I grew up loving the Thanksgiving holiday without giving it much thought. I celebrated my last Thanksgiving in 2000. The following year, while the United States was bombing weddings in Afghanistan and locking up children in Guantanamo who had the temerity to fight back, I finally realized how utterly obscene it was to participate in a holiday which essentially has its roots in invasion and occupation (not to mention the horrendous cruelty and environmental degradation of factory farming). As another Thanksgiving approaches, a few questions occurred to me.
What if Thanksgiving in the USA was a celebration of locally sourced, locally seasonal, organic food grown on small farms, home gardens, or hunted and gathered, like it was for the Puritan colonizers in 1620?
Or what if it was a day of national mourning and fasting in solemn rememberance of the genocide perpetrated against cultures that revered the land?
What if on Thanksgiving people refused to eat poisoned food sold in toxic containers? What if they invited not just family, but neighbors into their homes, shared the fruits of garden harvests and traded heirloom seeds to sow the following growing season?
What if the national dish did not revolve around the charring of a fellow animal after it lived a life of fear huddled in a tiny cage?
What if the genetic integrity of the foods Americans eat was respected, left alone, and not invaded and destroyed as though it were just another territory claimed by divine right?
What if the culture was not so apocalyptic? What if everything, all the way up to the planet we inhabit, was not so disposable?
What if the famous Thanksgiving Day parade in New York City didn't celebrate opulence, excess, the victory culture and affront after afront to history, but instead was marked by the determination of its participants to invade and occupy government buildings until the government ceases to invade and occupy other countries?
What if the televisions were turned off? What if we put our boots through them, and left the remains at the entryways to the headquarters of the news networks, just as a warning?
What if instead of Christmas shopping the day after Thanksgiving we all gave something back, besides our thanks? Better, what if we reclaimed something that has been taken from us?
What if instead of watching corporate sporting events in a food coma after dinner, we organized and played our own sports? Or used our energy to build something that's broken, or dismantle something that should never have been?
What if thanks were only offered by those who know what gratitude means - not the word but the concept, with its implications of respect and interdependence?
What if these questions were asked at American Thanksgiving tables? What if they weren't considered vulgar, or out of place, or (ho hum) unpatriotic?
What if there was no Thanksgiving holiday, no Thanksgiving parade, no Thanksgiving sports or movies or Christmas shopping or slaughterhouses or presidential messages or anything?
What would you do? How would you signal your gratitude for the good fortune, the comforts, the privileges that you have? What if it was for you to decide?
You are the pilgrim, your ship has landed, the world offers its bounty up to you. You decide.