Freebirds

Art: Henry Thielker
Art: Henry Thielker

A FEW DAYS BEFORE Thanksgiving, my wife, Eryn, came home from town with our two young daughters, both of whom had been administered the traditional Thanksgiving myth at school that day. Three-year-old Caroline was as proud as could be of her paper turkey, made from a cut-out drawing of her own little hand. And Hannah Virginia, our loquacious six-year-old, began blurting out her holiday lecture the moment she came through the door: “Dad, I bet you didn’t know that Thanksgiving comes from the Pilgrims and the Indians helping each other a bunch and then having a peace party and eating a really big supper with crazy-colored corn and turkeys and those turkeys were wild!” With this she donned her construction-paper Pilgrim hat with its big, fake buckle and gave me a huge smile.

I took a long sip of my whiskey and tried to formulate a response. The Thanksgiving feast the girls had learned about did in fact occur — at Plymouth Plantation in 1621 — but by the following year violent conflict between colonists and Native Americans had already erupted, and devastating Indian wars soon swept New England. There weren’t many turkeys shared at Mystic River in 1637, for example, when the Pilgrims burned and hacked to death at least four hundred Pequots, mostly women and children, as they slept. The Pilgrim leader William Bradford — who had actually been present at that much-celebrated first Thanksgiving — had this to say about the slaughter: “It was a fearful sight to see [the Indians] thus frying in the fire and the streams of blood quenching the same, and horrible was the stink and scent thereof; but the victory seemed a sweet sacrifice, and [we] gave the praise thereof to God.” Just as I was pondering how best to explain this genocide in a way that might somehow be compatible with the ennobling concept of Thanksgiving the girls had learned at school, Hannah pointed excitedly at the muted TV behind me and shouted, “It’s turkey time!” I turned to see that the news had given way to the image of a large, white turkey. A turkey at the White House, in fact. A turkey that was about to receive a formal pardon from the president of the United States.

For many people, Thanksgiving is about bringing together family and friends; for some, it is centered around the ancient autumnal harvest festival; for others, it is an opportunity to count and express our most precious blessings; for yet others, it is a holiday devoted to copious amounts of football and alcohol. I believe deeply in all these versions, but for me Thanksgiving is very much about the pardoning of turkeys.

The tradition of the presidential turkey pardon is wonderfully rife with distortion, ambiguity, and error — as all good stories should be — but what is most perplexing about this bizarre ritual is our uncertainty about its origins. Some claim that the turkey pardon began with President Lincoln, who, hoping to promote national unity amid the social fragmentation of the Civil War, did in fact declare our first official day of national thanksgiving in 1863. That same year Lincoln’s ten-year-old son, Tad, so the story goes, became so attached to a Christmas turkey that the president relented and agreed to spare “Jack” from the family table. More common is the claim that Harry Truman was the first president to save a turkey, but while Truman was indeed the first commander in chief to receive a holiday gift bird from the National Turkey Federation — a custom begun in 1947 and continued to this day — the evidence suggests that Truman, like most presidents who followed him, hadn’t the slightest compunction about eating his gift. It was President Kennedy who first broke with his predecessors by declaring, just four days before he was assassinated, that — despite the sign reading GOOD EATING that the Turkey Federation had hung around the bird’s neck — he would let his fifty-five-pound gobbler live.

Even though President Reagan delivered a few respectable one-liners about sparing his turkey (and was every bit as charismatic with his bird as he was with that cute chimp in the movie Bedtime for Bonzo), the Gipper promptly gobbled up all of his gobblers. And it is here that bird pardoning lore moves from speculation to historical fact, for in 1989 George Herbert Walker Bush had the honor of becoming the first president to formally issue a pardon to a turkey — an innovative leadership move that no doubt helped to secure his legacy. Since Bush Senior, every president has participated annually in this strange ritual — which held special pleasure for presidents Clinton and George W. Bush, each of whom embraced the event as an occasion for the kind of political theater that offered welcome distraction from the kind of political theater that occupied them at all other times. It seemed to me that President Clinton always shot his birds an amorous look while pardoning them, and his uncharacteristic restraint in looking but not touching may have been indirectly attributable to our old friend William Bradford, who, in his seventeenth-century page turner, Of Plymouth Plantation, carefully documented the execution of one of his fellow Pilgrims for the unpardonable sin of sodomizing a turkey. Bradford’s troubling account leaves me with three questions: Can there be anything more disgusting than having sex with poultry? How, exactly, would you go about doing it, anyway? And, finally, is this really something you ought to kill a guy for? It seems to me that it would have been more humane, more punishing, and also more entertaining to simply make fun of him for the rest of his life. It wouldn’t take much — you could just gobble a little under your breath as he passed your pew in church. Of course, none of the Pilgrims’ distasteful Indian killing or turkey raping stopped President George W. Bush from executing a 2007 pardon for “May” and “Flower,” birds whose names offered a clear allusion to Bradford’s intrepid congregation.

The tradition of the presidential turkey pardon has continued to evolve in surprising ways. In the early years the exonerated gobblers were sent to Kidwell Farm, a petting zoo in northern Virginia where, as turkey rock stars, they lived a life featuring excessive drug use and media attention but only the brief fame their overbred and steroid-addled condition would allow. Since 2005, however, the ritual has become more surreal: the pardoned bird is now immediately flown to Disneyland or Disney World, where it serves as grand marshal of the Thanksgiving Day parade at the creepily self-proclaimed “Happiest Place on Earth.” And if the idea of Americans spending their Thanksgiving holiday at a theme park watching a fat bird lead a Mickey Mouse parade seems depressing, it is encouraging to note that the birds are flown to their new posts first class, so while in transit they enjoy a comfortably wide seat and a lot of free gin-and-tonics. It beats the hell out of that cramped poultry yard with its hormone-dusted cracked corn, and since the birds are so overbred as to find it barely possible to waddle (pardon the pun) much less fly, their trip to the Happiest Place is in fact the only flight they will ever know.

President Obama apparently recognized the surreal quality of the ceremony when he remarked, “There are certain days that remind me of why I ran for this office. And then there are moments like this, where I pardon a turkey and send it to Disneyland.” Of course now that the pardoned bird is a national celebrity, it has become necessary to pardon an alternate bird each year in case the National Turkey is unable to fulfill its duties — as occurred in 2008, when “Pecan” fell suddenly ill and required its understudy, “Pumpkin,” to receive the honors. A similar rationale informs the security protocol preventing the president and vice-president from traveling together. So if something unfortunate should befall President Obama — if, say, he gets too close to the propane tank out back of the White House while sneaking a cigarette break during a cabinet meeting — I find it comforting that Joe Biden would survive to pardon the next brace of toms.

In our family it is a hallowed tradition — one as sacred and as ceremoniously performed as cheering on the opening day of baseball season — to witness and celebrate the annual presidential pardoning of the turkeys. Indeed, I consider myself the Cal Ripken of turkey pardoning, having never missed one since the initiation of the ritual more than twenty years ago. As is the case with other Thanksgiving traditions, I find it helpful to drink while participating in this one, so I annually toast the birds’ reprieve with stout tumblers of what I call Meleagris gallopavo cocktail, which is Wild Turkey straight up, the “cock-tail” mixed in only as an avian pun. After all, nothing is more threatening to one’s mental health than to be caught uncomfortably sober when it comes time for the leader of the free world to issue a televised and legally binding pardon to a bird.

Although I have long found the pardoning of the turkeys to be among the more entertaining things to transpire in our nation’s capital each year, even the levity of this ritual has become compromised by politics. In particular, the bloodthirsty vegetarians have complained that the annual pardoning amounts to free advertising for the poultry industry, and have suggested that the president would set a better example by accepting a “cruelty-free” Tofurkey, whose life before being pressed into a gelatinous loaf of shimmering curd presumably consisted of cavorting innocently through fragrant bean fields while in absolutely no danger of being sodomized. The Humane Society has also objected, making the hard-to-dispute point that turkeys produced by industrial poultry farming have about as unpleasant a life as one can imagine, and while two birds do get to fly first class to Anaheim or Orlando each year, 250 million others aren’t so lucky. Each year following the pardoning, PETA is served a whopping slice of free media pie when it describes in gory detail the miserable lives of these factory-farmed birds.

My objection to such complaints is certainly not that they are groundless — they must be at least as compelling as the idea that the leader of 300 million people should waste his time, not to mention his political capital, pardoning a turkey — but rather that they are unpardonably lacking in humor. It is not, after all, a Supreme Court deliberation we are talking about, but rather a turkey pardoning. So here, perhaps, is a useful rule of thumb for animal-rights activists: if George W. Bush and a turkey are more entertaining than you are, it can hardly be surprising that your client is headed for decapitation. With a little creativity, such activists might dramatize their objections in ways that would be more in the spirit of the event. How about staging a parody of the turkey pardoning in which a PETA activist, costumed as a giant turkey, pardons Dubya for his misdeeds? The potential for humor here is also suggested by the comic irony of an actual event involving none other than Sarah Palin. Back in the days before Fox and failed reality shows and rewriting the history of the American Revolution, the Alaska governor, having just pardoned a turkey (yes, many state governors also participate in this tomfoolery), waxed rhapsodic on camera about the virtues of compassion and forgiveness, while unbeknownst to her a worker in the background was busy decapitating and bleeding out turkeys. The YouTube video of this interview, which is far funnier than any Saturday Night Live sendup of it could possibly be, has been viewed more than 1 million times.

If I were to object to the turkey pardoning — which, of course, I haven’t the slightest intention of doing — I would do so on the grounds that to render a turkey a fit subject for pardon, we must presume the bird’s guilt. To be pardoned, one must first be in violation of some communal law or code. While enjoying Thanksgiving dinner, for example, we don’t “beg your pardon” unless we belch, fart, or otherwise violate the community ethic by which the meal is conducted. A pardon is both an expression of mercy and a certificate of absolution; it is both amnesty and exoneration.

To pardon, after all, is to forgive. And, if we’re talking about a turkey, it becomes difficult to discern what criminal or immoral behavior on the bird’s part may be said to establish the necessary preconditions for its forgiveness. Now if Ben Franklin had won the argument, and the turkey had become our national symbol, the case might be different. You may recall that Ben, whom many consider the true Father of our Country, argued that the bald eagle made a poor national symbol because “he is a bird of bad moral character.” This, incidentally, from a man who advocated choosing for a mistress an older woman because “there is no hazard of children, which irregularly produced may be attended with much inconvenience”; who invented bifocals so he might focus on prostitutes both up close and from slightly farther away; and who is credited with proffering the timeless verity that “beer is proof that God loves us and wants us to be happy.” So much for moral character. Unfortunately, Ben’s failed lobbying prevented the fat gobbler from making it onto the presidential seal, though I do still like to imagine a plump tom turkey with an olive branch in one scrabbly claw and a sheaf of gleaming arrows in the other, as if to say: I’m a jolly, peaceful old bird, but don’t fuck with me. Given its failure to achieve the status of national icon, I would argue that the turkey — being innocent of everything save its cowardly squandering of the rare opportunity to peck viciously at the president of the United States — cannot in fact be legally pardoned. And if the annual pardon is both presidentially sanctioned and demonstrably illegal, then it is also necessarily unconstitutional, and therefore constitutes legitimate grounds for impeachment.

My point here is not that a U.S. president should be impeached for pardoning a turkey — though I won’t stand in the way if that’s how it ultimately goes down — but rather that we might benefit from asking what human vanity or lust for power inspired the presumption that we could pardon a bird. On his final day in office, Bill Clinton pardoned 140 people, including a few whose deeds might lead you to conclude, by comparison, that even the turkey sodomizer wasn’t such a bad guy. Upon what grounds were these many villains exonerated? Just these: I’m an outgoing president, and you can’t stop me. That is to say, the grounds of power alone, and not those of morality or justice. Although most industrialized democracies on the planet have abolished capital punishment, more than two-thirds of U.S. states continue to respond to violent crime with the awkwardly violent response of sending people to the death chamber. And we still aren’t done quibbling about what constitutes torture, and whether our nation should sanction its use in extreme circumstances. But, as Thomas Jefferson well knew, it is the political expediency of those in power that defines the extremity of the circumstances. Men, as James Madison observed, are not angels.

I realize this is pretty heavy stuff to include in an essay about pardoning turkeys — and for that I hope I too may be pardoned — but the plain truth that we are so flawed, so very far from being angels, is directly relevant to this story. It is we who burn the village, execute the criminal, approve the torture. How is it that we are so sure of ourselves, so certain about the infallibility of our judgment and our authority? I wonder if there is some relationship between our presumption of power and this desire to pardon — even the desire to pardon an innocent, feathered, nonhuman being. I wonder if perhaps we have a vague sense that it is some guilt of our own that must be assuaged: that we, whose power has so often been used to judge, might ourselves be redeemed by some corollary power to forgive, that exoneration might at the eleventh hour become the bright shadow of a looming condemnation.

Of course the National Turkey — which, for all we know, might wisely prefer death to Disney World in any case — doesn’t require our mercy in the slightest. It is we who need the bird, desperately so, for through it we are permitted to express our deep human desire to grant amnesty to those who would otherwise suffer. From where I sit it is difficult to determine whether the granting of a pardon constitutes an assertion of power or a relinquishment of it. But for allowing us a momentary, if symbolic, reprieve from our role as judge and executioner, we have ample reason to give thanks to these turkeys — so many thanks, in fact, that it probably is a good idea to be on the safe side and pardon one every now and then.

I pour another tumbler of bourbon and look again at Caroline’s sweet little handprint turkey. Then I look at Hannah’s beaming face, which so clearly registers her innocent excitement that President Obama — with his own two little daughters by his side — has made it possible for these otherwise doomed gobblers to go free. I think about that mythic first Thanksgiving that we describe to our children, even as a long shadow of violence threatens to reduce it to historical insignificance. I think of the presidential turkey pardoning being performed in a world so replete with greed and conflict, suffering and injustice. I think of the fact that the ratio of turkeys annually pardoned and given free gin-and-tonics to those raised under horrendous conditions and unceremoniously slaughtered is approximately 1:125,000,000.

“Girls!” I suddenly hear myself exclaim. “This is the best day ever! The president has made sure that the turkeys will be free, and now they get to fly in a plane to Disney World, and they even get to be the stars in the big parade! And today you girls have learned all about how Thanksgiving is a holiday of peace and forgiveness, and soon we’ll have a wonderful Thanksgiving dinner of our own. This is truly a day to count our blessings!”

Eryn instantly furrows her brow, as if contemplating whether to take my bottle away. Then Caroline starts counting aloud, “One, two, free, four!” and Hannah claps her hands and chants, “The birds are free! The birds are free!” I glance again at Eryn, who is looking at me as if I’ve started something she will have to finish. It is a difficult moment, I must admit. And so, I do the only thing I can. I do what I think any father would have done under the circumstances. I set my whiskey down slowly, and then begin jumping up and down, clapping and shouting along with Hannah, and then Caroline, and, at last, even Eryn: “The birds are free! The birds are free! The birds are free!” Before our celebration reaches its breathless finish, we have segued from our avian freedom chant into “Turkey in the Straw,” “Five Fat Turkeys Are We,” and, for our big closer, “Freebird.” There is much playing of air guitar, and when we finish singing we all stand panting, heads bowed, holding our imaginary lighters ceremoniously above our heads.

It will be all too soon before my children’s veneration of the First Thanksgiving gives way to a painful awareness of the Mystic River Massacre. In the meantime we will celebrate not history, which is so often a monument to human failure, but rather myth, which is the necessary dream that a better future might excuse the errors of the past. Perhaps we each deserve a pardon. Maybe, whether we are doomed prisoner or executioner, we each need to receive that last-minute phone call in what would otherwise be our death chamber. We forgive the birds, and in so doing, we hope desperately that they might forgive us.

Michael P. Branch is professor of literature and environment at the University of Nevada, Reno; book review editor of the journal ISLE: Interdisciplinary Studies in Literature and Environment; and coeditor of the University of Virginia Press book series Under the Sign of Nature: Explorations in Ecocriticism. His books include John Muir’s Last Journey: South to the Amazon and East to Africa (Island Press, 2001) and Reading the Roots: American Nature Writing before Walden (University of Georgia Press, 2004). He also writes a monthly blog essay, called “Rants from the Hill,” for High Country News.

Comments

  1. I must confess that at this advanced stage of my residence in the sorry circumstances we humans have created for ourselves and others, it is nigh impossible for a piece of writing to make me smile, much less break into laughter. Thank you so much Michael for your wonderful send up of presidential pomposity. Your magical potion of gallows humor and human kindness mixed with the seasoning of our common fallibility touched my often too serious heart.

  2. From Thanksgiving to Latkes

    Every year, as the holiday season approaches, I revisit what I call my “botched holiday meal” strategy. If I can maintain my reputation in the kitchen, no one will ask me to be in charge of feeding crowds. As an occasional science writer, I’m more of a cuisine naturalist than enthusiast.
    For example, last year, around Thanksgiving I had to make four separate potluck dishes for the kids’ heritage feast at school. I had a mild panic attack and called my sister in Colorado. She said, “What are you asking me for? Don’t you remember I don’t cook either? Make something white. Kids love white food.”
    Sheepishly, I called my mother. “You failed to domesticate us,” I told her.
    “It’s not funny anymore. You don’t even iron,” she said.
    “Who irons?”
    Finally at my mother’s suggestion, I made a green bean casserole – a dish I truly believed to have passed into legend circa 1971. My mother made a list of the simple ingredients I would need. She assured me it would be a hit. “It’s all starch and salt. Everyone loves it.” I went to the Safeway and it took me at least fifteen minutes to find French-fried onion rings. I had difficulty classifying them as a species. Would they be with crackers and chips? Baking supplies? On the ethnic foods aisle perhaps, under “Regional American/Confederate States?” Near the green beans, perchance? Finally I found them near the pharmacy, arranged precariously in a tower listing slightly to the right. Next aisle over I found to the cans of cream of mushroom soup – a mysterious coagulated compound of fungus and plumber’s putty. I brought the casseroles to the heritage feast. When I pulled the foil off to present them, the casserole looked like wet grout with green beans. No one touched it.
    Determined, I finally mastered the green bean casserole I decided to bring it to Thanksgiving at my mother’s house. Sadly, when we arrived, the meal had already fallen into disharmony. The gravy, stuck in traffic on HWY 5, showed up two hours late. We waited as long as we could, until the turkey shriveled and dried out on the barbecue and the kids had to dunk it in the apple cider just so they could chew it. There was a miscommunication about the stuffing and we ended up with about forty pounds.
    After everyone had enough wine, the conversation turned to Turducken, a distinctly Yiddish sounding word yet a profoundly unJewish dish. Luckily my cousin’s new girlfriend took my part; she animates adult cartoon shows and collects rare fighter fish – a real shiksa my mother says. Authoritatively, she said, “I believe a traditionally prepared Turducken is a Turkey stuffed with a duck, stuffed with a chicken. The French do something else. There are more birds involved. I think they start with an ostrich.”
    “I bet,” I said. “An ostrich stuffed with a turkey, stuffed with a duck, stuffed with a chicken, stuffed with a house finch, stuffed with a cigarette.”
    “Exactly!” she said. “Speaking of cigarettes…”
    My mother rose stiffly and, giving me the evil eye, left the dining room. “You had to start,” she said. “At least you could let everyone eat before you make them sick with all your nature. How did I fail my daughters?”
    A few weeks later Hanukah arrived. My strategy was working. “Can we all just admit that latkes are just Yiddish for “hash-browns” and get over it?” I asked my mother.
    “They are not hash-browns. It’s important to make them from scratch, the right way, hand-grated. Will I never teach you anything?”
    In our family, the “traditional way” means hours of peeling and grating followed by billowing black smoke followed by the immediately onset of anxiety around the Christmas meal.
    “Don’t you remember last year?” I asked my mother.
    A dark cloud passed over her face. During last year’s Hanukah dinner, I walked into my mother’s house during peak latke-production. My son, running through the kitchen, skidded out on a viscous, potatoey substance on the floor and injured his head on the refrigerator. Clumps of latke batter dripped from my mother’s hair and her face was partially covered in flour. The garbage disposal groaned and yurped up copious amounts of excess potato matter.
    “This isn’t making latkes, mom. This is a potato apocalypse.”
    “Don’t you have something to do? A trail to run? A ball to kick? Leave me alone,” she said defeated. It was only then that I realized it was I who had failed her.
    Finally, after some pressuring, I convinced her to try the frozen latkes from Trader Joe’s. “It’s just us,” I said. “No one will know.” She scoffed, of course. But in the end I won. We spent the rest of the evening drinking and watching the candles burn down.
    “These were good,” my mother said. “Not a word to anyone about frozen latkes, especially no one Jewish. My reputation is on the line.”
    “Mom,” I said, “Haven’t I taught you anything?”

  3. Close to Thanksgiving. A reporter is following a bunch of turkeys that are running away as fast as they can. He is holding is mic and addresses the first one he can catch. “Please, Miss Turkey, would you mind saying something about Thanksgiving to our auditors?”
    The turkey, frightened, is running twice as fast.
    “all right, then! See you at Christmas…” Then, the turkey stops, turns around, horrified, saying: “Did you say Christmas???”

  4. These are my Thanksgiving thoughts from the bayous of Louisiana:

    SENSES OF THANKSGIVING

    Thank you, O Lord, in this bountiful season for the five senses to relish your world.

    Thank you for the succulent smells of the fruits of the earth in the kitchens of our mothers and wives. Thank you for the odor of rich delta dirt on a warm, foggy winter morning. Thank you for the smell of wood smoke, especially that tinted with lightered pine. Thank you for the stew of odors distinct to our rivers and bayous— cypress needles, primal water, mud and decay, life and life to be.

    Thank you for the sound of voices of those who came before us and those who will carry our legacies into the future— our parents, grandparents and our children. Thanks for the muffled wings of waterfowl above an overflow swamp and the belligerent snort of a doe at dusk. Thank you for haunting sounds of great horned owls and distant thunder.

    Thank you for the taste of spring mayhaws and autumn muscadines in the jellies of a late November Thursday. Thank you for the abundance of other native flavors, subtle and brash— breast of teal, pecans, filet of bass. Thank you for the taste of contentment.

    Thank you for the feel of a driving north wind as an Arctic front races for the gulf. Thanks for the textures of sweet gum balls, feathers, gumbo clay, and beech bark. Thank you for the heat of an open fire and the warmth of an open heart.

    Thank you for the sight of falling leaves, fattening squirrels, and rising waters that foretell the change of seasons. As the sun approaches the solstice, thank you for lengthy shadows and longer sunsets. Thanks also for fleeting glimpses— of a bobcat at dawn, of a shooting star on a rawboned night, of curiosity on the face of a young grandson.

    I pray also, O Lord, for a sixth sense. Grant us common sense to be good stewards of these treasures. Amen.

  5. Conversation at a Seattle Pre-Thanksgiving Dinner

    Me: “I spend a lot of time translating my life when I talk to people. My lower income background didn’t give me the skills to talk to wealthier people or the middle class. The conversations in my head go between saying what I’m thinking and figuring out how to say it in a way that won’t offend someone or won’t clue them in to the fact that I am not middle class.”

    Reply: “You are creating a user interface.” (A UI in techspeak.)

    My shoulder and arm hurt and I want to type this before I lose capability to type. I want to be responsible to the people who are caring for me and helping me to get better. I will get better but I have to write this now.

    Last night I went to a “Rent Party” after going to that dinner. My friend, who works in the Seattle area to help people and bring people up in so many ways, can’t pay rent this month. The friend invited me at the last minute. The friend knows I’m hurting too so thought it wasn’t right to ask. The person’s friends said, “Ask those who know what it’s like.”, and I almost do know what it’s like.

    I’m falling down on my desk. I can hardly get up. I just had a discussion with another friend who is on the edge and wondering what to do—how to pay the rent. My UI is trying to kick in but I’m suppressing it a bit. I had a tiny bit to drink yesterday and I’m a little hung over. That opens the doors and lets me through the UI door a bit.

    I am tired of placards with 1-paragraph statements about the 99%. I’m tired of “supporters” who for whatever reason think that their words will help this movement. It will help some. Personally I’m ambivalent. The demonstrations and placards are a good start but these are real people not to be objectified and turned into a symbol for a movement. Invite them to your house and sit down with them. Learn how you can really help—not how you can help them stand in the street longer—how you can help get them off that street be it real or metaphorical; forever.

    I’m white. People in Seattle who know me find me challenging. I can tell you what it’s like to be poor from childhood and not always; that’s all. It’s hard enough to be honest about my own experience because I know that when I am in a room full of people, be they activists or friends, it makes me awkward and them uncomfortable if I talk about poverty. People think I’m hostile because I tell the truth. That’s because the UI I’m always creating has bugs. It leaks. I tell the truth where I see inconsistency and delusion. When I talk about difficulty with my injury or my finances, it makes them more uncomfortable.

    What I’m trying to do, trying to say is that they once accepted me, called me friend as long as I could screen out what my true life experiences were. Now, I stand beside them and it’s too much. Poverty and financial stress are an analytical problem to them. I become no longer a person but something to solve. I’m invisible. I make them feel powerless even though they aren’t.

    That’s not what I’m trying to do! I’ve thought about this a lot this year. I have grey hair. I have a nice car. I sort of own a condo. I look successful but I’m not and I’m not the only person out there who is in this situation. I’m trying to say to them, I am the” they” you want to help. I’m not over the edge yet. I’m not falling down yet. I still want to be your friend but I’m not alone and I understand that if you stay friends with me it opens doors you’re scared to go through. Because I am not alone. The 99% are there right behind me. They’re creating the collective UI of the Occupy movements but it’s all too real.

    Two people, three if you include me, right in front of you; who are falling down.

    I’m still falling down on my desk. I have to stop. This is how I write when I’m crying.

    I don’t want to make you uncomfortable but I want to be able to stand in front of you and tell the truth. If you allow yourself to cry, you will write this way too. You will do more than you think you could.

    No turkey to forgive. I thanked it.

  6. Last night I went to a “Rent Party” after going to that dinner. My friend, who works in the Seattle area to help people and bring people up in so many ways, can’t pay rent this month. The friend invited me at the last minute. The friend knows I’m hurting too so thought it wasn’t right to ask. The person’s friends said, “Ask those who know what it’s like.”, and I almost do know what it’s like.

    I’m falling down on my desk. I can hardly get up. I just had a discussion with another friend who is on the edge and wondering what to do—how to pay the rent. My UI is trying to kick in but I’m suppressing it a bit. I had a tiny bit to drink yesterday and I’m a little hung over. That opens the doors and lets me through the UI door a bit.
    http://www.orionmagazine.org/index.php/articles/discuss/6471

  7. The painting is not good but the article its very informative and very long and its not good of some reader. But for me its very wonderful, unique and useful. A reporter is following a bunch of turkeys that are running away as fast as they can. He is holding is mic and addresses the first one he can catch. Thanks God, in this bountiful season for the five senses to relish your world and tThank you for the succulent smells of the fruits of the earth in the kitchens of our mothers and wives.

  8. Thank you for the story. I smiled when I saw your daughter’s drawing of a turkey. Thanksgiving is a day that should be celebrated by as many people as possible. However, it might be possible that some people have forgotten about the spirit of thanksgiving. The commercialization of this holiday has made it into a buying spree, but this is not what thanksgiving is about. We should go back to our roots and celebrate it for what it really stands for.

  9. You gotta love a country where ceremonial turkeys have ubderstudies!

  10. Excellent article, I laughed all the way while reading it! Did you know the Native Americans always asked forgiveness from the animals they had to kill for food, and that Thanksgiving is actually a Native American celebration?

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