The bald eagle has been the national bird and national emblem of the United States of America since 1782. We Americans encounter it on the Great Seal from a such an early age — and we encounter so few real bald eagles — that our brains are probably wired to render as symbolic any eagle that pops into our consciousness.
Please don’t do that symbolizing thing to this week’s Eagle In The News: He is a simply a beautiful, noble, eight-foot-wingspanned, government-protected bird that was hit by a car Wednesday afternoon on I-84 in Portland, Ore., while roadside dining, and is critically injured. He has a broken leg, possible paralysis, and is being watched closely at the Audubon Society to see if he will survive into today. Two lanes of traffic were shut down, for 20 minutes, to save him. Rescuers had to creep up from behind to capture and treat the guy.
I repeat: This particular bald eagle is NOT a symbol for the way America has been “critically injured” by its dependence on automobiles or interstate highways. And while all eagles are “opportunistic feeders,” which could make a freshman college activist remark snidely on their appropriateness as the USA’s stand-in on bronze Romanesque memorials and in bad political mural art, this particular bird probably has no idea that there is even such a thing as a United States. He was just really hungry and made a tactical error while snacking on fillet of squirrel, which few Americans eat anymore.
Now that we’ve cleared that up: Keep this eagle in your thoughts and prayers, and please drive carefully.