I never intended to start a twitter war when I wished everyone happiness, but noted that I personally couldn't find it in my heart to celebrate Thanksgiving. I wrote this on Thursday but decided to let everyone's food digest before posting it, because this is not about one holiday, it's about support for every individual's journey inside to the place where all answers reside. Many of these are either covered up completely or they hover just below the surface. Because we often are unable to tap into some of these truths, instead we make decisions based on the actions of the masses, rather than our own heart. I personally don't celebrate Thanksgiving because I don't cherish the invasion, killing, enslavement and impoverishment of indigenous Americans, and the ritual annual slaughter of millions of innocent animals at the alter of our great nation's founding, and the madness of "Black Friday" that our founders, both political and spiritual, would have detested.
As an act of kindness and friendship, in the beautiful New England autumn of 1621, members of the Wampanoag tribe, who for thousands of years had inhabited the land around Plymouth, Massachusetts, offered a thanksgiving feast to the newly arrived Pilgrims who had come to "settle" the Americas. It was a bond that quickly developed as the Native Americans taught the Pilgrims tools of agriculture which enabled them to survive in their new found homeland. Unfortunately, history would not remember this friendship well, and the suffering of our native people is a deep scar our country has yet to heal. For the tribes who were "lucky" enough to survive the massacres, killings and hard dirt reservations we have placed them on, I write this piece for you.
We must remember that although the convenience of a national day of Thanksgiving gives us the freedom to come together, relying on convenience is never the answer. We have to make it convenient on a daily basis to check our consciousness and give thanks not just on the third Thursday of every November, but on everyday. We have to be constantly awake and aware of our history and make decisions based on an acute, enlightened awareness of reality. The Buddha reminds us not to follow the masses but instead to check deep inside ourselves and see if what our teachers tell us is true. Christ turned over the tables in the Jerusalem Temple that included burnt offerings that were desecrated by commercialism and hypocrisy.
Slaughtering innocent animals for a communion that was a false homecoming is no way to celebrate our common heritage as spiritual beings who share this earth with other deeply important beings, be they human or animal. More than 840 million people in the world are malnourished, yet over 70 percent of the U.S. grain harvest and 80 percent of its corn harvest is fed to farmed animals. The grain consumed by animals could feed 800 million hungry people, according to Cornell University research. This is why I am proud supporter of PETA and the work that they do.
Nor is the "Black Friday" orgy of consumerism anything close to resembling what our austere fathers, who understood better than future generations the perils, as the Buddha saw it, of being attached to physical things.
As we overpaid for our groceries to get the "free" turkey, gave "thanks" after stuffing ourselves with too much food and then lined up outside of the super-stores at 2am to get the "good deals," we somehow pushed aside the real answers we have been seeking in our collective journey towards happiness. We somehow pushed aside the death of hundreds of thousands of innocent Iraqis and Afghans since 2001. We somehow pushed aside the 9 billion suffering farm animals that cause more harm to global warming than all of our factories, cars and trucks combined. We somehow pushed aside the death of Haitians from cholera, Africans from malaria and Cambodians from drowning. We no longer can afford to push these harsh truths aside, as our world becomes more connected everyday, we must stand together not with just our countrymen and women, but citizens from all countries.
I hope that this inspires us to not only give "thanks" during these times, but also remember what others have lost.
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