National Commentary

Johnny’s World: ‘I Brake for Opossums’

jworldThere I am, having happily finished a hard day’s work. I hop into my car for the 20-minute jaunt home, to start my night shift as husband, father, housewife, cleaning lady, chef, maid, and maniacal OCD slave. I turn on my favorite comedy special by one of my three favorite comediennes (Margaret Cho, Kathy Griffin, and Amy Schumer) to zone out and laugh for my 20 minutes of driving peace.

Everything is going well, as it does on most days. I’m giggling, sipping Starbucks, and being basically fascinated that – no matter how much I’d sweat that day – I miraculously smell alright.

Just as one of the ladies cracks a crude joke about Asian racism or STDs, it happens.

I catch something out of the corner of my sunglasses. At first it’s just a random image of something on the road – it’s New Jersey, after all, and we aren’t unaccustomed to trash bags, shoes, or shopping carts just happening across the street. Once my sunglasses focus for a second on this waddling blob, I notice that its gait isn’t similar to a tumbling trash bag or the melodic wheeling of a shopping cart.

It’s alive. It’s an opossum.

No doubt the little guy was woken from his slumber by a loud car (or possibly the shopping carts that run amuck). Nonetheless, it was daytime and he should have been asleep, not wandering across a crowded thoroughfare.

I slam my brakes. My purse goes flying towards the windshield, my sunglasses now cover my nostrils instead of my eyes, and the adorable look of bewilderment from the heinous little creature warms my heart. I jump out of my car and herd assorted Camrys, C-Classes, and A4s around the misshapen ball of grey fur slowly making his way across the street. In 10 minutes, I return to my comedy, to my car’s moody interior, and I brush the air pollution and road debris off of my new mink coat.

My history with animal rights groups and anti-fur soap boxers has been a highly publicized one. Before the Olympic Games in 2010, I was sent death threats by one of those groups and even had a price on my head for wearing a tiny puff of fur on one of my costumes. The harassment and fear got so bad that I was assisted by the FBI and was watched by more security than almost any other person attending the Games.

I have rarely been given the chance to talk about this very controversial topic because, for the most part, people have wanted to like me and being pro fur isn’t something people like. Any interview I have given was ultimately edited or shortened to the bare minimum, “I choose my choice.”

I have appreciated fur and hunting since I was very young. It was a hobby enjoyed by many in rural Pennsylvania. I also put a lot of stock in one day owning a beautiful coat; it wasn’t diamonds, mansions, or fancy cars that meant “success” to me, it was a fluffy coat. The first present I remember receiving from one of my uncles was a rabbit pelt. Although these reasons may not make sense to anyone but me, I appreciate the amount of jobs the fur industry creates, I appreciate the history of the trade, and ultimately I choose to support the artisans and craftsmen who create warmth for the world.

On the flipside, I have an adorable puppy and I have nightmares constantly in which terrible things happen to him. I cried hysterically at simply seeing the trailer for “Blackfish.” I have seen and been horrified by the anti-fur propaganda videos, which have been sent to me since I was 21, that focus on inhumane practices of collection used in terrible fur farms worldwide. I believe in conserving our world’s creatures 100 percent.

And I brake for opossums.

I am, in all certainty, a hypocrite. I don’t know if my choice to wear fur is something that was geographically bred in me, if it was something superimposed on me by fashion or film, or if I just like luxurious stuff. I can tell you that my choice does not come from ignorance or stupidity. I challenge anyone at these animal rights groups to know more than I do about the industry and the livelihoods involved in it, not to mention the great loss of animals.

This column is a bit disjointed with a strange point and message because this incident with the opossum really threw me into a whirlwind of crazy. It also comes on a day when a coat of mine was assaulted with red paint outside a shop that I frequent.

Life is a constant string of questioning ourselves. While we can’t be pressured into groupthink, we can all try to make the right decisions for our own sanity and happiness while considering that you can’t win ‘em all. The choice between good and evil is never as black and white as it should be.