The Last Thanksgiving

November 24, 2016

The Last Thanksgiving, Part I

It’s a quiet and grey morning; snow on the ground though not much. Climate change what it is, despite it being late November, winter has barely just come to Minnesota. Most folks in this country – currently known as the United States – are celebrating the holiday Thanksgiving today. They’re cooking and drinking, watching football and, likely, trying to avoid arguing over the political situation following the election of Donald Trump.

I’m not with any of them; not those I am related to by blood nor friendship. I choose not to celebrate this day. To live in the United States – in my work life, family life, and even radical community – that makes me an outsider. Which is okay. Though each year that passes, I find myself more confused as to how we all continue to hold onto this holiday without much real resistance.

In an interview yesterday, Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz said, “… this is very hard for people to give up. This is the nationalism… americanism is white supremacy and represents negative things. There is almost no way to reconcile it. It simply has to be deconstructed and faced up to and otherwise there will be no social change that is meaningful for anyone.” (https://www.democracynow.org/shows/2016/11/23)

I couldn’t agree more. This holiday like the others she speaks of – the moments throughout the year where we play out a ritual patriotism – are celebrations of genocide; celebrations of the white supremacist, colonialism that the country is founded on. Yet, each time one of them rolls around, Thanksgiving as much as – if not more than – any, we indulge. We know better and yet we do it anyway. It’s comfortable. As if that makes it okay.

And this year, maybe even more than years of the recent past, as an outright white supremacist has taken control of the presidency with his growing cadre of bigots, evangelicals and neo-cons hell-bent on a fascist future, I wonder how we don’t think more about this. This year – with indigenous water protectors facing daily violence and repression as they fight to keep the corporate colonists from stealing more land to destroy, I wonder how we still do this.

Each year, for over a decade of my life, I have rejected this holiday, rejected excuses to celebrate it even if we spin it and try to pretend it’s something else (though the traditions always look all too similar to those of my right-wing family’s i recall from childhood).

So, I call on us to stop. I write this in the hopes and dreams that this will be our last Thanksgiving. We don’t just have a new illegitimate government – the United States has been an illegitimate, violent, genocidal, colonial, imperial death machine of greed for its entire existence. Donald Trump isn’t a surprise, he’s the end result of where the US has been heading this whole time. In a country built on white supremacy for centuries and devoured by neo-liberal capitalism for decades (and its good ol’ regular exploitative capitalism for much longer), this should not surprise us. But it might as well wake us up.

We don’t need a Democratic president. We need a new society. Let’s have one way that we build towards that new world be abandoning this day; a day that stands as one of the most culturally central parts of the old one.

 

The Last Thanksgiving, Part II

This afternoon looks much like this morning – grey and quiet; snow still covering much of the ground if not the pavement. I’ve spent a day in quiet reflection and also frustration. For all of the sadness that I feel at a day in celebration of genocide and colonialism, it is, to be honest, only half of my rejection of this day. I also feel a great anger. For the above mentioned and also, the core of the celebration itself.

At least 46 million turkeys [1] will suffer painful, terrifying, torturous deaths because of this day. Tens of millions of living, feeling, sentient beings will suffer so that we may celebrate settler colonialism. It makes me sick. And, while it is inexcusable for anyone to participate in this massive slaughter, it never ceases to break my heart when those of us on the left, including the radical left, participate in this as well. We make exceptions each and every day, and more today than most. How are we not better than this by now?

Turkeys are just the beginning – the amount of animal products consumed this day and each day is truly gut-wrenching and mind-blowing. And too many of us have given in to the mythologies of the cult of localism and the lies of “humane” murder. We have come up with excuse after excuse to continue to be a part of this horror. We defend it; and we don’t want to hear about it. We do this every day and the same spin doctors who have fought for the tobacco and fossil fuel lobbies have worked tirelessly for years in defense of the animal agriculture industry [2] and we have been duped.

In the days since Donald Trump was elected president, I’ve heard a lot of liberals, progressives, leftists across the board talk about needing to be better about communicating “facts” with their more conservative family members, coworkers, and the like. But what facts matter?

How about that 70 billion animals are raised to be killed every year – and that doesn’t include the over 2.5 trillion marine animals pulled from the oceans each year. [3] We’re talking in the billions and trillions of lives. Is that a fact that we’re going to acknowledge? Or what about that animal agriculture is the industry that contributes most to climate change, accounting for at least 18% of global emissions? [4] We’re leftists – aren’t we supposed to care about the environment? Is that fact something that is going to spur us into making different decisions?

The countless lives of sentient beings and the climate change impact are literally just the tip of the iceberg – I’m actually working on a piece that encompasses so much more just about the environment. And then that doesn’t even get at the conditions of workers, our health, GMOs, world hunger and more.

But this day, maybe more than any, I think about the billions of lives lost. I think about what that says about us; about what we care about and what we don’t. There are countless writers throughout history and the present day that talk about these connections. [5] If we are capable of murder and torture on a mass scale each and every day by our very choices, then how can we ever serve justice in our world?

On this day, in which we over-indulge and over-consume in the pursuit of our own comfort and oblivion, how can we say that we are a part of building a better world? We can’t. This is the day that hits home for me most deeply. Until we choose to cease our participation in the murder and exploitation of living beings – all LIVING beings – we cannot honestly call ourselves part of a movement for justice, social or ecological.

So, again, I call on this to be the last Thanksgiving. I think there are reasons enough.

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1. http://www.cnn.com/2012/11/21/living/thanksgiving-by-the-numbers/index.html and http://www.farmsanctuary.org/giving/adopt-a-turkey/?a=post
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2. http://www.humanemyth.org/mediabase/1014.htm and http://www.sourcewatch.org/index.php/Mongoven,_Biscoe_%26_Duchin
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3. http://www.cowspiracy.com/facts/ – under “Humanity” section, with links
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4. http://www.cowspiracy.com/facts/ – under “Greenhouse Gases” section, with links
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5. one example: http://www.truthdig.com/report/item/all_forms_of_life_are_sacred_20150104
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