I read the UW Post every week and sometimes I am pleased and other times I am not. There is a column about sex and sexuality which provides timely and well-focused information about an important subject that appeals to a wide audience. On the other hand, the Verbal Vegan appears to be the biggest waste of newspaper space ever developed. Frankly I have been surprised that the author, Sarah Hanneken, could find so much to chew this unmeaty subject matter. Yes, that pun was definitely intended.
So, Ms. Hanneken doesn’t eat meat or dairy and does not enjoy the fact so many of us own pets. Why is that our problem? I’m speaking as a person who eats a balanced diet that includes meat and dairy products. I also own a cat named Riley who recently became ill. I don’t think of Riley as a “sentient being”, a phrase which, outside of Star Trek and the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, I have never seen used in conversation. To paraphrase Freud, sometimes a cat is just a cat.
I enjoy Riley’s companionship and I attend to her needs as well as I can. The food that I give her includes tuna fish and various meat products. No, I haven’t talked with her about the ethical implications behind our diet. Like I said, a cat is just a cat.
Having said that I thought I would offer some constructive suggestions for topics that might appeal to a broader audience. This semester a new student group called Active Minds organized on campus to increase awareness of mental health issues. Why not go and talk with them about what interested them in this subject matter. Have the members experienced issues with mental disorders or are family members with these issues?
Need more ideas? My friend Diana Vang, a Hmong-American woman lent me a book to read called The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down. This fascinating book tells the story of a Hmong couple whose daughter had a very difficult experience with epilepsy. It also describes in great detail the cultural clash between the Hmong community and the Western medical system. It makes for very interesting reading. I wonder how often students are encouraged to explore people with very different backgrounds and what do they learn.
Finally, what is going on in Milwaukee? One of the most interesting stories involves the creation of housing for people who have been homeless. Last week I attended the ribbon cutting at the Johnson Residences which are permanent supported housing. After coverage in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel exposed the poor conditions to which people were being exposed, Milwaukee leaders organized a positive response which resulted in many new housing developments. Are there opportunities for students to become involved in this movement? As advocates, employees, researchers or designers?
If the spirit catches you, it may be possible to get out of your comfort zone and explore new ideas and meet new people. Otherwise, we can let the Verbal Vegan keep chewing on those old bones.
I am a UWM senior and a member of the Milwaukee Mental Health Task Force.