The eve before Thanksgiving, a tradition that dates back to President Harry Truman is still faithfully carried out. The presidential pardon of a turkey, the bird around which all Thanksgiving feasts are centered, spares one turkey. While the ritual is symbolic, it is a ridiculous tradition.
Who knows what President Truman was going for when he started this tradition 50 years ago? Maybe it was a way to illustrate the president as more compassionate or sympathetic to the hundreds of thousands of turkeys that are slaughtered every year. Whatever the reasoning, the tradition seems good for a laugh and not much else.
These turkeys are sacrificed every November and the whole year round in order to feed Americans. None of these birds get the benefit of a presidential pardon. They are raised and killed to fill empty stomachs. That is their purpose.
And what singles out a particular turkey to be pardoned? It seems to be like the Christmas tree that stands stories high in Rockefeller Center; the biggest one wins.
There are many ways to illustrate thoughtfulness; sparing one turkey the eve before a national holiday that is nicknamed “Turkey Day” isn’t the way to do it. To pardon one turkey is a gesture that, while started with good intentions, has devolved into something empty and devoid of meaning.
Maybe the president should spare some citizens of Iraq or Afghanistan a bombing. That would be truly compassionate.