Thanksgiving Gratitude and #NoDAPL

Today is about American tradition, and feeling grateful for all that we have been given. The first Thanksgiving represented the gratitude of American settlers towards the indigenous peoples who originally inhabited this country. It is about the men and women who came to North America on the Mayflower giving back to the men and women who helped them to survive in the ‘new’ world. It is about Tisquantum, a Patuxet enslaved by a Briton, sold in Spain, liberated by monks, and steeped in the English language before returning to his homeland and teaching the colonists to “catch eel and grow corn.” It is about Massasoit, sachem of the Wampanoag, who “had given food to the colonists during the first winter when supplies brought from England were insufficient.” It is about coming to understanding with your adversaries and beginning life anew.

Although Thanksgiving is literally about gratitude toward Native Americans, many today will be content to stuff themselves with industrial meat and processed foods, purchased for the least price from the most socially and environmentally irresponsible corporation, all while whooping about football games on television and waxing philosophical about the acceptability of the Cleveland ‘Indians’ logo, Chief Wahoo. Not to mention Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump.

Meanwhile, in the Dakotas, the bloody history of our republic repeats itself. Time and again we have appeased Native Americans with treaties only to turn around and break them violently for the sake of our ‘progress’ and ‘manifest destiny.’ While your Uncle Bob cheers on his favorite team today, many Americans in the heartland are literally at war. I imagine the diverse community at Standing Rock has much to be thankful for: their own resilience, the aid and sympathy of people from around the world, and their mighty river, the Missouri, which they are trying to protect from harm. What the peaceful warriors at Standing Rock will NOT be thankful for are the mercenaries assaulting them with pepper spray, rubber bullets, water hoses, and concussion grenades. #NoDAPL is not just a native issue: it is relevant to all individuals concerned that climate change is a moral and existential threat to humanity. Scientists should be on the front lines among the water protectors demanding that the new 1172-mile-long oil pipeline, the ‘great black snake’ connecting the Bakken oil fields in North Dakota to an oil tank farm in Illinois, should not be made whole. We must ALL demand that the Dakota Access Pipeline remains unliving. Because President Obama, in his usual modus operandi, is not about to lift a finger.

See also: Hundreds Of Veterans “Self-Deploy” To Standing Rock To Defend Protesters

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Thankful for Industrial Poultry

Gratefulness is an important part of a happy life, but are we right to be thankful for an ill-gotten bounty?  In a country of 300 million people, a turkey on every table (or a chicken in every pot) means that many birds live hard and die fast.  They are also plucked, gutted, inspected, and packaged as quickly as possible, leaving human workers to pay the price.  On the Pump Handle, Celeste Monforton debunks the National Chicken Council’s claim that working in a poultry processing plant is as safe as making omelets at a country club.  According to Bureau of Labor Statistics data, poultry processing ranks among 2% of industries singled out for the severity of workplace injuries.  Elizabeth Grossman writes that workers typically handle thirty 16-pound carcasses a minute, for eight hours, risking repetitive stress injuries along with cuts and amputations, and developing kidney stones for want of a bathroom break.  So even if there’s nothing wrong with cooking animals, do the practicalities of feeding a huge population change the moral equation? On Greg Laden’s Blog, Greg explains the “cooking hypothesis” as set forth in the [other] book Catching Fire.  The theory says that cooking is a kind of “pre-digestion” that allowed our ancestors to metabolize many more calories much more easily.  The result?  Bigger bodies, smaller teeth, more brainpower, followed by agriculture, empire, colonialism, the first Thanksgiving, and now millions of Butterball turkeys at your local Wal-Mart.

Posted to the homepage on November 25, 2013.