A Turkey By Any Other Description–Is Still the Governor of Alaska

by Walter Brasch
            President Bush, as has every president since his father began the practice in 1989, annually pardons a Thanksgiving turkey.
            Amid hundreds of spectators, most of them members of the media, the president makes a few cute comments, issues a pardon for the turkey and a “runner-up” (in case the Main Bird can’t fulfill all the duties), and then sends the turkeys off to a petting zoo or ranch, where they live about a year. Why they live only a year is because domestic turkeys are bred to become so pleasingly plump so quickly that disease takes over their bodies if not slaughtered. A domestic turkey has a 26 week life span; wild turkeys, if not killed by natural predators, have a 12 year life span.
            Why domestic turkeys have to be “pardoned” is another matter. The birds did nothing wrong, nothing illegal. All they did was to be born and be turkeys. But, the entire ceremony is a good PhotoOp for the president, while encouraging the sale of turkeys for Thanksgiving dinner. Americans will eat about 46 million turkeys this Thanksgiving, according to the National Turkey Federation.
            The Federation first gave Harry Truman a bird in 1947. While most media declare that was the beginning of the pardons, there’s no evidence that Truman did anything other than eat turkey for Thanksgiving. In 1963, days before he was murdered, John F. Kennedy chose to spare the life of the turkey he was presented, but did not grab the salivating media to watch him “pardon” a turkey. The Federation gives each president a live turkey and two dressed ones.
            And now comes a turkey disguised as a human. While most turkeys might be offended at the comparison, “turkey” might be the best way to describe Gov. Sarah Palin.
            The former Republican VP nominee, at home in Wasilla, Alaska, went to the Triple-D farm, Thursday, accompanied by a willing press corps. There, she declared, apparently in all sincerity and unaware of the great irony, “I, Governor Sarah Palin, friend to all creatures great and small.” Yes, the same Sarah Palin who recently cooked moose chili while being interviewed on TV, who regularly kills animals, who approves the killing of wolf pups in their dens, who sees nothing wrong with violating every “fair chase” rule of hunting by encouraging aerial hunting. That Sarah Palin.
            But, her “pardon” actually gets even more outrageous. She said she was pardoning the turkey because it was almost the national bird, that “it is not at all clear that this turkey even had a trial, let alone a fair trial by a jury of his or her peers,” and that Alaska doesn’t have a death penalty. So far, except for her squeaky unmodulated voice and lack of complete sentences, combined with the chortle her line about “friend of all creatures” must have provoked, no harm no foul.
            And then she walked outside the pen into the fresh air and sunlight. While a KTUU-TV reporter interviewed her about returning to Alaska, behind the governor, and clearly visible to the camera, a worker was feeding turkeys into a metal funnel grinder, and grinning at the TV camera. The videographer told Palin what was happening behind her shoulder; her response was “No worries,” as she continued the three-minute interview, upstaged the entire time by the worker and the slaughter.
            During the interview, she explained she went to the Triple-D farm to help promote local business, and because, “You need a little bit of levity in this job.” Near the end of the interview, she acknowledged she was a controversial figure, and threw out an off-hand comment about the work being done behind her: “Certainly we’ll probably invite criticism for even doing this too but at least this was fun.” It certainly wasn’t “fun” for the turkeys.
            Although most Americans have no problem with eating meat, the scene that Sarah Palin willingly became a part showed not just ineptness but insensitivity.
            “The word ‘turkey,’” said Sarah Palin, is “considered a term of endearment in casual conversation.” There is no way that referring to Sarah Palin as a turkey can be misconstrued to be a “term of endearment.”
[Dr. Brasch is the author of the recently-published Sinking the Ship of State: The Presidency of George W. Bush, available at amazon.com, bn.com, and numerous independent and chain stores. He is professor of journalism at Bloomsburg University. You may contact him through his website, www.walterbrasch.com or by e-mail at brasch@bloomu.edu] 

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About Walter Brasch

Columnist, author, journalism professor. Latest book is BEFORE THE FIRST SNOW: STORIES FROM THE REVOLUTION, a look at the couterculture from 1964, as seen through the eyes of a "flower child" who is now middle-aged--and of the reporter who covered her story. The book is available through Amazon.com . . . Check out website, www.walterbrasch.com for further info. Or, just write me: walterbrasch@gmail.com
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One Response to A Turkey By Any Other Description–Is Still the Governor of Alaska

  1.  … all the factory farmed birds — they are slaughtering turkeys now. Sara Palin did an interview right in front of a slaughter -good! Let the bird eaters see where their turkey comes from. They will mock her while ripping the wings and legs off the body of their thanksgiving dinner. They make a big deal of hunting from planes but at least they follow and kill what they shoot.  Here in WI they hunt with bow and arrow and wound.  Then, they go home for the night.  They come back late afternoon the next day and if they find the animal with its legs blown off or hopefully, dead, its suffering over and if it has not been torn apart slowly by predators overnight, they take home their trophy.  Last week in the Janesville WI Gazette they did a story about the brave hunter who killed one of the last great albino (all white) bucks this way.  He left it in the field to die slow, pecked at by birds and ants in its eyes.  Nice.  The picture showed the dead beauty and the beast.
    I do not know what state you are from but I bet you are unaware of the policies and practices of your own state’s Natural Resources Dept. Yet you write about Palin.  Cheap!  Shooting animals with guns is not by far the worst of what every state does to wild and farm animals.
    Here in WI our Democrat governor, an Obama supporter, allows bear baiting.  Bear baiting is the use of live bears to train dogs.  A chained bear in a penned area is allowed to be attacked over and over by large packs of dogs to train new dogs to hunt bears.  Sometimes the bear is allowed to run in a penned area so the dogs can chase him down. The new dogs learn from the old dogs not to be afraid of the bear. This continues all days with fresh dog packs. People come from all over the world to have fun like this in WI.Other animals are used as well.  Called junk animals, coyotes, raccoons, foxes and many other small animals are forced out of a pen and the dog pack tears them apart, a new animal every hour, 17 hours a day. 
    Additionally, our governor is allowing the DNR to classify Mute Swans as an Invasive species to be shot on sight..  This is what the Humane Society said.
    “The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (DNR) recently announced plans to classify mute swans as a “prohibited invasive species.” The adoption of these proposed regulations would remove any remaining protections these birds have under existing regulations making it that much easier for the DNR to issue permits for the unnecessary and inhumane killing of these beautiful birds. The DNR claims that mute swans are not native to North America, and therefore, should be listed as an “invasive species.” However, there is conflicting evidence about whether mute swans are native to the North American continent, and regardless, the birds are now a naturalized part of the environment. Mute swans do not pose a threat to Wisconsin’s aquatic ecosystems and any perceived conflicts with these birds can be resolved using effective, humane methods.”
    The DNR did this to “encourage” trumpeter swans who they see as “Native”.  Now they are applying to take trumpeters off the endangered list so they can shoot them as well. A group that has lived with the swans on the lakes for three generations, Save Our Swans, has formed but is badly unfunded compared to the state and hunter money behind the DNR.

    So please if you really care about animals look in your own backyard.  Don’t try to make a monster out of a woman in this sexist way.  Palin is hardly the example of cruelty to animals.  Most of it is done by men and most of the worst is done by argi business.  What is on your table this thanksgiving and where did it come from?