Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Happy Turkey Day?

Sometimes it's overwhelming, having your consciousness raised, being aware of the despicable atrocities suffered by non-human animals at the hands of human animals--all in the name of tradition and satisfying our palates. Ironically, it's during the holiday season, a time of joy and supposed tidings of peace that living with this consciousness is most painful. We are bombarded with images of dead turkeys everywhere we look, and often on the tables of our family gatherings. It's become acceptable these days to say "Happy Turkey Day" instead of "Happy Thanksgiving." Someone actually wished me a "Happy Turkey Day" today and I nearly choked on my response. I know I once participated unawares, but it's so difficult for me now as I recognize the inconsistency of gathering in a spirit of joy and gratitude and celebration, all while tearing apart the flesh of a being whose life was cut short in a vicious act of murder for the sake of tradition.

Vegetarians and vegans often dread the impending holidays, rather than wait in joyful anticipation. As if dead animal flesh wasn't all around us in TV commercials and on billboards and at the stores where we shop and in our co-workers lunches already, we now have to deal with having dead turkeys shoved down our metaphorical throats. I recently had a friend send me the following text message: "Am feeling dead turkey overwhelm! May have to go into hiding til January!" Another broke down in tears having been put on turkey-stocking duty at his otherwise enjoyable job at the grocery store where he works. "They're just packed in boxes and thrown around like they're nothing... but they're not nothing," he said.

Few family gatherings don't involve a dead bird as the centerpiece of their holiday celebration. Vegetarians and vegans are forced to make very difficult choices this time of year. Some choose to gather with their families and eat whatever is available without flesh or secretions, or bring some of their own food, living with the discomfort and, for some, emotional pain and trauma of sitting at a table with a carcass as centerpiece. Others choose to forgo the family meal and gather with family after dinner or not at all. Still others decide to take on the job of hosting and preparing the holiday meal for their families to ensure that it meets their standards of compassion and non-violence. I count my blessings that my family doesn't gather for Thanksgiving and my husband's family is going out of town this year. Christmas is another story, but we'll cross that bridge when we come to it.

Saturday night, some friends of ours hosted a vegan Thanksgiving potluck dinner at their yoga center. That was my family Thanksgiving. I am grateful I could gather with friends and meet new like-minded people. The serenity and gratification of gathering around delicious plant-based foods, knowing that all of it was thoughtfully prepared by people who truly strive to embody compassion, peace and a life of non-violence, is almost indescribable.

I love my family of origin and my friends, but it's not my job to make them feel good about their choices. I have made the decision to decline any dinner invitations--from family or friends--that involve dead animals as the centerpiece, whether that be turkeys, pigs, chickens or otherwise. We all have to draw the line somewhere, and that is my line. I cannot make their choices for them. I also cannot pretend to be unaffected by their choices. It is painful for me to be exposed to these practices, and so I must choose not to participate. Last year at Christmas I did ask my sister to basically hide the meat she felt she needed to prepare in a dish, rather than make a centerpiece of a carcass, and she did accommodate. I have many friends who are still animal eaters who at least have the courtesy to make our communal meals vegetarian--and often vegan--for the comfort of all. They understand that when the food is plant-based, everyone may enjoy it and feel at ease. These people are very much my family.

It can be difficult to find our voice, speak our truth, and care for our own needs when we are so outnumbered and marginalized. I am curious how others navigate the oblivious world around them, especially during this time of year. Where do you draw the line? Has that changed for you over the years? What are your holiday survival strategies? I welcome your responses...

1 comment:

Lisa said...

Fabulous post, Lady P!

Your eloquence brought a lump to my throat and tears to my eyes. I'm SO glad to have your kindred friendship on this journey.

With your help, I am finding my voice and gaining my confidence in navigating these new waters. My strategies of choice right now are to choose joy vs. suffering (I often have to remind myself of this) and to take good care of my physical/emotional/spiritual Self in the midst of the turmoil.

Thank you for shining the beacon of compassion and consciousness raising to light my path!