Mitchel Cohen – 2005-11-24 23:00:35
(November 24, 2005) — On Thanksgiving morning 2003, George W. Bush showed up in Iraq before sunrise for a photo-op, wearing an Army workout jacket and surrounded by soldiers. He cradled a platter with what appeared to be a golden-brown turkey. Washington Post reporter Mike Allen wrote that “the bird looks perfect, with bunches of grapes and other trimmings completing a Norman Rockwell image that evokes bounty and security in one of the most dangerous parts of the world.”
As the world was soon to learn (but quickly forgot), the turkey platter was a phony plastic decoration that Bush posed with for the cameras. Bush shook a few hands, said a few “God Bless Americas,” and scurried back to his plane as quickly as he had arrived.
Thus, in one fell swoop, the new Conquistador had tied to history’s bloody bough the 511-year-old conquest of the “New World” – whose legions smote the indigenous population in the name of Christ – with last year’s bombardment and invasion of Iraq and the torture-detentions of prisoners of war at US military bases.
Since last Thanksgiving, George Bush’s America has filled the Iraqi landscape with depleted uranium armaments that have poisoned the agriculture and water supply for the next several billion years.
As I wrote this last year, US troops were blasting their way through the town of Fallujah, and hundreds of dead civilians lie in the streets everywhere. The military calls them “corpses” and “collateral damage” – and so too do the media. US and British journalists have fled the carnage and return only as “embeds” – reporters planted in the safety of large army squandrons – embellishing slightly on military press releases and faxing their reports to their editors as “eyewitness news”. It is only through the photos taken by Arab journalists and independent media that we learn of the actual horror, of the children’s bodies lying in the street alongside the tanks as American soldiers satisfactorily survey the scene.
The NY Post ran a picture of one of these soldiers and captioned him the “Marlboro Man,” the generic embodiment of what it means for them to be a “man,” rugged, oil-smeared face dragging on a US cigarette. It’s not the individual grunt’s fault that the media needs to invent its heroes in such caricatures, but forgive me if I look elsewhere – perhaps to the guerrillas, to the hundreds of military resisters, to the immigrants rounded up for simply existing, to lawyers like Lynne Stewart who are fighting against the USA Patriot Act and the decimation of the Bill of Rights – for reminding of what it means to be human in an era of robots.
Similarly, in Palestine where Israeli occupiers are building a huge wall – basically, a concentration camp – around and through Palestine, paid for by US tax dollars.
The mindset that created the first Thanksgiving in the 17th century on the corpses of murdered Pequot Indians runs free today in the 21st century over the corpses of murdered Iraqis, Afghanis, and Palestinians.
Why I Hate Thanksgiving In November 2003, as George Bush’s plane was landing in the pre-dawn hours for his faux-dinner in Iraq, I wrote “Why I Hate Thanksgiving,” and it ended up being published all over the place under various titles, such as Counterpunch’s “Genocide? Pass the Turkey.” Much has transpired since then. But, despite enormous antiwar protests that shook the world, the true history of what Thanksgiving represents, as I discussed in my article, has re-emerged without apology from the Shopping Malls of suburbia in the form of the Night of the Living Dead. The elections were stolen, and ignorant armies are clashing everywhere by night.
I received hundreds of letters responding to that essay; In future printings of this booklet, I will append readers‚ comments, so please send them to me. In this printing I’ve supplemented some historical views and made some other adjustments.
One additional consideration has to do with our fetishization of “Thanksgiving food,” why we eat it, where it comes from. While I fondly remember the results of Aunt Dora’s secret recipe for her delicious turkey stuffing that I enjoyed so much as a kid, I am revolted by the annual ritual slaughter of tens of millions of turkeys, which many of us feast on while watching equally sanitized images of blown-up Iraqi and Afghan children.
William Kunstler, bless his soul – whirling as he is in his grave furiously trying to generate the energy needed to power all the indymedia websites worldwide – towards the end of his life began to speak of the link between the mass slaughter of animals, capital punishment and the history of colonization … and, what we’d need to do to begin to change things:
“Marjorie Spiegel, a neighbor of mine in Greenwich Village, has written a most compelling book – The Dreaded Comparison – in which she details the devastating similarities between animal and human slavery,” Kunstler argues. He continues:
“Alice Walker, in her most eloquent foreword, states that ‘The animals of the world exist for their own reasons. They were not made for humans any more than black people were made for whites or women for men‚’ …
“We owe it to ourselves and the animal world as well to create, not merely a body of rules and regulations to govern our conduct but a level of sensibility that makes us care, deeply and constructively, about the entire planet and all of its varied inhabitants. If we can accomplish this, then, perhaps, in some far-off day, those who follow us down the track of the generations will be able to dwell in relative harmony with all the creatures of the earth, human and nonhuman.”
The Mass Slaughter of Turkeys The ritual slaughter of turkeys; the fact that each American’s average Thanksgiving dinner is 2000 calories, and that we live in a country with 5% of the world’s people consuming 27% of the world’s natural resources, while making 50% of its garbage – these present us with strong arguments against factory farming, with its subjugation of animals (and plants) to severe abuse, genetic engineering, pesticides, and a sewer of antibiotics, leading to conditions that not only torture the animals but enter the US diet and severely impact on human health.
We are getting sicker as a nation physically, as well as mentally. The two are related.
We know that we need to speak truth to power, and that justice will prevail eventually; the questions, though, are “How long is eventually?” “How many people must be tortured and killed in the meantime?” And, “How can we stop it? What do we need to do, NOW?”
After reading my essay, one writer wrote: “Good Lord, I’m so depressed! I hope he doesn’t write ‘Why I Hate Christmas.’ His family must really look forward to his arrival on Thanksgiving Day. For my sanity’s sake I think I’ll cling to the revisionist version!”
Another writer asked me: “I’ve been reading your posts for years and I wonder, is there anything you celebrate and take joy in? We never hear about those things, but only about what you find wrong with the world. What do you find right?”
I can answer in one word: “Resistance.” Celebrate Resistance. That is what I take joy in, Resistance in its political, artistic, social, and sexual forms.
Celebrate Resistance Last Thanksgiving Day, I got together with MY family – a bunch of Greens from Brooklyn who believe in resistance – and FASTED in front of US Senator Chuck Schumer’s house in Park Slope, Brooklyn, to protest his support for the wars against Iraq and Afghanistan, the US financing of Israel’s occupation of Palestine, and the detention and torture of immigrants and prisoners of war by the US government.
We fasted outside Sen. Schumer’s in order to meditate upon the historical threads that bind US policy today to its colonial genocide of the Native people of Turtle Island.
We fasted for Leonard Peltier, Mumia Abu-Jamal, and all political prisoners in the United States.
We fasted against the USA Patriot Act, repression of immigrants, and the decimation of the Bill of rights.
We fasted against global ecological devastation.
We fasted to better contemplate what new forms the resistance will take.
This year — 2005 — the Bush regime is fraught with contradictions, and stands exposed for the world to see. But “seeing” is not enough. The Common Ground Relief effort in New Orleans is showing us the way forward.
We need to turn consciousness into movement. The effort in finding ways to turn despair into resistance is a happy one. CREATE the alternative. BE the alternative. Don‚t let the system determine for us how to experience its rituals and warfare, or the approved ways to combat its terror. Be Creative. Resistance keeps you young, forever!
Mitchel Cohen Bensonhurst, Brooklyn