Over the years my feelings about Thanksgiving have changed dramatically. As a child, I looked forward to the new coloring pages of pumpkins, turkeys and Pilgrims. There were crafts and plays. That first stage was - FUN.
As an adolescent I looked forward to time off from school and The Dinner. My mother was a wonderful cook and she made the best dressing ever. When my father died in early 1965, holidays in general became something different. Not only was his absence discomforting, but it became a time to reexamine what holidays actually meant. At the same time, holidays were becoming more and more about consumerism, buying new and better decorations and Family. Without dad, family wasn't the same for me. The word was like a slap in the face. It made me feel like I didn't "belong." As the years progressed I began to feel more and more like someone on the outside.
Aging does give one perspective. My idea of family changed and designated days to celebrate some created occasion has become an artificial construct for me. These special days had subtle messages for many people. It wasn't just those who didn't have a conventional or traditional family who were marginalized, but those of differing religions, other than American origins, those who couldn't afford the crass consumerism flooding the airwaves. The myths of a harmonious 1st Thanksgiving, the forcing of some sort of ideal family and/or lifestyle, the underlying guilting of those who didn't fit that ideal. Square pegs unwelcome in the Norman Rockwell America.
The final straw and/or the final epiphany happened when I chose to become vegetarian. My eyes had been opened to the overwhelming abuse and cruelty inflicted upon non-human animals and it was unconscionable. Their pain became my pain, my sadness. The sight of a golden brown dead turkey as the centerpiece of the Thanksgiving table was/is repellent. Happy Turkey Day became the new expression for this holiday. Happy Turkey? Excuse me, but I know those turkeys would be much happier if they were still alive. The massacre of millions of turkeys each year for Tradition is an obscenity The truth of how massive numbers of turkeys are bred and raised to meet the ever increasing Need, created by marketing executives, is horrid to see and even worse for those turkeys to endure. No longer are turkeys the multicolored birds of my youth. Now turkeys are white. They are bred to have oversized breasts, so large that it is often difficult for them to keep from toppling over. Why is this done? Because the white flesh of the turkeys' breasts are the favored part of this bird. They are "engineered" to fit the tastes of their predators.
Add to the abuse and cruelty toward these marvelous creatures the abuse and cruelty the European invaders and then the "Americans" visited upon the First Peoples, the REAL Americans. The violence of this holiday, either hidden or ignored by most is the reality of this holiday/holy day to me. For the rest of America apparently ignorance is bliss. Unfortunately once faced with the truth, I can't wipe it from my memory or ignore it. I will enjoy the day, and will spend it with my family - 4-legged and furry.
Wishing each of you and all of us -
PEACE ON EARTH & GOODWILL TOWARD
ALL LIVING THINGS
To see a video inside Butterball, the largest purveyor of dead turkeys, visit this link:
And, if you're interested, here are a couple of links about the first Thanksgiving and the National Day of Mourning, observed on Thanksgiving Day since 1970.