This year, economizing has reached shambolic levels: America is being served President Bush's Thanksgiving leftovers. We may not have an accurate death count of civilians killed as a result of the Iraq War, but at least the major news outlets can be counted on to cover at least one story from all angles. I'm referring to the ridiculous annual tradition in which politicians "pardon" a turkey just before the Thanksgiving holiday. Guess where there ones who don't get pardoned wind up? This week, on your plate.
This year, the turkeys that didn't make the cut will be be made into slices in a sandwich at a Subway chain store near you. Yes, the farm that supplied this year's winners is one of the sub-franchise's main suppliers, and by the time the flightless birds were winging their way to Dubya, the rejects were already being processed into foot-longs.
At the White House, the audition process went like this: Birds from an Iowa farm (each year, a different place provides them) were assessed for their attractiveness and their decorum (meaning they wouldn't be likely to peck the president's eyes out in front of the cameras). The winning pair were given names, something they never had before, stowed in a room at the luxury Willard InterContinental hotel, and after the press parade was done, they were flown by commercial aircraft to Disneyland. Frontierland, to be exact.
Even going to Disneyland may not make for a long retirement. One animal protection group, Farm Sanctuary, launched a campaign designed to convince the White House to send the pardoned poultry to its facility instead of Disney's. The birds, having been raised expressly for quick slaughter and rich meat, are in such poor health that they tend to die quickly -- the ones delivered to Disney in 2005 were dead by the end of 2006, it says. That the birds are in lousy health is something Disney confirms -- when ones arrived at Walt Disney World a few years ago, they were so infirm they could barely stand (which may account in part for that compliant decorum that won them pardons to begin with).
The explanation of the birds' destiny may ruffle some feathers, but knowing the dark side of the pardoning ceremony may be the only shred of reality to this hollow exercise that seems to both apologize for and legitimize our important meat industries.
After all, Bush "liberated" Pumpkin and Pecan this year, but he ate another turkey on Thanksgiving. And Sarah Palin has perhaps ruined the symbolic tradition forevermore. She unwittingly converted untold numbers of people to vegetarianism at her own pardoning photo op in Alaska, at which she lectured the press on brutality directly in front of a contraption where the unluckier birds were being systematically slaughtered. The hypocrisy of the enterprise doesn't stop there: One of the most popular snack items at the Disney parks is the brine-injected, roasted turkey leg. Disney World sells some 1.5 million a year. I'm not exactly sure what the message of the annual pardoning ritual is supposed to be. Does anyone know?
Well, maybe we should ask the group that organizes this whole foolish consumer news event--the turkey lobby.
Stay tuned for more of President Bush's powers of forgiveness, As this lame duck president winds up his term, expect him to pardon a few more turkeys, only this time, the press may be more likely to notice any hypocrisies.
In the meantime, you can be a part of presidential history, apparently, simply by ordering a six-incher.
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