The Bizarre Photos of Biden’s Turkey Pardoning Ceremony

Forcibly extracting myself from the discourse surrounding the United States’s involvement in foreign violence for 30 seconds here, I must acknowledge the bizarre aura surrounding this year’s annual turkey pardoning in Washington, DC, yesterday, November 20.

President Joe Biden celebrated his 81st birthday (or 60th, according to him) pardoning two turkeys named Liberty and Bell. Both weighing in at around 42 pounds each, the five-month-old birds were hatched and raised in Wilmar, Minnesota — home to one of six Jennie-O turkey store locations. Jennie-O Vice President and National Turkey Federation Vice Chairman Steve Lykken noted to the Associated Press that Liberty and Bell were “in fact, Swifties, and they do enjoy some Prince.”

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At one point, the president alluded to the birds’ taste in music. (photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)

Though there are some smatterings of disapproval regarding Biden’s tardiness and the pardoning’s general energy, the images from the event certainly didn’t disappoint. Photos capture the president’s myriad facial expressions, ranging from looks of confusion and disbelief to gazes of pride and appreciation toward the feathered creatures. The same cannot be said about Biden’s commentary.

At one point while alluding to the birds’ taste in music, Biden lamented that Liberty and Bell had to be at the White House of all places rather than soaking in the sound waves at Beyoncé’s Renaissance tour or in Brazil with … Britney Spears? Of course, he meant Taylor Swift, but it’s possible that he, like myself, just finished streaming the audiobook of Spears’s new post-conservatorship memoir “The Woman in Me” (2023) and had the liberated pop star on his mind while pondering that freedom doesn’t ring — it gobbles.

There were also his vague murmurs of “Congratulations, birds,” which were just stiff and awkward. I sort of get it, because the birds’ colorful faces creep me out a little bit. The pastel pinks and blues of the birds’ hanging snoods rival the iconic dyed side-bangs of Myspace’s Scene Queens, but to me, they read as melting Firecracker popsicles. Luckily for them, instead of haunting the corridors of dead malls, they’ll be cared for at the University of Minnesota’s College of Food, Agricultural and Natural Resources Sciences after this.

As for us, we can be prepared to see these images reprinted for visual analysis questions in US history homework assignments for generations to come. Today, however, we acknowledge the morbid hypocrisy of pardoning turkeys in the name of frivolous traditions as thousands of innocent civilians overseas lose and have lost their lives to the American-led or backed war machine.

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The turkeys will be housed at the University of Minnesota. (photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)
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The five-month-old birds were hatched and raised in Wilmar, Minnesota. (photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)

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