Sunday, November 27, 2011

Pardoning a Turkey?

Thanks a lot, Jack!
The "pardoning" of a turkey seems a bit ... strange, especially to those outside of the USA.  What, I wondered, did that turkey or any turkey - or all turkeys for that matter - do to so wrong a nation that such a ridiculous event has become a part of its Thanksgiving lore?  Answer: It has nothing to do with turkey wrongdoing, and everything to do with the concept of Presidential "pardons", those end-of-term "get out of jail free" dispensations handed out at the President's discretion as he leaves office.  Turkey producers have apparently donated turkeys to the White House just before Thanksgiving as a publicity stunt since 1947, but until President John F. Kennedy spontaneously spared a turkey on Nov. 19, 1963 (just days before his assassination) they were always cooked up and eaten.  Kennedy apparently uttered the words, "Let's just keep him", and voila! - an American tradition was born.  It remained, however, for President George H.W. Bush, in 1989, to "officially pardon" a turkey for the first time.  (By that time HW had learned not to mess with U.S. food lobbyists.  When word got out that he had instructed the White House kitchen staff that broccoli was not to be served to him under any circumstances, the outcry from broccoli producers was loud and vehement.  He made amends by publicly extolling the virtues of that vile vegetable just days later.)  So it looks like the White House is stuck with bird pardoning from here on out.  Of course, the real turkey pardoning always comes at the end of his term of office.