were the mothers? Even at a very young age, it seemed to me that the chronicles recorded in the Bible were weighted heavily toward men. The inequities visited upon women were apparent to me at a very early age, long before the second wave of feminism. And, incidentally as a Lutheran, I was taught a distrust of and opposition to the Catholic Church, which remains with me to this day.
Also at an early age I became interested in witches and witchcraft. Maybe it was because I was an avid fan of the afternoon soap opera, Dark Shadows. I certainly can attribute my fascination with vampires to that show and Barnabas Collins/Jonathan Frid. I read whatever I could find on the Inquisition (conducted by the dreaded Catholic Church) and the persecution of so-called witches. The primary targets of the Church were women, especially women who served as mid-wives and healers in their communities. Most were widows with valuable property. And, of course, many of them had cats. When these women were found guilty of witchcraft, they were either burned alive at the stake or drowned. Their cats faced the same fates because it was believed that the cats were the Devil who had transformed himself into a cat, which was most often a black cat. Where do you think all of those myths about black cats actually came from? Why are black cats singled out as bad luck? Why do cats, in general, elicit such hatred even today? The witch burnings also succeeded in destroying Women’s Wisdom, which many of these women possessed. And, of course, their horrible deaths served as a way to keep women “in their place”, submissive, subjugated and compliant to men. This is probably the beginning of my foreshadowing of my fate as well – I could envision a burning stake in my future.
VALUE #1: A woman is as much of a person as a man. Women are as smart as men, women are as capable and competent as men.
For the first 40 years of my life, I loved animals. It wasn’t until my best friend and very first cat, Casey, died that I came to respect animals and their inherent worth. My circle of compassion widened to include all living things. I came across a quote that sums up my feelings better than I ever could. The following was written by Henry Beston in his book The Outermost House:
“We need another and a wiser and perhaps a more mystical concept of animals. Remote from universal nature, and living by complicated artifice, man in civilization surveys the creature through the glass of his knowledge and sees thereby a feather magnified and the whole image in distortion. We patronize them for their incompleteness, for their tragic fate of having taken form so far below ourselves. And therein we err, and greatly err. For the animal shall not be measured by man. In a world older and more complete than ours they move finished and complete, gifted with extensions of the senses we have lost or never attained, living by voices we shall never hear. They are not brethren, they are not underlings; they are other nations caught with ourselves in the net of life and time, fellow prisoners of the splendour and travail of the earth.”
VALUE #2: All living things – be they non-human animals or plants – have as much of a right to live and as much of a value as humans. We, as humans, have no right to question their purpose for being. They exist and therefore they have purpose and value. Their lives, their very survival, are as important to them as ours are to each of us.
I don’t want to be misunderstood here. I am talking about living things who exist, not fetuses who may or may not have the potential to be born alive. I personally find it disgusting that there are those people who place a higher value on the potential life of a fetus than they do on living, breathing, already born children and women. To ignore the health and well-being of a child, a woman or a non-human animal and dedicate one’s time, money and passion on a potential life is beyond cruel, it’s evil.
VALUE #3: Humans are part of, not apart from, the animal kingdom and the rest of Nature.
Do you remember the childhood game, animal/vegetable/mineral? You would be given the name of something and have to determine which category it fell into. Humans are neither a vegetable nor a mineral therefore, at least, in this scenario they are an animal. Much of our behavior can be understood by a better understanding of the behavior of those non-human animals to whom we are most closely related – other mammals.
I plan to make this an ongoing series of posts. I’m going to sign off for today and try to get some things done around the house. There are dishes to wash, laundry to do and litter boxes to scoop. Wish me success in getting my To Do list for today completed. Hopefully, I’ll also get my potato soup made as well. I’ll end with the recipe, in the event you’re interested in giving this vegan version a try.
Russet potatoes – number depend on how much soup you want to make or the size of your stock pot
16 oz bag of frozen peas & carrots
Unsweetened soy milk
Smart Balance vegan margarine spread (equivalent to half a stick of butter)
Salt & pepper to taste
Peel & slice potatoes. Put them in a steamer inside a stock pot. Cook until tender. Drain the water from the stock pot and transfer the potatoes into the stock pot. Fill the pot with the unsweetened soy milk until the potatoes are nearly covered. Add margarine and the frozen peas and carrots. Add salt and pepper to taste. Cook on low until the peas and carrots are fully cooked, stirring frequently. Note: I have never tried freezing this. It’s too yummy and gone in no time at all.