Not All Vegans

This past week was a bit of a tough week on Facebook for me with anti-vegan sentiments being thrown onto my timeline.

It took me a few days to cool down the anger, as I realized I was taking the sentiments (a screen-captured tweet and a video) personally.

The video, which I saw posted by multiple people on my timeline, was called If Meat Eaters Acted Like Vegans.  I felt angry before I watched it and even had ideas for a response video (If Vegans Acted Like Meat Eaters).

Vegan 1, in an apron and holding a plate of plain tofu, smiling:  “Tofu.  It’s what’s for dinner.”

Vegan 2; a burly person in a stereotypical Southern USian rancher gear (complete with cowboy hat, big and shiny belt buckle, and accent):  What’s this?  I don’t eat no vulture food.  Where’s the seitan?  Where’s the beans?

Vegan 3:  If God had wanted us to eat animals, S/He wouldn’t have made vegetables taste so good.

In the end, I decided that was my anger talking.  It would solve nothing and would potentially trade making fun of one group for another.  (Yes, I am posting my ideas for the video here, as I found them humourous–despite the fact that vegans are supposed to lack humour.  See stereotype below.)

I did eventually watch the video in question.  I found it to be an annoying, eye-rolling video (with multiple scenes of men awkwardly holding onto pieces of meat), but most of my anger had burned out by then.

It all does bring up a point that vegan stereotypes abound.

The standard vegan stereotype tends to go something along the lines of:  militant, angry, unreasonable, self-righteous, ugly/unhealthy, humourless, hippie- or yuppie-type who constantly posts graphic videos of  the horrors of animal agriculture and criticizes everyone else’s food choices.

I get it.  Some vegans are some of those things.  Some vegans may even be all of those things (barring “ugly,” which is subjective).  And when those of us who aren’t those things speak up about it, we’re sometimes told to stop being #NotAllVegans about it.

Yes, I was told that in a discussion stemming from a meme comparing being vegan in this world to being an oppressed group of people.  We vegans aren’t oppressed. (#NotAllVegans is an interestingly problematic statement in itself.  It is a variant on the NotAllMen hashtag.  Given that men are part of a systematically oppressive group, swapping men with vegans has the implication that vegans are also a systematically oppressive group.  We’re not.  However, the statement did have the effect of silencing me in that discussion.)

We vegans aren’t oppressed.  There aren’t laws saying we can’t eat tofu or gather together for vegan potlucks or have booths at local festivals to hand out pro-vegan pamphlets.

I can see how some vegans might see things that way, though.  In the Western world, we live in a culture that sees meat-eating/omnivourous eating as the default.  It is extremely easy (and fast) to get meals laden with animal products.  In many areas, it is difficult to order vegan meals out at a restaurant or to purchase vegan products like tempeh or vegan cheese at the local grocery store.

As far as restaurants go, things are changing.  Vegetarian meals are generally easy to find at restaurants.  Vegan meals, not so much.

I live in the Pacific Northwest, where I can buy tofu and a range of other vegan products at the local grocery stores.  I can find restaurants that serve vegan foods (sometimes even places that serve only vegan foods).  However, most of the restaurants in my town don’t serve vegan meals.  (I might be able to find an appetizer here or there but not whole meals.)

When I travel back to the States to visit my family, the difference is striking.

I remember one trip where we stopped in at a Wal-mart on the way to my parents’ house from the airport.  (We had flown in late, and all the restaurants were closed.  So I sucked it up, got creative, and said I could make some sort of dinner out of fare from the nearby Wal-mart.)  They had shelf spaces for tofu in the cold section with signs saying the tofu  was kept in the back (is tofu a big theft item?) and please ask an associate for assistance. So I asked.  The guy had no idea what I was talking about.  “Tofu.  They’re white cubes.”  Finally, he got it and went to the back to get me one.  And now I have a story about how they didn’t even know what tofu is!

The restaurants in that area are generally in the range from buffet to steakhouse (or steakhouse buffet) to specialty restaurants with very few restaurants serving vegan meals.  I can usually cobble together several helpings of salad from the salad bar at the buffet-style restaurants.  I might have more luck at specialty restaurants.  One Middle Eastern restaurant in the area had delicious vegan options.  I also managed to score some vegetable sushi at a Chinese buffet restaurant.  However, the majority of foods are geared toward omnivourous eaters.

Our culture in general pushes omnivourous eating to the fore.  The dairy, egg, and meat industries push ads to make their products out to be healthy, fresh, and hip.  They sponsor community events and sometimes even have mascots come out to said events to teach kids about their industry (leaving out the uncomfortable, graphic, and nonetheless true cruelties involved in industrialized animal agriculture).

Darn near daily, someone on my social media (and no doubt many other people’s social media) will post some pro-meat meme (often involving bacon) or image or screen-captured tweet or ad or something.

So, yeah.  Being vegan can be difficult.  Being vegan can be lonely.  It can be hard to find other vegans when the world around you is persistently chanting “Meat!  Meat!  Meat!”

I can understand why some vegans are defensive in their views.  Yes, even to the point of general obnoxiousness.  To the point of self-righteousness.  It’s a defense against a culture that lauds meat-eating and assumes meat-eating as the norm.

It is why I take silly anti-vegan videos personally.

And, yes, not all vegans are willing to listen to your arguments about why veganism is no better than meat-eating.  Not all vegans are willing to back down from your assertion that meat is healthy/delicious/environmentally sustainable.  Conversely, not all vegans want to deal with the confrontation.  Not all vegans want to criticize your food choices, because your choices are your choices (even if your food didn’t have a choice, the more confrontational vegan might add).  Not all vegans will be offended by your anti-vegan jokes.

So, yes.  Not all vegans.  And not all meat-eaters, too.




Poetry in Transit

This month I’m excited to report that my poetry is now on local buses!  My poems “bus ride,” which originally appeared in text lit magazine in March 2015, and “Recognize” were accepted for Nanaimo’s Poetry in Transit program.  The program was started by Nanaimo’s first poet laureate Naomi Beth Wakan.


The unveiling for the program was held at the Nanaimo Harbourfront library last Saturday, where I and a number of the other Poetry in Transit poets read our work.  There was also a bus parked outside displaying some of the selected poems.


A few days before the unveiling, my daughter spotted my poem “Recognize” on the bus.  A few minutes later, I saw that my other poem was just above our heads on the bus.

Since then, I’ve enjoyed seeing the variety of poetry on the bus.

I thought it was interesting when I first heard about the Poetry in Transit program being launched, there was a comment made that implied that us local poets don’t bus.  I don’t have a vehicle and don’t drive, so bussing (and occasionally carpooling) and walking are the ways I get around this town.  I know the bus.

Now the bus can know a piece of me in my poetry.

What’s going on, March?

Once again, I’ve gotten out of the habit of blogging regularly.  I do tweet regularly, so if you are eager to keep up with me, you can check out my Twitter account here.

This month, I participated in a collaborative novel project through the Collaborative Writing Challenge. Last August, I signed up to write a chapter for the newest project, a fantasy novel titled Wych Born.  I was quite excited at the time, as I was already working on my own fantasy novel and doing a collaborative project sounded interesting.  We the writers got to vote on the starter chapters (and, later, cover art).

In this case, a western-style chapter won, throwing the novel into a fantasy western story.  I admittedly had some apprehension after this, as I am not a fan of most westerns.  The weeks went by.  I lost track of the chapter summaries, as I was more focused on my novel and on my offline life.  Then my turn to write came up earlier this month.

I got caught up on the chapter summaries and notes.  I still was uncertain about this story.  In the end, I decided to take the challenge and wrote the chapter.  The way this challenge works, multiple people write a particular chapter.  The story coordinator then decides which chapter fits the story best or moves it in the right direction.

I decided to view the chapter as a challenge.  Could I write something in a genre in which I have little interest?

The answer is yes.

And, to my surprise and amusement, the story coordinator loved my chapter (with some edits so it flowed better with the rest of the story).  My Chapter 25 will appear in the finished Wytch Born novel.

Take-away from this experience:  challenge yourself to write outside your comfort zone.  You might be pleasantly surprised.

As March is drawing to a close, I’ve been thinking about NaPoWriMo.  For the past three years, I’ve taken part in that daily poetry-writing challenge.  This year, however, I have decided not to take part.  I still have a good deal of work to do on my novel, and I want to focus on it.

I’m sure poems will still sneak into my days, though.



What emotion will you choose today?

Trigger warning:  talk about mental illness, suicide.

There are a couple of memes going around my Facebook timeline presently that assert that happiness is a choice.

The thing is, if you are going to say that happiness is a choice, then you’re allowing that unhappiness is also a choice.

Would a person really choose to be unhappy?  Sometimes, maybe, yes.  Maybe, in the twisted logic of distress, one would choose to be unhappy (perhaps as a way to punish someone else or even oneself).

If it is a matter of choosing our emotions, do we choose to be frightened by loud noises?  Do we choose to be angry when someone taunts us?  Do we choose to be sad when someone we love dies?

If unhappiness and its more serious and sometimes chronic cousin depression are choices, then unhappy people should be able to snap right out of it simply by choosing to be happy, right?

I suspect that anyone who believes that has never been in the jaws of depression.  So deep in the self-hatred and feelings of failure that every move, every decision is a painful one.  So agonized that suicidal ideation becomes a release; death becomes an option (however fleeting), because the dead don’t feel.

The idea that we can choose our emotions also leads to a disturbing phenomenon that’s already too prevalent in our society:  victim-blaming.  Blaming sad people for feeling sad. Ultimately, blaming the mentally ill for being mentally ill.  (People with depression are exceedingly capable of blaming themselves, so we don’t actually need help from society at large on that score.)  I mean, if sadness/depression/anxiety/fear/anger/jealousy/etc. are all choices, we only have ourselves to blame for feeling them, right?

And that is just not helpful.

It is true that we have control over our emotions, at least some of the time.  I’m sure a number of you reading this know all about forcing happiness at work, especially if you have a customer service job.  I know about that.  I also know how emotionally harmful it can be.  Controlling your emotions or forcing yourself to display a particular emotion, however, is not the same as choosing to feel one emotion over another.

Let’s go back to an assumption regarding the memes:  that choice is simple.  (Yes, the memes do not explicitly say the choice is simple.  However, it is implied.)  Not all choices are easy.  Some are gut-wrenching, soul-tearing, difficult decisions. Many range in difficulty levels between those two extremes.  Arguably, choosing to be happy could be simple, excruciatingly difficult, or somewhere in-between depending on the person.

Allowing that choices aren’t all simple, can we really choose our emotions?  Can you really wake up in the morning and say, “I choose to be happy today?”  I think that’s far-fetched.  What you can choose to do is to face the day with a hope that you will feel positive most of the day and a determination to face any challenges that come along.  That is not the same as choosing your emotional state.

As Zero Dean says on this blog post:

“No. Happiness is not a choice. Attitude is a choice.”

This idea is better than the whole happiness-is-a-choice one.  Even with attitude, though, changing your attitude can be as difficult as moving a mountain.  (Remind me of that the next time my kid is acting up, and I say, “Change your attitude.”)

Not everyone can change their attitude and feel better every time, as Therese Borchard discusses in this article:

“That’s what bugs me about ‘happiness is a choice’ philosophies. I think they work on mild and moderate depression, definitely on situational depression. But for some forms of severe depression and treatment-resistant depression or complicated mood disorders — at least for those periods of time when you’re on your knees begging God to take you — my experience has been that any attention to your thoughts only makes it worse.

…The trick is knowing when to apply optimism, cognitive behavioral therapy, and all the brain exercises that can form new neural passageways, and when to turn the brain off and just keep swimming.”

We humans need all our emotions, and it’s okay to feel them.  It is okay to feel sad or mad or glad or silly.  Feeling a wide range of emotions is healthy.

And I get it.  Memes don’t take into account every person, every situation, etc.  They are sound bytes in a world bombarded with messages.  They are images thrown into the vast sea of social media to inspire or to ridicule or to attempt levity in a world that has exploded with seriousness, because we have up-to-the-minute access to the terrors in our world.

I also know that these little bombarding bits of information add to the overriding culture. A drop in a bucket may be only a drop in a bucket.  But many similar drops in the same bucket change the whole amount in the bucket.


Little poem

I wrote this little poem in November.  Enjoy.

They say poetry is dead
out of my head
in my head
long live poetry!

They say Twitter is dead
running out of funds
and fun
full of cliques and trolls
with guns
long live Twitter!

They say Facebook is dread
full of targeted ads
and unwanted opt-out opt-ins
long forgive Facebook!

© 2016 by Robin A. Sams

End of 2015

Well, the December holidays have rushed past.  I thought I would pause to reflect on some of the writing highlights from my year:

NaPoWriMo:  I took part in NaPoWriMo again this year, writing a poem a day for the month of April.  My poems can be read on this blog, starting here.

Cascadia Poetry Festival:  I had the fortune of attending the Cascadia Poetry Festival, which was held in my town this year.  I listened to many new (to me) poets, read some of my own poetry during the Living Room readings, and acquired three new books of poetry.

Channillo:  I tried something different this year in splashing feet-first into the realm of subscription-based, serial literature.  I wrote a series of blackout poetry based on Piers Anthony’s Xanth novel The Color of Her Panties and put it up on  While the series completed in November, it is still available for reading here.  (You can subscribe to 1-10 series for $4.99 per month.)

NaNoWriMo:  In November, I took part in NaNoWriMo to work on my fantasy novel.  While I did not reach the 50,000-word goal, I did reach 20,693 words and got a good start on the novel.  As the new year approaches, I’m gearing up to get back into novel-writing.

Publications:  This year, I had a total of five poems published in textIsland Writer magazine, and the e-zine Restless.  I also had a book review published in Island Parent magazine, which you can read on my blog here.

Reviews:  Besides the previously mentioned review, I also reviewed the Genderific Coloring Book here on my blog.  Given the popularity of that post, I’m looking forward to posting more reviews in the coming year.

I am also looking forward to working more on my novel and submitting more poetry.  I hope to get more blog posts happening on here, which I realize is an annual hope.

In the meantime, I have Yule-Christmas decorations to take down.  I will be spending the evening with my spouse and child, watching a movie, maybe playing games, and enjoying the toll of midnight with a glass of sparkling apple juice.


November is here. Time to put pencil to paper, fingers to the keyboard. Go!

My poetry series on Channillo will be drawing to a close later this month.  I have four more poems to write and upload to the site.

In the meantime, I am starting NaNoWriMo this month as a way to motivate me to continue work on my novel.  I’d had the idea for the book in my head for several years and started writing notes and several scenes earlier this year.  Then, mid-summer, the writing stopped.

Now I am planning to get back into it and get my story out onto the page.