Thanksgiving is an American holiday centered on the consumption of large amounts of food. Of course, Thanksgiving can also be a lovely time in which families get together and enjoy each others' company. Sometimes we even remember to be thankful.
We might also remember that most of the genetically engineered birds to be consumed this week lived their brief lives in inhumane conditions. But if you plan to maintain your spiritual purity by skipping the turkey and filling up on the vegetables and sweet potatoes, think again. American agriculture depends on migrant workers, most of them undocumented, to provide the abundance of food most of us take for granted. Their living conditions may not be much better than the turkey's.
And it's almost certain that something on the Thanksgiving table -- the cloves in the pumpkin pie, perhaps -- has been imported, and the lives of the workers involved in producing that food product may be very hard, indeed. There's a lot of economic injustice in food, and unless you are in the rare circumstance of being able to grow your own food, there's no avoiding the injustice.
Now that you are thoroughly bummed out, take heart. Surely some of the people whose labor brought you that food do enjoy their jobs. Appreciate that. Appreciate the care and love that went into the cooking. Appreciate the tradition's history. Appreciate and enjoy the company. Consider supporting the United Farm Workers and the Humane Farming Association. Remember to be thankful.
One translation of the Zen Five Reflections begins, "Seventy-two labors brought us this food; we should know how it comes to us." These days, the number of labors, and the number of people involved in the vast global chain involved in putting that one meal on the table, is beyond counting. Appreciate that this is the way life is; suffering and pleasure, injustice and love.
Remember to be thankful. And enjoy the sweet potatoes.