Emil Guillermo: Rosalynn Carter's way, and pardoning your own turkey

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It should have been a perfect weekend. It included Bowen Yang on SNL playing an airport TSA guy named Umberto. When asked if he were Spanish, Yang in character declared, “I’m Filipino…Your Boy’s Pinoy!”

Now that’s a great AAPI weekend-- in most cases.

But even when my football team won (the 49ers–Go Purdy!), for me, the weekend turned sad late Sunday when I heard of the passing of Rosalynn Carter.

I never knew I felt anything for the former First Lady, until I paid a visit to Plains, Georgia in 2016. My daughter was living in the area at the time, and I was so taken by Plains, I thought about buying the gift shop there. Not just a t-shirt and some peanut butter brickle, but the whole store. (I may have had one too many Billy Beers.)

At the time, the hottest ticket in town was Sunday School with former President Jimmy Carter.

Carter was good. But Rosalynn was the surprise. During the photo op session, Rosalynn was especially gracious, speaking to me and my daughter.

I don’t remember her precise words, but they exuded kindness and grace. She was the first lady, but in her public presence, you were always the most important thing.

It’s tiring to be that nice and kind. Maybe that’s why most of us aren’t.

But with Ms. Carter’s passing, I recall her life as a lesson in a civility that has been degraded in American public and private life.

We call on the politicians, our political leaders, to set a good example.

And what have we seen in recent weeks?

We see the former president, No. 45, the twice impeached, four-time criminally indicted one who wants to be president again, setting a hateful tone for America.

In New Hampshire, No. 45 resorted to autocratic rhetoric worthy of a Hitler: “We pledge to you that we will root out the Communist, Marxist, fascists, and the radical left thugs that live like vermin within the confines of our country, that lie and steal and cheat on elections, who will do anything, whether legally or illegally, to destroy America and the American dream.” (emphasis added)

It sounds like he’s referring to himself?

But he’s for real, and he’s not just going after decent Americans. No. 45 is looking to round up and deport undocumented people, as well as shut down the southern border. He won’t just be impacting Mexicans, but hundreds of people from other countries, like India and China.

That’s the kind of policy that comes from hateful rhetoric.

And the hate is creeping into all forms of discourse by our public officials. In the last week, we saw Senator Markwayne Mullin (R-OK) at a Senate hearing threatening to beat up a union president.

We saw the former Speaker of the House Kevin McCarthy elbowing Rep. Tim Burchett (R-TN), one of the Republican house members who voted to oust McCarthy.

Then there was House Oversight chair James Comer (R-KY) who called Rep. Jared Moskowitz (D-FL) a “smurf.”

It’s not innocent talk, but the dismaying thing is the country is getting accustomed to it.

“Support for political violence has jumped to nearly a quarter of Americans,” reports Axios, with more than half of Americans telling the Pew Research Center they feel “angry” always or often when they think about politics.

It’s enough that 65 percent feel exhausted.

This is also the time for protests in our cities and campuses on the Middle East. After a protest in Thousand Oaks, Calif., an older American is dead, and a college professor is charged with manslaughter.

Maybe this is the grand coincidence of the passing of former First Lady Rosalynn Carter. It’s not so that we can just be nostalgic for the way America used to be. Rather, this is our time to be reminded and learn from Rosalynn Carter–that it is through grace, kindness, and mutual respect that all of us can thrive in our American democracy, together.

The former first lady set the example. During Thanksgiving Week, we should all just calm down.

And don’t eat turkey.


President Biden took the occasion of his 81st birthday to pardon two turkeys on Monday, as is the tradition on Thanksgiving week.

Image by AALDEF

It happens every year and it’s a fun photo op. But maybe this year should be different, because our nation’s factory farms are a sad, gruesome killing place. Animal rights activist Wayne Hsiung is an Asian American attorney who is such a believer in animal rights that he’s currently in a Sonoma County, Calif. jail on appeal after being convicted in connection with rescuing farm animals.

But as he sits in jail, he still shows compassion for the animals who died for Thanksgiving.

“Eighty-five percent of Americans have turkey on Thanksgiving, leading to the slaughter of over 45 million birds (and over $1 billion in sales) on a single day,” Hsiung wrote on his Substack blog, The Simple Heart. “This is a far cry from the kindness and generosity that we’re taught the Thanksgiving holiday is supposed to embody.”

Hsiung calls it “corporate cruelty and greed.”

It’s great that Biden has pardoned two turkeys. But what is our response? To go out and eat more turkey?

The proper response should be to pardon your own turkey this week.

I don’t know if Rosalynn Carter was vegan, but if I saw her again, that would have been our next conversation.

She already had me eating peanuts.

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NOTE: I will talk about this column and other matters on “Emil Amok’s Takeout,” my AAPI micro-talk show. Live @2p Pacific. Livestream on Facebook; my YouTube channel; and Twitter. Catch the recordings on