The Wild Turkeys of Berkeley

There are a whole lot of turkeys in Berkeley. No, I’m not being snarky.

We have real, live feral turkeys all over the place, in people’s yards, the streets, and public parks. Before you think, “Oh, how cute,” let me tell you that these creatures are problem children. They poop all over the place; they squawk at all hours of the day and night. And even worse, they have come to rule the roost by blocking traffic.

These wild turkeys cause near car accidents every day, as they obstruct traffic, refusing to back up even if cars come close by. With menacing looks, the turkeys will block in drivers, even attack cars. I’ve seen drivers try to back up, while turkeys move towards them, barricading the poor driver in his car.

Once I saw a female driver so locked in by turkeys outside of my house that I ran out to help her. Wielding a broomstick, I gestured and yelled at the turkeys. They eyed me aggressively before finally flying away. The woman, by then scared to death, thanked me profusely and added, “I’m from out of town. How do you live like this?” (Something, by the way, that I ask myself everyday.)

Now, the burning question is why are these “wild” turkeys no longer wild? Why is the only wild thing an older woman (me) hollering like a maniac outside of my house?

Why have these turkeys become so brazen in an urban area? Why have they lost their fear of humans?

The critters have obviously been coddled and protected for so long, that they are in charge, not the humans. In these parts, you’d be taking your life in your hands trying to get rid of these large, aggressive, and (in my opinion) nasty critters. While Berkeley-ites would never dare to touch the hair of a turkey, you’d be road kill should you dare lay a hand on one of them.

Now, my story of the Wild Turkeys of Berkeley is not only a true tale, but a metaphor. Because the turkey example applies not just to animals, but to many humans around here — and most everywhere — who have lost their natural, inborn fears. People, just like creatures, act in anti-social ways partly because they are allowed to.

Since anything goes around here, teens will curse and act unruly in public even if grown-ups are nearby. Since Berkeley (and the nearby cities) promote Question Authority, some of the kids, like the turkeys, think they are top dog. Calling one’s mom or teacher the “b” word makes perfect sense in an area (and a culture, via the sick and twisted media and music) that promotes disrespect for those in charge.

But I don’t just want to blame the children. There are plenty of manchilds and womanchilds who do their own thing, regardless of whether the behavior is legal or appropriate. Laws are flaunted; police are screamed at; people unabashedly walk Fido into stores, defying the conspicuous signs that read, “No Pets Allowed.”

And it’s certainly not just Berkeley. We can see people doing their own thing all over the US — as well as beyond. Like the Wild Turkeys of Berkeley, scores of people have lost their inborn fear.

On a deeper level, what has happened, I think, is not just that so many youth don’t respect parents, and workers don’t respect bosses, but that people have lost a healthy fear of God. When the Ten Commandments were removed from schools and prayer banned, there was a sea change in youth, as well as the adults. Along with this came the epidemic of atheism and the bizarre belief that we are simply animals, not Divine souls in human form.

So if people now think that they are just wild beasts, why not act like one? If there is no meaning to life, then anything goes. And most importantly, if there is no God, then there are no consequences, both in this life and beyond.

When we were a country steeped in faith, most citizens had a healthy fear of sin, and Judgment Day, with the very real possibility of hell. It would be hard to beat up a little old lady or start a riot if ultimately it means eternity tortured by the fires of hell. But with a good chunk of the populace not believing in anything outside of themselves and this one life, anti-social behavior and mayhem are out-of-control, particularly around here.

Scripture says, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.” Healthy fear of God is what tames and civilizes a person and a nation. Without it, well, we have what we have today, rampant crime and unrest especially in the most un-churched (1) area of the country, the San Francisco Bay Area.

Fear of the Lord subdues and controls the natural predilection of humans towards selfish behavior. But it goes further: it creates a profound reverence, awe, and love towards God that makes a person truly human. When one loves God, we want to please Him. We don’t want to wound or, worse yet, severe our relationship with the Beloved. This means trying our best to be a good person, and, when we fail, experiencing some healthy guilt and shame.

But words like guilt and shame are as frowned upon these days as those other forbidden words: heaven, hell, sin, and Judgment. Life has become a free-for-all in a culture in free fall.

Tragically, the world resembles those pre-Christian, pagan times, with its barbarism. From what I behold every day, it’s hard to know anymore who are the humans and who are the wild beasts.


(1) I heard of a survey that the SF Bay Area has the fewest people in the country who go to church. And yet there is widespread anti-social behavior, riots, hellish schools, and astronomical crime. Hm. . .could there be a connection?

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