The Bald Eagle. It’s our national symbol. According to a this website, the United States government chose this noble bird “because of its long life, great strength and majestic looks—and also because they believed it only existed in North America.”
My favorite musical of all time is 1776. (Yes, I am a history nerd. I come from a long line of history nerds.) As a 5th grader I saw the original Broadway cast perform the show. I was hooked. The songs have helped me through many a US History exam.
One of my favorite songs, The Egg, is about the hatching of the nation. It does a great job of introducing Benjamin Franklin’s objections to the eagle. He criticized the eagle as a cowardly scavenger—stealing food from other birds who actually worked to hunt. Franklin thought this bird had no business representing us. While in the musical he capitulates fairly quickly, he persisted with his views in real life.
He strongly suggested the turkey be our national symbol. He thought the turkey was much braver and truly indigenous to America. Franklin makes some good points.
It makes me wonder though—would we feast on eagles if Franklin’s opinion prevailed? Would America be the only nation that revels in roasting the national symbol as a part of national gratitude? Would there be great debates about stuffing or dressing if the stuffing had to fit inside an eagle? (Really—they seem smaller than the turkeys that wind up on my family’s table.) Or would we just eat chicken?
These are things I ponder. What do you think?
photo courtesy of Steve Knight