Thanksgiving from the turkey’s perspective. Over the river and through the woods, a nation’s fowl behavior is noted, bemoaned, admonished, challenged.Timely commentary from the cutting edge
by Dr. Jeffrey Lant.
Author’s program note. If you’re a resident of these United States, the fourth Thursday of November will soon be upon us in all its excess, gluttony, and self-congratulation. We know this as Thanksgiving Day, but it most certainly is no day of glorious and heart felt thanksgiving for the crucial centerpiece of this annual event sacred to gourmandizing and loosened belts. In fact, for the family of the genus Meleagris, commonly called turkeys, this date is the darkest day of their lives, their history and their entire existence on this planet… but no longer.
This year for the first time since their majestic ancestors graced the Early Miocene a long, long time ago and after nearly 400 years of unapologetic, systematic execution and intense gobbling launched by New England Pilgrims in the 1660s, turkeys are rallying for life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. In short, these ancient birds of unmitigated plumage and pluck now demand respect, restitution, and revolution. Due to a special arrangement with a band of their insurgents, I am able to take you inside their headquarters. Thus they acknowledge their need for world-wide recognition and your support for their pressing cause.
Urgency in the air: my interview with the Young Turk leader called “Squawk”, a bird of stark destiny and purpose.
A Message from Squawk.
I was not particularly surprised when I saw the note left under the door last night; indeed given my support over the course of many years for the God-given right to life of polar bears, eagles, monarch butterflies, African elephants and many others, I should have been chagrined not to have been contacted. I have my amor propre too after all. But there it was.
“Be ready. Comrades will make contact precisely at midnight. No cameras. Nothing but pencil and paper.” Then the bold, audacious, even grandiloquent mark already famous: “Squawk” and his proud sign, one blood-red claw print. So… they had chosen me…
… And then it occurred to me. When I booked my Thanksgiving Day reservation at the Sheraton Commander hotel right down the street, the young manager had asked me if I wanted turkey or ham for my main course. Without thinking, I told her that if the glaze would be as deep and resonant as last year’s, my selection was certainly ham. Thus inadvertently by my choice of which dead animal I should feast upon, I became, if anathema to pigs, yet simpatico to turkeys.
In this way I came to know that adherents of the turkeys’ cause can be anywhere, even in the most unexpected of places. Ah, that is what the bright-eyed, chipper serving person meant when she said, “I’m so glad, Dr. Lant” in an especially insinuating manner. Old-goat that I am I thought her come-hither look was for my geriatric charms, and so I thought again “there’s no fool like an old fool.”
Perforce, to my work.
Understanding my task, I readied myself for what could only be a fateful encounter, its salient and urgent points to be brought to a world of the unenlightened. And so I regained myself. I was myself again for in such matters I remain a “Young Turk,” too, deferring to no one, not even Squawk, revolution’s anvil though he be.
The feathered comrades were as good as their word. At the stroke of midnight, I heard the fluttering of wing and heard the unmistakable sound emanating from the fleshy wattle or protuberance that hangs from the top of the beak. And thus I fell, through professional pride and recognized standing, into the hands of those who, without Squawk’s laissez-passer, in an instant could blind me and shred my fragile flesh. I now felt as they had felt these thousands of years a prisoner, helpless, incarcerated, destined for premature death. Thus did the clan Meleagris signal the new order of their kind… and the resulting new order of mine.
Of the next several minutes, I recall sensations only. Of feathers carefully positioned to extinguish all light; just a little showing, otherwise entirely dark. Of the occasional sharp claw prick, whether by accident or design, no less painful for that. It was an acute reminder that I was in their complete and utter power, perhaps the first man so rendered in the long relations of turkey and human. They said nothing. I said nothing. Where I was, who I was with, what they would do to me would become completely apparent soon enough… and was.
Squawk’s headquarters. We meet and “talk turkey”.
I never did discover just where I was and where we met. But even if I knew, I wouldn’t say. I am a journalist and my sources sacred… So I shall simply say the place had a make shift aura about it, as if this were a temporary abode, one to be quickly occupied, quickly abandoned.
“Good evening, Doctor Lant.” It was Squawk, and I felt his power, strength, and authority at once. Here was a bird who meant business… and who saw me only as a tool to reach his objective. We understood each other, and so our business could proceed, briskly, for time was limited and we both had deadlines…
He motioned me to a chair. He stood. And then he began, the words swift, lucid, hot, each a declaration etched in acid. He meant every one and every one came without difficulty. Here was a subject of paramount importance to every turkey. He knew he spoke for all his breed, was supremely confident of his position, of the need to speak out, of the full justice of his cause, and the need for action now, complete action, long overdue action, and of what would have to be done should this action be deferred by even a single moment.
It was a clarion call… and Squawk looked through me and made me see what he saw… he was a bird transfigured… exactly what was required for this pivotal time in the long, one-sided relation of turkey and human. I knew as each word emerged that I was hearing history in the making. Like it or not, every clipped syllable was Important. Things would never be the same again.
What Squawk said.
Now each word came fast, irrefutable, beautiful in its delivery, purified by total belief and total commitment.
Of the days before human came. Of a proud bird, great in size, majestic in movement, free ranging over the great land called by humans North America. These were the proud days, the glory days, when every bird knew the joy that is freedom.
Of the days that brought the people called Pilgrims, people who fled tyranny and injustice only to bring a greater tyranny, more menacing and thorough injustice to the land called New England. These storm-tossed people came with only one thing in amplitude: arrogance, an arrogance that everything they saw was theirs and theirs alone. We did not understand these humans then. We saw them as poor, freedom-loving, in need of help we were ready to give in unstinting measure.
And so we accepted their invitation to the First Thanksgiving… where we were the guest of honor indeed: as food. We came in friendship. We found the cooking pot instead… and not merely the pot for some; the pot for all of us in our thousands, our tens of thousands, our millions.
And so the Pilgrims grew fat upon the bounty of our trusting bodies. No wonder these humans gave thanks. They were triumphant over all, a revolution in every step they took. Against such God-believing people, forever certain in their cause what could be done except revolt, violent, intense, thorough, unceasing until the freedom of old becomes the order of the great new day.
“Does this mean….?”, I asked. He knew the question before I even finished it. “Yes, friend, it does. There are comrades who operate in the shady lanes of liberal Newton, of affluent Brookline, even one hero who patrols the grounds and harasses the privileged students of the Harvard Business School. And as our ranks grow, we shall expand… so that no pedestrian wherever can walk, no motorist drive without our calculated outrage made manifest, painful.”
He meant every word … and from previous print reports I knew he would do it if he could. After all the population of wild turkeys has never been greater or demonstrated greater purpose and solidarity.
With the briefest touch wing to hand, Squawk signalled that this unprecedented interview was over. Disciplined comrades were at the ready for my immediate departure, blocking my eyes, escorting me home to a world which suddenly seemed less equable than before.
I turned on CNN which announced that the President would be exercising his powers of executive clemency at the White House today, live in just 15 minutes. The lucky spared turkey was called “Squawk”. Now wasn’t that cute?
The Marine Corps band was on hand and was just now commencing “The President’s Hymn” written in 1863 when President Abraham Lincoln declared the first official Thanksgiving holiday. Its authors were William Augustus Muhlenberg and Joseph W. Turner, spiritual descendants of the Pilgrims.
“GIVE thanks, all ye people give thanks to the Lord, Alleluias of freedom, with joyful accord; Let the East and the West, North and South roll along, Sea, mountain, and prairie, one thanksgiving song.”
Now face to face, eye to eye, Squawk and the President were just a moment from destiny…
About the Author
Harvard-educated Dr. Jeffrey Lant is an awards winning, best selling author.
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