One usually says ‘There but for the grace of God go I,’ when exposed to extreme poverty, injury or death. However, this phrase is deployed when one recognises that something kept us from that path, even if we don’t know what that something was. Chalk it up to God, feel relief, move on with the day.
Except that today, I’m wondering what kept me from a life of ignorance and bigotry. Because I used to be what I now consider to be a bad person. I realise that we all learn from our mistakes, but my life’s trajectory has been akin to a pendulum’s swing. When I was a teenager, I was judgemental, bigoted and superior. I believed that being gay was a sin, that women should have fewer rights, having an abortion was murder and that animals’ lives were really just an inconvenience on the path to getting them to my plate.
When I saw a few interviews from outside the Hershey rally last night, I saw a woman who I may have become. Her red hat, her orange hunting jacket, her happy dance as her man complained about Joe Biden. As a young teen, I was on her path. I wore my wranglers and boots to school, waiting for the day when I would marry my very own farmer and be his helpmeet. My job probably would have been writing anti-abortion propaganda, because I was passionate about it.
But something happened, and I’m unsure what it was. I was a carnivore, and then I was not. I was full of hatred, and then I was full of empathy. I cannot pinpoint it, but I am grateful because I know what I would have been without: cranium-deep in a red hat.
These days, I feel the need to atone for my previously held beliefs. Maybe this is why so many vegans get militant: to make up for their own ignorance in the past. Or maybe it’s just that the lies we once swallowed make us angry.