Turkey Pardon as Barbaric as Death Penalty
Thanksgiving tradition a reminder of 'arbitrary' punishment: Justin Smith
By Matt Cantor,  Newser User
Posted Nov 21, 2011 11:00 AM CST
A turkey is seen in Washington, DC, November 23, 2010, one day before being pardoned by President Obama.   (Getty Images)

(Newser) – On the surface, the annual presidential pardon of a turkey may be all in fun, but it’s also a disturbing reminder of the continued existence of the death penalty in this country. The pardon makes light of “the strange power vested in politicians to decide the earthly fates of death-row prisoners,” writes Justin Smith in the New York Times. In short, you can tell a nation’s character by “how it treats its turkeys."

The practice “not only carries with it an implicit validation of the slaughtering of millions of other turkeys,” Smith notes. “It also involves an implicit validation of the parallel practice for human beings, in which the occasional death-row inmate is pardoned." Somehow, the death penalty has survived here despite its abandonment in much of the Western world, and the luck of a single turkey points to the “arbitrariness” of the punishment. Click through for the full column.