Boycott WGN Radio!

Turkeys should be like this...

Turkeys should be like this...

Happy Thanksgiving!

And now that we have the pleasantries out of the way, I’m gonna rant a little.

Thanksgiving seems to bring out the anti-vegetarianism in some people. I guess it’s because it’s the one holiday centered around the devouring of animal flesh. And because it brings a family’s vegetarians/vegans into close contact with the carnivores they might not often see. I can usually laugh off the endless questions and lame jokes this time of year, but not today.

...not like this.

...not like this.

Listening to Steve Cochran and his cohorts yesterday afternoon on WGN radio, I was assaulted with a barrage of simply dumb attempts at humor at the expense of vegetarians. Now, I am neither a Cochran fan nor hater. Sometimes he can be funny (he is also a stand-up comedian). Sometimes he tries so hard to be clever it hurts, but I guess that’s endemic in radio. Politically, he seems to be middle-of-the-road, though he is close friends with Lou “Mr. Independent” Dobbs, so take that for what it’s worth.

I did take offense with one past bit Cochran did, an interview with an apologist for Blackwater. There was no mention of the recent damning evidence against them and founder Erik Prince. So I wrote Cochran and politely pointed out that it might have been nice to include the other side, if not in the same show then in a later one. And I gave him links to some of the evidence that shows Blackwater is basically just a bunch of thugs being paid too handsomely by our government. No reply from Mr. Cochran. Wonder if he answers his fan mail.

Yesterday, though, yesterday was just too much. He basically went off on a “What is it with these vegetarians?” shtick, with “jokes” about carving up the cauliflower and some such. But it wasn’t just that the jokes were tired; there was a mean-spiritedness behind them that jolted me, and everyone else in the booth joined in the fun. Including Dean Richard, a ubiquitous media reporter here in Chicago, whom I thought usually has a little more sensitivity. But no, he jumped right in, implying how really annoying it is that vegetarians make their presence and dietary preferences known this time of year.

I am usually a pretty low-key vegan. (Or 95 percent vegan; I do have my lapses, especially around the holidays.  I’m a sucker for the peanut-butter cookies with the chocolate kisses on top.) I don’t proselytize or rant in mixed company. When asked, only when asked, I will tell people why I made this choice: for health reasons, for ethical reasons informed by my readings in Buddhism, for environmental reasons. If you want to know more about the good reasons for eliminating animal products from your diet, go here. I wish everyone shared my beliefs, because I think we would have a much healthier population and planet, but I understand that’s not gonna happen, especially here, with its Italian beef, Chicago hot dogs, and lingering “hog-butcher to the world” status, even though the stockyards, thankfully, are long gone.

But as I listened to Cochran and the others yuck it up, just beat the subject until it was a bloody pulp, I got pissed. I did not find anything remotely funny in the jokes. All I heard was some intolerance for a lifestyle they either don’t like or understand. Would they go off on gays like that on the radio? Of course not. But, you could argue, homosexuality is not really a choice, and I would say, fair enough. So what about Jews who choose to keep kosher? Certainly Cochran would not roast them for that whole weird dairy-and-meat-and-separate-plate thing, hmm? Again, though, maybe this is not a choice, since they are merely following the tenets of their faith. So would my eating habits be less of a target if I said I was a Seventh Day Adventist? Maybe, but since how many people have ever met a SDA, maybe not.

Hmm, looks a little...un-American

Hmm, looks a little...un-American

The point is, vegetarians and vegans are choosing to do something good for themselves, other sentient beings, and the planet. And for people with certain health issues, it’s more than a choice. We don’t want any special rewards, and for the most part we don’t make any demands (though I would love for someone to open a vegan-friendly Italian restaurant). And it’s not like Cochran and the others are rubes; they live in a huge city and must associate with vegetarians, and they should know better than to play on hoary stereotypes and prejudices. Richard especially, since food is part of his beat, and I’m sure he’s frequented some of Chicago’s fine vegetarian and vegan restaurants (something I will miss sooo much when we return to CT…), which means there are plenty of vegetarians and vegans out there too.

Can some of my fellow herbivores be self-righteous? Yeah, and some of the extreme tactics of PETA and others don’t help (though I give PETA financial support, as well as the Vegetarian Resource Group). Can it be irritating to meat-eaters to have to accommodate the vegetarians in their midst at parties or on holidays? I guess, but I always offer to bring an entrée when I go to a carnivore’s home. Does raising my hackles over Cochran and his comments mean I have no sense of humor? No, because I can laugh at myself really easily, including my eating habits. But the ganging up on vegetarians on the radio without provocation – I don’t get it. What part of your fragile psyche is threatened by what another person chooses to eat, or not eat?

So, no cauliflower on the menu today, but there is Tofurky (go ahead, Steve, yuck it up – “What’s the deal with the football-shaped soy bomb?”), roasted garlic mashed potatoes, green beans and kale, and mushroom gravy. No dessert, because we’ll be too full after all that (though I did start my Thanksgiving with a yummy vegan muffin from Chicago Diner). Enjoy that factory-raised animal flesh, Steve, today and every day. Just don’t try to get your laughs at the expense of people who choose a different, non-violent path.

PS – Here are some vegetarians/vegan blogs, which I am also adding to my blogroll.

http://blog.veganfreak.com/

http://theppk.com/

http://thelazyvegetarian.blogspot.com/

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~ by mburgan on November 27, 2008.

5 Responses to “Boycott WGN Radio!”

  1. He sounds like a looser.

  2. It’s OK, now they’ll come back for a hundred lifetimes as turkeys raised for the US Thanksgiving!

  3. I think the reason that so many people like to make jokes at the expense of vegetarians and vegans is that, deep down, the jokesters know that their diet is hard to defend on moral grounds and they feel guilty about it. (Laughter being an interrupted defense mechanism and whatnot.) Or maybe I’m just saying this because *I* feel guilty about my unwillingness to put my mouth where my morals are.

  4. Ah, Radion, I know it is not nice of me to say it, but I can only hope there is karmic retribution in this case. And Dillywren, I have heard others say the same thing, though I think some people who make the jokes aren’t reflective enough to think about the morality of food, either what they eat or the way the whole food system is set up. But some are, I know. Here’s hoping you can put your mouth where your morals are. I can send you some great vegan recipes!

  5. I did three months as a vegetarian earlier this year and that was pretty rough. I don’t know how I’d take an attempt at veganism; at this point, I feel heroic every time I opt for soy milk instead of regular milk from the community fridge. But sure, send any recipes you feel like sharing to dillywren@yahoo.

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