Since 1947, at least, US Presidents have been presented with a live domestic turkey in honor of Thanksgiving. Since 1989, this ceremony has taken a new turn - President George H.W. Bush started the ceremony for pardoning the turkey, after which it was sent to live out its life in Frying Pan Park in Fairfax, VA or more recently in Disney Land or Disney World.
I just want to point out a few things:
Why does this turkey get a pardon when the turkey at the Thanskgiving table does not? Is it because once it is live and on television, people are less comfortable with the idea of it being eaten? We want to separate our food from it's living form so badly that we can't acknowledge that a turkey, a living bird, is the source of the turkey on our tables?
Also, what's this about a pardon? What was the sin of the turkey in the first place? Or is the turkey some kind of scapegoat to represent American sins? (And if so, this tarnegol caporet of the American people is SO interesting... turns Thanskgiving into a sort of Yom Kippur for Americans which is strangely appropriate as the myth of the holiday as a coming together for colonists and natives covers up the reality of Western interactions with indigenous peoples and in fact perhaps Thanksgiving should be a time to confess misdeeds and try to correct them). At a time when, in the tail end of his presidency, George Bush's greatest remaining power is his opportunity to grant presidential pardons, what is the symbolism of his willingness to save the lives of two innocent turkeys, while consuming another at his dinner table?
In any case, you can read about Turkey Pardoning here:
Also, Sarah Palin's turkey pardoning has been getting quite a bit of press, it seems. She gave a post-turkey pardoning interview while in the background you can see turkeys being slaughtered.
In any event, it seems Obama also was busy with Thanksgiving festivities of a different sort. Although next year he'll have to pardon a turkey, this year he helped out in a Food Bank in the South Side of Chicago:
Anyway, sorry if this post made anyone uncomfortable - it is easier to criticize the impulse to pardon a turkey as a vegetarian who won't be eating one for Thanksgiving... But I think that if people are going to eat meat, they should be comfortable with where it comes from. The fact that Sarah Palin's interview is being laughed at as unsensitive and stupid shows the discomfort that many people have at seeing the very process by which food reaches their tables - if she had been in front of an orchard where people were pulling apples off trees, no one would have found the interview to be a faux pas. Anyway, something to think about...