World can’t be viewed in black and white

By Anita Doberman: Columnist

Whenever people find out that my husband is a vegetarian they are surprised, and often ask me how it’s possible that he is both in the military and a vegetarian. These two notions, in apparent contradiction, baffle many of our friends and acquaintances.

Friends and even family members wonder if my husband is allergic to some kind of meat or chicken product, if he has high cholesterol or high blood pressure, and whenever he or I say no, they seem disappointed, and conclude that my husband’s choice of being a vegetarian is irrational and contradictory to his lifestyle.

More often than not, people will explain that being in the military doesn’t seem compatible with being a vegetarian. Once, a friend of ours even told me: “Can you explain to me why your husband doesn’t eat meat when he is in the business of killing people? How can he have issues killing animals?”

Acquaintances seem even more perplexed by the fact that he is a very tall and large man. They probably wonder if he is telling the truth and hope to catch him at a McDonald’s drive-thru scarfing down a Big Mac. Upon learning that my husband doesn’t eat meat, my grandmother said that she simply didn’t know of such a thing, and continued to offer him meat dishes when we visited her in Italy — and my hubby gladly accepted her offers out of respect for her.

Whether he is talking to my grandmother or a stranger, my husband doesn’t engage in long philosophical discussions or debates but simply states that being a vegetarian is the right choice for him, and changes the subject, which often leaves people puzzled.

I am not going to give a long explanation as to why my husband is a vegetarian — he would most likely tell me that I am not doing a good job elucidating his point of view — but I will say that he isn’t a big fan of some of the ways the meat industry handles animals.

I guess my husband doesn’t neatly fit in a military warrior category. Maybe for some, the military man box should include a large male, eating a chicken with his bare hands.

But the reality is that not just military men, but people from all walks of life, don’t necessarily fit into boxes. Reducing a person to stereotypes is a way to make our own lives simpler, because we place some kind of order into a chaotic world, but it doesn’t reflect the complexity of human nature. It’s easier to neatly define people, but it’s probably not going to lead us to an authentic existence where we can appreciate or at least learn about their unique traits.

At times, I personally would love to make everything black or white, and avoid the shades of gray, but I seem to be navigating in a lot of uncertainties.

To counter-act this fog and people’s complexities, I have decided to paint my house walls a nice calming color: blue. Better yet, shades of blue.