Before you dig into your Thanksgiving turkey (or am I too late?), consider this fun fact: the President of the United States pardons a turkey at an official ceremony in the White House every year and saves it from slaughter.
This tradition started in 1989 with President George H. Bush. Among the lucky few birds that have been spared are Katie and Zack in 2001 (named after children of the Chairman of the National Turkey Federation), Marshmallow and Yam in 2005, and Liberty and Peace last Thanksgiving.
The process is full of pomp. The turkeys (one for the ceremony and one alternate) are selected at birth and trained to handle loud noises, crowds, and flash photography. They are brought into D.C. via motorcade and stay in a deluxe suite at the W Hotel, feasting on berries, corn, and acorn the night before the event. After their official duty, they are whisked off to Mount Vernon.
All is done in good jest and the holiday spirit, but it raises some “sort of” serious questions:
1. Why pardon turkeys at all? Does this point to a larger issue about animal cruelty or food (over)consumption? Surely, there’s a reason why we cringe when we see Governor Palin pardoning a turkey while his fellow birds are being butchered in the background::
2. And what about the names? Why Liberty? Why Peace? And why was Liberty the chosen bird and Peace the alternate? Surely it would have been bad taste to name the bird Osama. But in the name of all things to be pardoned, what about Congress or the Economy? There must be a method to the madness of selecting these select birds—if the act is symbolic, then the names must be as well.
Just some food for thought. Happy Thanksgiving!