When you first see a Thanksgiving card with a kid riding a turkey, your initial reaction is probably a lot like mine: “Well, that’s cute, I guess.” But it doesn’t stay cute for long.
There were always a genre of these things that went for “cuteness” in general, and in most cases it just meant slapping a kid on a card doing anything normal that an adult would do. (There’s a whole thing about kids cooking Thanksgiving dinner which drives me bananas, but that’s for another post…)
But no one rides a turkey. Except for this woman, I guess:
No one literally rides a turkey, so, what the hell, card makers? What’s the purpose of these images? Is there some darker reason they showed us this image time and time again?
The answer is dark. Oh, so dark. It’s a not-so-subtle reminder of domination, a kind of defense of our permission to do with these birds what we want.
What it’s saying is the following: First, turkey, remember that we will soon eat you. You will be our feast. Your flesh will fill our bellies. But BEFORE THAT COMES, we will ride you. We will make you labor. And we won’t even do it with dignity! We will set the least of us, our young, on your backs, and make you serve their immature and depraved whims. You are not worthy of carrying our leaders, our esquires, our very best. No, you get our snot-nosed brats. Then we kill you, discard your organs, and feast on whatever’s left. And we may not even finish you — your “leftovers” may be smothered with ketchup and stuck between white bread…or they may not. We don’t care.
This is a straightforward, unapologetic image of the turkey’s oppression. It is a celebration of how we ride them to exhaustion BEFORE eating the very flesh off their bones.
When I see these cards, I’m reminded, quite frankly, of Malcolm X’s words:
“I believe that there will be ultimately be a clash between the oppressed and those who do the oppressing. I believe that there will be a clash between those who want freedom, justice and equality for everyone and those who want to continue the system of exploitation. I believe that there will be that kind of clash, but I don’t think it will be based on the color of the skin…”
No. It will be based on the presence of gizzards and dirty feathers. Mark my words! One day this holiday will mark the beginning of the Fowl Revolution, and these images of oppression will be plastered on every grocery store, on every Sam’s Club billboard, on every marketplace where the trading of bird flesh for dirty money is handled in the open, without shame, without remorse, without even a moment of thought for the generations of fine feathered friends that have been put down for others to enjoy as a symbol of forced merriment around a table occupied by “family” that doesn’t even want to be there, that will complain about how dry the haggard chef has made the bird, ruining its involuntarily sacrificed flesh, and serving as mere “leftovers” for childrens’ lunches when neglectful parents are too tired to spread peanut butter on bread the next Monday.
REMEMBER THESE POOR SOULS! GRIEVE FOR THE INDIGNITY THEY SUFFERED WHILE BEING RIDDEN BY SLAVERING, MINDLESS CHILDREN! RAGE AGAINST THE HORROR OF THEIR HUMILIATION!
Holy crap! A real kid on a real turkey!