Because life is a series of edits

It’s Hard to Soar Like an Eagle When You’re a Turkey

In Family, Holidays, Places & Spaces, Politics on July 5, 2008 at 7:59 am

In case you didn’t know, Founding Father (sounds like a band name) Ben Franklin thought the turkey should be our national bird instead of the eagle. (I first learned this when I was doing the show 1776 – I played Richard Henry Lee – back in 1990 at the Jacksonville Theatre Guild.)

Though Franklin argues his point with John Adams in the show, the actual documentation of his thought comes from a letter he wrote to his daughter 18 months after the Great Seal (featuring an eagle) was adopted by Congress on June 20, 1782. An excerpt:

“For my own part I wish the Bald Eagle had not been chosen the Representative of our Country. He is a Bird of bad moral Character. He does not get his Living honestly. You may have seen him perched on some dead Tree near the River, where, too lazy to fish for himself, he watches the Labour of the Fishing Hawk; and when that diligent Bird has at length taken a Fish, and is bearing it to his Nest for the Support of his Mate and young Ones, the Bald Eagle pursues him and takes it from him.

…For the Truth the Turkey is in Comparison a much more respectable Bird, and withal a true original Native of America…He is besides, though a little vain and silly, a Bird of Courage, and would not hesitate to attack a Grenadier of the British Guards who should presume to invade his Farm Yard with a red Coat on.”

I’m with Franklin on this one, and I did my best imitation of said turkey – especially the “vain and silly” part – in response to my kids’ desire insatiable and bloodthirsty lust to find and watch a fireworks show – any fireworks show – last night. Megan and I were tired (I’d taken the girls for a two-hour hike around Powder Valley conservation area in the afternoon, and we’d just had a nice meal and three-hour visit with our friends, the Sargents, in the evening, which was a perfect lead-in to an early bedtime). Thus, I tried to appease the ladies with a few televised versions of all things pyrotechnic from New York and Boston.

This seemed to work for a while, until someone in the neighborhood had the gall to shoot off a few live rounds two blocks over.The sound, of course, lured the girls outdoors, but unfortunately for them (and me – remember, it’s all about me), they heard more than they saw, resulting in incessant begging and whining to go somewhere – anywhere – to see the fireworks. I knew then that any hope of ending the evening without conflict was over, as they’d already had their baths and Megan had already taken a catnap since we got home. Worse yet, Daddy was going to be the bad guy, and not even Will Smith would be able to save this Independence Day.

I know, I know: not only am I a terrible father, I am also a terrible American. I should be shot and hung and forced to watch C-Span. I get that. But I’m a turkey; I’m not an eagle. I don’t relish the whole let’s-blow-up-millions-of-dollars-worth-of-fireworks-to-prove-ourselves-a-great-nation mentality. It’s too flashy; it’s too easy. Sure, I love the music and the marches that go with them, but I would love those anyway. I don’t need fireworks to appreciate great music.

I didn’t wear red, white, and blue on the Fourth of July – not in protest, but because we’re packing and trying to settle into a neighborhood to make a long-term investment in a local community. I’m lucky to find a fresh pair of whitie-tighties these days, let alone something red, white, and blue.

I’m a turkey, I tell you; I’m not an eagle.

I don’t need to be front row at a Live on the Levee (or what’s left of it) concert or capitalize on any one of a jillion July 4th sales going on around the city to make the most of the holiday. Sure, we have the right to “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness,” but I seriously doubt Thomas Jefferson was thinking too specifically of over-done corporate sponsorships and blowout Fourth of July sales when he sat down to write King George to let us go.

I don’t want to fight traffic and attend some big July 4th event. Instead, I very much like the idea of walking around the neighborhood mid-morning, noticing the lack of traffic, and being grateful that most folks get a day off and can be home. Not only is the freedom to do something a great thing, but freedom to not do something is often even better, especially if you can do (or not do) it with those closest to you.

I’m a turkey, remember; I’m not an eagle.

Yes, I take pride in our country and am grateful for our freedoms (even when I wonder sometimes about what freedom protects). No, I’m not waiting for us to become a perfect nation to merit a “legitimate” celebration (though I recognize my idealist tendencies and how they can sometimes come across). And yes, we’ll make things up to the girls today when we (in good American fashion) buy their affections by taking them to a movie this morning (courtesy of Megan’s folks).

But I don’t know if I’ll ever change my turkey ways. I suppose you could cry fowl with regard to my thinking and tell me to hang it on my beak, but to do otherwise would just not be true to my inner bird.

Gobble, gobble.

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  1. I sympathize; the agony of the lines and traffic around those sorts of fireworks events are the worst.

    So it turns out that in Oakland, TN, there’s no such local event– at least, not on the day of July 4th itself. (There are several in the area on other days, oddly enough.) But hey: not a problem. So many folks around us were firing off many, many fireworks of their own (some of them quite elaborate) that we just hung out in the front yard and watched for about an hour. Who knew?

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