--The Chef, in Rules of the Game
Christopher Cox, "Consider the Oyster: Why even strict vegans should feel comfortable eating oysters by the boatload". April 7
Ross Douthat, "The Better Pope". April 11
WHY, I hear you ask yourself, are these two linked together, other than the obvious suggestion that both belong in Slate, though only one actually is?
And I'm glad you asked that; I've been asking it, too. But then, for one, I think it's important to note that if you're going to carve off a chunk of the public airwaves, pending Comcast approval, to excuse your personal eating or religious habits, assuming the two are distinct, you really ought to consider that the topic's been covered for a couple thousand years now, and by better, more thoughtful writers than you'll ever be, and aim somewhere above the general standards of your employer, if that happens to be Slate, or the Special Rules for 'Conservative' Op-Ed Sinecures, if the Times, which I believe are identical, namely, if a native speaker would recognize it as attempted English, you're good to go, just this once.
Let us suppose, oh vegan-in-everything-except-mollusk-consumption, that your dietary choices are known to us, and that you will be our dinner guest. You will dine according to your strictures, unless they include 1) everyone else observing them as well, and/or 2) a demand that separate utensils or food-prep areas be kept pristine for all such occasions. We accept regimens and tolerate manias!, to a point. And here it is:
Because I eat oysters, I shouldn't call myself a vegan. I'm not even a vegetarian. I am a pescetarian, or a flexitarian, or maybe there's an even more awkward word to describe my diet.
This, sir, is the line. You could discuss vegetarianism, and we'd forbear, but it'd be a long time before another invite. You could critique the squash and chickpea stew, vegan pizza, or gâteau de crepes with spring vegetables, in blunt terms if you like. (Oysters, well, we're in the middle of a cornfield here.)
At first I despaired over losing the vegan badge of honor—I do everything else vegans do—but I got over it. Oysters may be animals, but even the strictest ethicist should feel comfortable eating them by the boatload.
But the minute you started justifying crap like this you and your hemp beanie would find yourselves sprawling on the front lawn.
Do not, do not change "sentience" to "suffering" in order to justify your lusts, or, if you must, keep it to yourself. It's sorry-assed excuse-mongering. And it ain't made any better by the fact that the only "expert" opinionator you can dredge up to agree changed his mind some years ago, let alone by dragging Poor Ralph Waldo and "foolish consistency" into it. I know, it's tempting when you see the sort of hypocrisy organized religions get away with on a daily basis to grab for your own piece of the cruelty-free lemon meringue; control yourself.
I knew there was a segue in there somewhere, if I just kept going long enough.
The world didn’t always agree with Pope John Paul II, but it always seemed to love him. Handsome and charismatic, with an actor’s flair and a statesman’s confidence, he transformed the papacy from an Italian anachronism into a globe-trotting phenomenon. His authority stabilized a reeling church; his personal holiness inspired a generation of young Catholics. “Santo subito!” the Roman crowds chanted as he lay dying. Sainthood now!
Well, I gotta be honest with ya, Ross old boy: I heard this for a quarter-century, and somehow I never heard anybody actually say it, aside from people who were already in the bag for Popery, or Anti-communism, and had paying jobs trying to sell the attitude to everyone else. I don't know anyone who converted to either position because of his charisma, his actor's flair, statesman's confidence, or his stage outfits. I know a lot of people who feigned a generation-long swooning fit for his politics--a lot like Reagan--but I never could understand what either man was actually solving. He came down on your side, and you pretended that was an accomplishment, and a universal triumph into the bargain. It wasn't. It was more mania than regimen.
But there’s another story to be told about John Paul II and his besieged successor. The last pope was a great man, but he was also a weak administrator, a poor delegator, and sometimes a dreadful judge of character.
Ah, well, now you tell us. And Cardinal Ratsky-Watsky was the only one who didn't get his beak wet. How inspirational. As in it would inspire me to demand accounting from, and removal of, all those other miscreants, not fluff the one guy who didn't.
But then, it's like the fish monger who's sold out of Point Reyes today, after he touted 'em to you for a week, telling you they weren't really all that great and what you really want is some quahog.
I knew there was a reverse segue in there somewhere.