By Sherrin Fitzer
I was born on Thanksgiving.
Family lore has it that my mother could not wait to get out of the hospital so that she could go home to cook the family turkey. Who knew this holiday would be one that has caused me so many mixed emotions over the years?
As a child I of course believed the traditional story that most Americans are told about Thanksgiving. That it is a celebration began by the Pilgrims to commemorate the harvest and express gratitude. The legend suggests that the Pilgrims and Native Americans sat down in friendship and had a lovely meal.
In my family I remember nothing except the eating. My family did not go around the table expressing what we were grateful for. We ate—as I believe so many families do.
And that was fine for many years. My attitudes and beliefs however changed a great deal after I went away to college. It was after I went to college that I became disgusted by the Thanksgiving celebration.
I learned about the horrors that came after.
I learned about the genocide of the Native Americans. I learned about the enslavement of Africans. I learned about people living in hunger all across America. It was when I was in my 20s that I read Animal Liberation by Peter Singer and became a vegetarian as well. Boy, was I fun at family gatherings.
When I realized that Americans slaughtered approximately 9 million Native Americans, it seemed ghoulish to celebrate Thanksgiving. When I knew that there are people everywhere going to bed hungry, the gluttony of a Thanksgiving dinner appeared completely inappropriate. When I learned how turkeys are raised and slaughtered it became difficult to embrace Thanksgiving with what was to me a carcass as the main attraction.
Having alternative views at holiday times poses a challenge. What was I going to do on Thanksgiving?
I’ve tried so many different options:
I stayed home and fasted.
I tried to volunteer at a food kitchen. Apparently so do many other people and there are rarely any slots available.
I made a vegetarian dinner for me and my then significant other.
I celebrated my 50th birthday with a lovely meal and good friends.
I remembered what I was grateful for—but then I try to do that daily.
I still have not decided what the best way is for me to celebrate Thanksgiving.
The only yearly tradition I have embraced is every year at Thanksgiving I post William Burroughs’s “Thanksgiving Prayer” on my Facebook page. Happy Thanksgiving.
Photo: Adam Sonnett/Flickr
Editor: Dana Gornall