Sunday, July 12, 2015

Down (the Hatch) with Junk Food!

On the surface, many, if not most, UU parents seem very devoted to healthy dietary choices. Of course, that's true for parents in general, but once I became a UU, I became conscious of food in a whole new way.

Two things are at work here: first, parts of the seven principles. For anyone unfamiliar with the details of Unitarian Universalism, please allow a brief explanation. Many religions have rules of some sort. Perhaps the ones with which the western world are most familiar are the Ten Commandments, utilized by Jews and Christians as part of their religious doctrines. UUs don't have commandments (although we can totally support your pursuit of your own, of course). There's no way many of us could even deal with the term "commandment" - it sounds oppressive. We don't like to follow traditional rules around here (this can make this whole parenting business very difficult). We would rather dissect the rules, learn about their origins, and spend hours debating why they are, or are not, pertinent. We might even form a committee to do it!

So, instead of rules or commandments, we have principles. I might call them ethical aspirations. I'll offer up a principle that can be related to this whole food issue, the seventh principle: "Respect for the interdependent web of existence of which we are all part." How does this relate to dietary choices? You can easily argue that each of us is part of this web, and we need to respect our bodies (yes, even the American ones) by avoiding things without nutritional value, like refined sugars. But there's more...

Let's talk about bananas. Brutal, bloody wars have been fought over bananas. People get killed over bananas. I could write an entire research paper about this, but I'm sure it's already been done. You and I, as part of this interdependent web of existence, contribute to this bloodshed, no matter how far away we are, by purchasing bananas (unless you can find ethically grown bananas, and they do exist, but they don't last as long on your counter as those bloodshed bananas). This is not right, it is not respect for this interdependent web, and honestly, bananas are not worth people dying, damnit. So, when I go for bananas, I try to be able to afford to get them at the local Co-op. 

A less human example would be corporate animal products. Animals are not humanely treated when they are being raised for production on any sort of large scale. Some cows and chickens never get to touch grass with their feet, and never get to see the light of a sun. It's disturbing, and it's why we raise and process our own chickens and try to be able to afford to get the rest of our stuff locally, from people who raise and process humanely.

There's that pesky phrase again: " to afford..." And herein lies one admission of guilt, one that I suspect is shared by other UU parents (though I can't prove it, and this is, after all, my own personal confessional blog): sometimes, I can't afford to be picky. Sometimes, I put the banana wars out of my mind, when the one year old is yelling "'nana! 'nana!" in Hannaford rather than the Co-op. Sometimes I let my kids get really awful, sugar-laden junk food (I let James get Sour Patch Kids and some other garbage for family movie night last night) without investigating all of the ingredients, the ethics involved with their production, or anything else pertinent. I just let him get the damned Sour Patch Kids. He  used the magic word! What else was I supposed to do? 

Yes, I aspire to be like the UU parents who manage never to do this - and there are, at the very least, some. My fear is it's all of them, and I'm the one, sorry exception, but logic fuels my suspicion that this is not the case. So, are a UU parent, consumed with guilt over this dietary business, but trying your damnedest to do what you can? Great, we're in it together. Did you know even UU ministers eat garbage? I know several, and I know they sometimes buy the spongy corporate raised chicken from the store. I also know several who buy Ding Dongs and HoHos. Are you instead someone who's intimidated by the Green Sanctuary committee of a local UU church, afraid that we all live on sprouts and kale? Come to my church, and I'll slip you a Ding Dong on the sly.

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