Ages ago, when watching Hitchcock's thriller movie, Rear Window, I recall being completely enthralled by the diversity of lifestyles that could be observed from living in an urban setting. As a military child, growing-up in pristine enclaves, I longed for such an experience. Well, there is a saying, be careful what you wish for.
About a month ago, the city of Casablanca became my new home and to my joy, I had, not one, but three rear view windows that gave me an instant insight into the daily activities of Moroccan families. I witnessed, through sight, sound and aroma, the comfort of families sitting on mattresses placed on the ground and eating warm savory meals at 2AM; children playing soccer on roof tops; women and men hanging their clothes on wire lines adding a colorful array of cloth flags that wave about in the balmy Moroccan breeze.
Wonderful! As a social science teacher by trade, this experience was absolutely magnificent! But, not so fast--a month into my stay here came the season of Eid al Adha. In English, it pretty much means the "festival of sacrifice." For Westerners, who often put more value on animals than our fellow humans, seeing cute fluffy lambs appear on porches that will become the shared meal of the community, this celebration can be a trying an unnerving experience.
Looking out of my rear view window now became an engagement in Hitchcockian suspense. When will the lambs disappear? And the cutlery that I saw in the market street, just out my front door, was beginning to make sense. The horror of the potential usage those odd tools and the outcome of the plump cute lambs nearly became unbearable. So much so that I've engorged myself with a collection of chocolates, everything from chocolate pastries and candies to chocolate ice cream, even though I'm lactose intolerant.
The irony is that I once thought myself to be inquisitively accepting of diverse cultural and religious norms. However, this celebration of thanks, appreciation and sharing has made me wonder about my own culture's human relationship with animals as well as my own complacency. The lambs of Eid have, completely, taken me back to my recent memories of all the hundreds of cattle, pigs and chickens I witnessed being carted across my home country to face their fate, which was completely without charitable purpose. Their long-drawn out belabored, stench-filled and tightly packed journey through truck stops, snowy mountains and incredibly hot dessert terrain took them from lush farms or daily human care to service-based extermination houses. And by journey's end, I was well-aware that much of their altered existence may simply become a collection in a garbage dump. My Moroccan experience has brought back a greater understanding of why social studies teachers share the 20th Century writings of Upton Sinclair that highlight the Western treatment of animals. We haven't come much further for appreciating our furry friends who fall out of the "cute" pet category. And we are definitely not sacrificing them to feed the poor .
So, in returning from my deep reflection on our human relationship with animals, the bleating of the Moroccan lambs--technically sheep--the background sounds of humming saws, the roof tops with smoke-venting chimneys and the whiffs of bbq'd meat have left me saddened for their, seemingly, never-ending outcome. But, more so, respectful of the deliberate care of the animals and the festive sharing of the lamb's life that will follow its transition from a living and communicating creature to a food source for the poor, the neighbors, friends and the family's whose dinner tables decorate the view from my rear window.
Footnote: Just as I finished this blog, I looked out of my window and my closest little buddy was gone. By the day's end the suspense for all had ended. And to no surprise, I was invited to share in the festivities with a Moroccan family...since I'm not vegetarian, my complacency gave way to acceptance, so I simply gave thanks to the family and to the lives of the little sheep.
You can find more information here on such a globally celebrated occasion: Eid Al Adha