No Goose-Stepping Around It

I found a new side of myself this week.  Fair warning:  it is not a part of me that I like.  If you have an interest in seeing me as a good person, this might be an entry you should skip.

download (1)When it comes to animals, I take things on a species by species basis.

If I am walking down a path, I do my best not to trample on worms or slugs.  They are in their world and I leave them be.

Spiders are allowed outside my apartment.  If they venture indoors, I may try to save them, but I am just as likely to squish them.  Ants get exterminated.  In the summer I slaughter countless flies.

Dogs are not my favorite animal, but I respect that many people I care about have an emotional attachment to them.

I felt bad when I accidentally ran over a squirrel.  The little guy darted out in front of my car.  They are woodland creatures and I have no beef with them.

I do not fish.  I would rather go for a hike than sit in the same spot with a pole.

I do not hunt.  I do not like guns.  The loud noise, the recoil, the violence of it all; hunting is not for me.

I often wonder what goes through a driver’s mind when they hit a deer.  They are quiet and majestic creatures.  They also need to learn that they should not run towards two bright lights.

Then there are birds.  Did you know birds have no bladder control?  The urine and stool are mixed together, they do not have a choice in how they dispose of it, and that is how those pestilent globs end up everywhere.

Ducks tend to stick to water.  Ravens, crows, pigeons; they all get a little greedy in city locations.  But at least they are smart enough to hop out of the way when a car comes towards them.

downloadThen there are geese.  I hate geese.  They clutter up my paths, they honk, and they hiss.  They attacked my brother when he was a child.  Their poop is disgusting.  I regard geese as pests.

Driving home from my run Sunday, I approached a group of geese in the road.  I had little regard for them.  I thought to myself, “stupid geese”.  I kept driving towards them.

There is a scene from an 80’s Superman comic where a media mogul sees a raccoon in the road.  In a panel or two that is described as pure evil, the man swerves and goes out of his way to run over the raccoon.  Many letters were written about this heinous act.

I did not swerve to hit the geese.  I did not try to avoid the geese.  At a speed of about 25 mph, I kept my vehicle going straight.  Straight into the path of the geese.

I had time to slam on the brakes.  The logical side of my brain had time to think, “Well, if they don’t move, they’re going to get hit.”  This was not a sudden encounter.  I could have stopped.

tire-tread-close-up-rubber-treads-82948628Instead I kept going.  I continued driving as they honked at me.  I kept driving as I felt two, perhaps three, bumps underneath my tires.

I had no emotional response.  I was not giggling in delight and twirling my mustache.  I was not overcome with guilt and remorse.  I factored those animals as a non-entity as I killed or injured them.

I eat plenty of birds.  Scrambled eggs, chickens; these are parts of my diet.  But I did not cook up these birds after they died.  My family has no problem shooting at birds.  I told myself that was not for me.

Logical, cold, unfeeling side of me sees no value in geese and reasons that they die because they are stupid.  When a large predator comes straight towards you, you should turn away.  You should not keep approaching the oncoming car and waddling to it like it is not a threat.

Nobody saw what I did.  There were no other joggers were around.  There were no cars on the side roads at 6:30 on a Sunday morning.  (I did see a rather large raccoon a few minutes prior to the act.  I am sure it got a nice meal out of my action.  Could I claim that I was helping the food chain?)

I cannot help but picture things from the sidewalk.  As an onlooker, the thought of watching a car purposely driving into a flock of animals without changing course gives me discomfort.  If I were a passerby, I might be horrified to see such a cruel driver.

As the driver, I had no objection.  As a witness walking by, I start to wonder if I am becoming a comic book villain.

My parents were farmers.  I have a great friend who lived in a house that ate the rabbits and chickens that they raised.  These people accepted that snapping a creature’s neck was part of the dinner table.

I was not getting any food out of my act.  I was saving time by not yielding to what I deemed an annoyance.

mylarbw1tmpI have a complicated history with cats.  In college I had a cat that was perfect for me.  In a moment of frustration, I was too rough.  I can still see the look in her eyes.  I still remember how her body seized up.  I was horrified.  An hour later, she seemed to forgive me.  For the next sixteen years I had her, she never brought it up.  But that one act has stuck with me ever since.  I got a glimpse of what I was capable of, hated it, and have learned never to do it again.

Earlier this year I came across a rabbit on the trail.  Its head was cocked off at an odd angle and one of its feet was not moving well.  It looked very much like it had been hit by a car.  I spent five minutes trying to make it feel better.  I do not like watching animals suffer.  Why does it matter to me if it is a rabbit or a bird?

I think humans get to outrank animals.  But I still buy cage-free eggs because I do not want animals to suffer needlessly on my behalf.  I will eat poultry, but I do not to be a jerk about it.  However those rules appear to be flexible.

It bothers me that I am capable of violence without emotion.  I care that if others saw me, they would have called me a monster.  Much of this revolves around what animals we value and why.  If someone saw me empty a mouse trap or swat flies, it is unlikely that they would care.  Maybe it is because these geese were bigger than a bug.  If something causes your tires to react than perhaps you should feel guilt.

Every morning on my way to work I try to get myself into a public mind frame.  I tell myself over and over, “Be kind, be gentle, be patient.”  Yesterday, I was none of those.  I was not kind to the birds, I certainly was not gentle, and I was not patient enough to let them move.  0 for 3.  John Woolman was a Quaker who went out of his way to treat animals humanely.  I feel like I did the opposite.  I was not seeking to injure an animal.  Yet I was hardly working to make the world a more peaceful place.

The fact that I am capable of violence disturbs me.  That I felt nothing disturbs me more.  If presented with the same scenario again, I am worried that I could once again go through with it and feel nothing.  And what does that say about me?

“So, tell me about this new guy you’re seeing!”  “Well, he’s tall, skinny, and I really like the way he murders fowls.”

“Johnson, why do you think we should hire this guy?”  “He’s never late, he does the job, but mostly, he kills without pause or remorse.  And I respect that.”

“Have you met our new neighbor?  He drives over animals and leaves their battered corpses on the road for all to enjoy.  The kids think he’s great.  I was going to take him over a nice pie.”

15163815781524750930world-kindness-day-clipart.medIt has been said that you can know a person for twenty years, but try to push him into a volcano and you will see who he really is.  It has also been said that if we could really look at ourselves in a mirror, it would make us want to vomit.  Those feel true in a way I do not like.  The people I love and admire; they would not do those sorts of things.

However, there is also a line from Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix.  I have referenced it many times before.  It contains a pearl that I come back to.

“We’ve all got both light and dark inside of us.  What matters is the part we choose to act on.  That’s who we really are.”

I do not like this side of me.  Thankfully there are other sides of me that I do like.  Just like everyone else in the flock.

About anecdotaltales

He's a simple enough fellow. He likes movies, comics, radio shows from the 40's, and books. He likes to write and wishes his cat wouldn't shed on his laptop.
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