Tradition has been on my mind lately. Thanksgiving is almost here, and then the maddening consumerist Christmas season will begin. Probably it already has. I’ve been trying to change my family’s Christmas traditions for a few years now, trying to move them away from the gifts, and towards some quality time. Resistance is all I’ve gotten so far.
The reason we can’t change things is “tradition”. I’m coming to think that this is just an excuse to continue doing things that we suspect might not be right. “Tradition” is a big part of why baby seals are murdered every year in Canada, why dolphins are slaughtered in mass in Japan, and why millions of turkeys are sacrificed every year around this time. Does “tradition” mean murder, then? Seems to.
I leafleted with a couple friends this past weekend, handing out information on Turkeys. Some of the comments were interesting, in that disturbing way.
Handing the leaflet back to me, “Oh, I don’t need this. Doesn’t the president pardon one of these every year?” As if pardoning one abused turkey makes up for all those still suffering and dying at the hands of humans. When I mentioned that there are many millions needing pardoning, she made a face and walked away.
I would bet that she walked away grumbling about people like me, people who dare to think that non-human animals have just as much a right to life as humans do, and try to get others to see that perspective too. She probably was a bit outraged that I tried to get her to see, however gently, the abuse that humans heap upon those we decide are less worthy of consideration. Does she really not understand that she once would have been considered property? That it has been less than a hundred years since women have had the right to vote in this country? That we don’t have to look very far back in our own history to the time when husbands had the right to beat their wives to death, that it was not a crime to do so? Women were property then, just as non-human animals are currently considered property.
I think it is all connected. Until we admit that every sentient being has just as much of a right to life as we do, until we stop seeing living beings as property, we will continue to abuse other humans just as we do other species.
Just consider Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo Bay for two recent examples. Really, though, this country was founded on human abuse, and how ironic that we have a federal holiday to celebrate it.
I think it is time for new traditions – ones filled with compassion rather than murder.