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

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.”

Walter Brasch, during a 40-year work career in mass communications, has been a member of several unions, in both the private and public sectors. He is a syndicated newspaper columnist and the author of 16 books, including With Just Cause: Unionization of the American Journalist, Before the First Snow: Stories from the Revolution, and his latest Fracking Pennsylvania. He can be contacted at: walterbrasch@gmail.com. Read other articles by Walter, or visit Walter's website.

6 comments on this article so far ...

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  1. tony smith said on November 22nd, 2008 at 12:29pm #

    Oh, grow up. There are a lot of farmers and migrant workers who see this every day. This country consumes more meat and poultry than most in the world. They were all slaughtered. I guess hiding it makes it better. Argh.

  2. tony smith said on November 22nd, 2008 at 12:32pm #

    If you eat turkey Thursday, that is insensitive by your standards. I was a poor boy in the South before becoming a fancy Ivy-educated attorney, and I saw chickens slaughtered. Because I am not a despised female Republican, I could probably get away with being on camera at an animal farm.

    We consume violence on television and in movie theatres daily. Obama supports the DC handgun ruling, written by the conservatives on the Supreme Court. That’s more insensitive to me than watching a turkey get prepared for Thursday dinner! By the way – I’ll be brining mine in apple cider. How insensitive!

  3. judith moriarty said on November 22nd, 2008 at 12:44pm #

    I find it rather abhorrent that Sarah calls herself ‘friend of all creatures etc’/
    and this whole turnkey insanity from the White House to Alaska is ridiculous. They don’t eat just any turkey or meat at the White House/
    only $150.00 Kobe beef (organic from Japan). As for mentally challenged Sarah – ( an example of our impoverished school system) I do not want to have a beer with her – she’s not just like me – and I don’t eat meat, let alone
    having Moose as my favorite meal. I grew up in hunting country – I cannot envision any REAL hunters using a prop plane, and chasing down wolves (killing cubs in their dens) bear, deer, moose, and caribou to the point of exhaustion – then jumping out (with your trophy hunting friends) and KILLING them. They belong in Alaska / its Sarah and her oil company friends who are the intruders. I dream of a hell where the likes of these animal killers (for sport) are chased for eternity by animals , trampled (never to death) and then chased some more. Cheney can be the first one out of the gate/ him and his elitist friends who CAGE animals in preserves and KILL them. JM

  4. walt brasch said on November 22nd, 2008 at 2:18pm #

    OK, time for Reading Comprehension 1o1. The column was NOT an attack upon meat eaters. (I happen to be one.) It looked at the hypocrisy of Palin, her words being a friend to all creatures, and for staging a political inmterview in front of a scene that upstaged her, showing her naiivite and ineptness. The column also looks at Palin trying for yet more media attention by the pardon of a turkey, something that used to be reserved for the President.

  5. RG the LG said on November 22nd, 2008 at 3:48pm #

    Humor is in the eye of the beholder. I suspect that many readers of DV agree more with the humor of Brasch than than the alleged ‘Ivy-educated attorney.’ In fact, I can’t help but wonder if our attorney friend actually learned anything at his ‘ivy’ school or was just filling some poor-boy quota? I went to a down-at-the-heel cow college and got a pretty fair education … though as I will admit, I haven’t done much with it either in terms of supporting the empire or attempting to defeat it. But I can spot tell the difference from exposing irony and being dead-on serious. Seems to me the person needing the life isn’t Brasch … but maybe Smiff.

  6. craig said on November 26th, 2008 at 10:36am #

    Please stop this kind of childish name-calling prattle. The left better not turn out to be thw poor winners that Republican’s proved they are…