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Holland Park Press

A Presidential Turkey

27 November 2010 Zie Nederlandse versie
by Arnold Jansen op de Haar

Over the past months there has been another widespread slaughter of turkeys in the United States but President Obama has pardoned two turkeys for Thanksgiving. This is an American tradition started by George H.W. Bush; rather depressing when, for example, you are on death row but great for the two turkeys.

The turkeys are left alone for the rest of their life. Therefore these two are now enjoying life on the farm. It is a pity that Reagan actually ate his turkey. I can imagine that Reagan’s turkey might have been given a miniature saddle.

Is George H.W. Bush’s turkey still in the land of the living? Do these pardoned turkeys breed? John F. Kennedy was the only previous president who had pardoned a turkey. ‘We just keep him,’ Kennedy said. Before you know, there is a complete Kennedy turkey dynasty. Uncle Ted and His Turkeys, it sounds like a band from the Deep South.
I know very little about the animal world but I have been reading up on turkeys. For example turkeys are not into cuddling and I found the following message on the web:

‘Hello, I am faced with a problem. I have three turkeys at home but I am afraid that they are dying of old age. Do you know how old turkeys can get? This would put my mind at rest. All the best, Esther’.

I nearly replied: ‘Hello Esther, I don’t know. However recently I wondered if George H.W. Bush’s turkey would be still alive. I too have a question for you: I have an acquaintance who is very old but I am afraid that he is dying of old age. Do you know how long people normally live? This would put my mind at rest. All the best, Arnold’.

You can say a lot about the United States but they actually do possess a sense of humour. It kills millions of turkeys and yet spares two. In general it is a land of plentiful food. That is a German legacy, as far as I am concerned.

They hold competitive eating events. There is even an International Federation of Competitive Eating. Patrick Bertoletti from Chicago holds several world records. Once he ate a whole turkey in 12 minutes. Unfortunately he only came third in the 2007 Nathan’s Hot Dog Eating Contest. He had to give up after 49 hotdogs. His name may sound Italian but his heroes are Charles Bronson and Burt Reynolds. (This was noted explicitly.)

The presidential turkey is a metaphor for contrasts in the USA. America is a land of gargantuan wealth and flagrant poverty, home to the most obese people in the world and slimming pills for pencil thin actresses, of chaste nudity in Hollywood films and very explicit pornography, it has a record number of firearms used for self defence and the most murders, a very strict judicial system and the highest number of prisoners, finally consuming is its religion.

I have visited the United States just once when I stayed in California for a month. What struck me was that all these contrasts truly existed. Suddenly I felt very European.

What also stood out was that many people with basic jobs barely spoke English. Just go to a car hire company run by a guy from India and try to locate the one car which has a manual gearbox. During a total breakdown of communication, we moved 44 cars. But what was remarkable was that the car hire guy considered himself a true American.

The presidential turkey symbolises divergence in America. But it also personifies a national symbol at public holidays. Many Americans, wherever they may hail from, enjoy a turkey dinner at Thanksgiving and Christmas. Yes, there are even kosher and halal turkeys.

In the Netherlands you remain Moroccan or Turkish, even in the third generation. In America they are joined together by a turkey dinner.

Look forward to Christmas! Remember Obama’s turkey. I am considering pardoning a few brussels sprouts.
© Arnold Jansen op de Haar
© Translation Holland Park Press

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