When the American Bald Eagle was chosen as the symbol of America, Benjamin Franklin wrote, "I wish that the bald eagle had not been chosen as 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, where, too lazy to fish for himself, he watches the labor of the fishing-hawk, and when that diligent bird has at length taken a fish, and is bearing it to its nest for the support of his mate and young ones, the bald eagle pursues him and takes it from him . . . He is therefore by no means a proper emblem for the brave and honest. . . of America."
The artist John James Audubon concurred on the basis that the bald eagle was a notorious scavenger and eater of carrion and no one can deny that Audubon knew his birds.
This early superficial choice fits our country's modus operandi in today's world. When disasters occur, who arrives first to take advantage of the easy pickings, arrange lucrative contracts, or assume control of natural resources? US corporations that swarm to the carrion or usurp the rightful property of others. Eagles are opportunists who move in on prey or other predators perceived as weak and unable to defend themselves. The bald eagle steals food from other bald eagles as well as other species. Chasing another raptor is usually enough to persuade it to drop its kill, but occasionally bald eagles will attack . . . preemptively.
Eagles sit at the top of the food chain. Because of their size, they require a large hunting area and are not concerned about threats from other birds.
Apropos of our President's numerous vacations, remember that because of the energy expended during hunting, an eagle has to spend a lot of time resting quietly. It's estimated that only one out of eighteen attacks are successful.
I'm not dissing the bald eagle . . . he is what he is. I simply find it ironic that our country has chosen, and continues to honor as its national symbol, a bird whose behavior is not the sort that a democratic nation should embrace or emulate.
What would have been a better symbol? A Grizzly Bear? An Otter? A Peregrine Falcon? A Wolf? A Cougar? Like so many things the selection of a national symbol all came down to appearance and not substance.