How appropriate is the Bald Eagle as a symbol for the United States of America?
Sure, the Bald Eagle is a large powerful bird, immediately capturing the attention of anyone who happens to encounter the bird. With a 7-foot wingspan, and weighing up to 14lbs, the Bald Eagle carries itself as a strong force in the wild.
In 1782, the Bald Eagle was used in the design of the Great Seal of the United States, and has become a national symbol ever since. The Great Seal of the United States features an eagle with 13 arrows in its left talon and an olive branch in its right, to symbolize the balance between war and peace. It makes sense that this bird would be used as a symbol of America, as it is only found in North America, and must have been a great spectacle for newcomers to the land. Many native North Americans have religions connections to the Bald Eagle, with reverence toward their features comparable to the Bible or the crucifix.
But what kind of bird is the American Bald Eagle? Sure, he looks strong, but what are his weaknesses, and what are his threats? Moreover, can these strengths and weaknesses map to The United States of America as a nation? Obviously the bird was not chosen for this particular purpose, but it is fun to entertain the analogy and construe parallels that may exist, even if they prove to be quite humorous.
As far as predators, I’ve only been able to find three, by using my Google search abilities. These three are: Raccoons, Great Horned Owl, and Humans. With Humans obviously being the biggest threat.
As far as this mapping to analogies, raccoons and owls probably don’t cause too much of a threat toward America as a nation. Although rabid raccoons can be scary, and the O RLY owl has been getting pretty annoying lately. But… Just like the Bald Eagle, the largest threat to America today is humanity! May it be from terrorists, corrupt politicians, well meaning politicians, citizens, or just anyone, it’s obvious that people are the largest threat to the stability of the United States as a nation.
Prey / Feeding:
Bald Eagles tend to eat anything they can get their grubby little talons on. Which means carrion, small fish, rodents, other birds, and food stolen from humans. These eagles also exhibit a form of feeding that I find particularly interesting, called Kleptoparasitism. Which is basically stealing food from something else, and in the Bald Eagle’s case, this something else is another bird (typically an Osprey) carrying a meal it plans to eat itself.
This Kleptoparasitism is a very interesting trait that has so many parallels cynics can draw to the American government, America’s place in the global economy, the lifestyle of the American people, and other topics that I won’t touch on, for the sake of letter the reader decide how this could work.
So is the Bald Eagle really a great symbol for American Freedom, or does it lack the moral integrity to be able to stand for such a noble concept? I am not proposing we change the symbol or anything drastic, I am just proposing that we take a look at our national symbol, and admire it for what it is. The Bald Eagle is a beautiful creature, and has strong connotations with strength and freedom, while these connotations may not be well warranted; they still are present in much of the population.
I will close with a quote from Ben Franklin (as referenced from Wikipedia) about his stance on the Bald Eagle as a symbol for the United States of America.
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.
With all this Injustice, he is never in good Case but like those among Men who live by Sharping & Robbing he is generally poor and often very lousy. Besides he is a rank Coward: The little King Bird not bigger than a Sparrow attacks him boldly and drives him out of the District. He is therefore by no means a proper Emblem for the brave and honest country of America who have driven all the King birds from our Country…
I am on this account not displeased that the Figure is not known as a Bald Eagle, but looks more like a Turkey. 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 & 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.