Should we pardon Turkeys?
One of the silliest functions of the Presidency is to pardon the Turkey. An 1865 dispatch from White House reporter Noah Brooks is the oldest-known account of a presidential turkey clemency concerning Abraham Lincoln sparing a a Christmas turkey that his son Tad loved. John F. Kennedy appears to have been the first to pardon a Thanksgiving turkey.. George HW Bush made this a formal ceremony. Malia and Sasha are probably not going to miss attending this event
But pardons are important powers to ensure that profound mistakes and flaws in the criminal justice system are rectified and that political prosecutions do not tear the country apart. Lincoln pardoned many North Dakota Sioux; Ford pardoned Nixon and probably ended his political career for the sake of the Nation.
Which brings me to the notion of forgiveness and healing which is really the point of today’s letter. A few days ago, my friend Kavita Ramdas wrote that she was “sitting shiva mourning, grieving, reflecting and honoring the work and efforts of so many who worked for justice and inclusion and “Herstory”. Facing the cold harsh reality of my own disconnect from the many who did vote for a man whose conduct, language and values seem so distant from what I associate with basic decency and the most idealistic aspirations of democracy. Trying to keep my heart and mind open to learning more, but also quite clear that I will not let hate and bigotry become “normalized”‘
Kavita is no lightweight. Her mom was one of the founders of Amnesty International, and Kavita is an exceptional leader who works for the Ford Foundation.
But the reality is that the election was more complex that the good vs. the bigot. Trump narrowly won in four states and took the office. Hillary received 2 million more votes, Both sides should be humbled with this mixed result.
We have to let go of judgment and actually look why the vote was won. Comey, Russia/Wiki, rural v. urban, the weight given to interior states, manufacturing obsolescence, ignoring Michigan, 30 years of Hillary vilification, and unpopular candidates battling on negatives all factor. People did not show up to vote.
I certainly stand against hateful language and bigotry of this election. But there was a message about jobs that resonated, and that is where our work together can and needs to begin.
David Brooks editorialized today:
“It’s not my cup of tea, but I can see why some good people might be willing to tolerate Trump and Bannon’s personalities in order to pursue (something new).. . . . Many of my fellow Trump critics are expressing outrage, depression, bewilderment or disgust. They’re marching or writing essays: Should we normalize Trump or fight the normalizers?”
“It all seems so useless during this transition moment. It’s all a series of narcissistic displays and discussions about our own emotional states. It seems like the first thing to do is really learn what this election is teaching us. Second, this seems like a moment for some low-passion wonkery. It’s stupid to react to every Trump tweet outrage with your own predictable howls. It’s silly to treat politics and governance purely on cultural grounds, as a high school popularity contest, where my sort of people denigrates your sort of people.”
Last year, I began a kindness tour. I hope this on the court adventure will last for the rest of my life. I first traveled to South Carolina to visit my friend Jane Page Thompson. Jane Page and I met at Yale, and as she says we cancel out each other’s votes. I had seen memes of her home state, South Carolina. I was offended when her friend yelled “you lie” during the State of the Union. I was profoundly sad to see the killings in Columbia and the hate at rallies during the primaries. I was moved when Governor Nikki Haley had the guts to put the confederate flag in the past. She removed it from public display. But, I wanted to see why my friend Jane, and I could have such different political views. While both of us are committed to our country and hold the same wants for its future.
Jane Page is a mover and shaker and arranged for me to meet every person of power she knew. She set up speaking events at her Rotary, local University, and a Southern Baptist Church. I spoke about being kind and talked about refugees and our work against human trafficking. Jane Page made sure I got to hear very different view points, and she was a gracious host. She and her friends taught me immeasurable lessons, and I made friends that are very important to me now.
What I saw at the beginning of this lifelong kindness tour was that what is represented on TV and in blurbs on social media does a great disservice to our fellow countrymen. It’s time to get outside of our glowing screen bubbles and start listening. Congressional Districts must be blended so that we can work on compromises instead of having ideologues who believe that compromise is a dirty word. If only red and blue family members could gather for one meal and not need manuals and “best practices” for surviving sitting at the same table.
The pardoning of the turkey by the President is a silly act. But perhaps if we all step back and stop taking ourselves so seriously, we may all benefit. Tell some bad jokes, take Turkey selfies, and find a way to start living together again. At this Thanksgiving time, take a moment and forgive a turkey (aka a person of the opposite political view) in your life. Talk about things that matter, (exactly how much butter is in the mashed potatoes?) and create good memories. Play a board game, throw the football, hike to a beautiful place or simply fall asleep on the couch – with your family.
Happy giving thanks! And Happy Thanksgiving, Jane Page. Thanks for being my friend