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Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Onward Macho Killers

James Wolcott said:
    I saw a creature die in earnest earlier this afternoon on CNN. Rick Sanchez was filing a report on hunting protocol and safety, tramping through the woods with a pair of experienced hunters. At the end of the segment one of the hunters shot a quail, which fell from the air and landed in the grass, its wings thrashing. An animal died so that the segment could make its point. And it made me realize or re-realize that I don't have any respect even for 'responsible' hunting, because the deaths it causes are still wanton and unnecessary, even if the carnage is less promiscuous than that of the canned hunts favored by Cheney, Scalia, and similar Davy Crocketts on male-bonding expeditions.

... and it got me thinking...

When I was in high school, my friends and I did a lot of hunting. Once or twice a month, we'd grab our .22s and go marching into the woods around our little town. We shot mostly squirrels, which my friends, two brothers, would take home and eat. Since their stepmother fried the little things in lard, and I couldn't (still can't) stand the smell of anything frying in lard, I never ate any of it.

Back then I didn't think of the squirrels as creatures with any kind of intelligence, except whatever was required to run away when we approached them - and even an insect has that much. They were mostly quick-moving gray targets. I don't know how many I killed over the years. Dozens, at least.

When I graduated high school, I put my guns in storage and went off to college, never to go hunting again. I didn't even think of my guns until sometime during my 4th year of college, when I needed some cash - probably to buy guitar strings or Ramen. So, I found them, wrapped in plastic bags, sitting in a corner in my step-grandmother's basement. I brought them to a local gun shop and sold them. That was probably fifteen years ago.

Since then, I've turned against hunting, personally - if other people want to do it, that's their choice. While I think I'd still enjoy shooting at targets, I know I'd take no joy in killing a squirrel or a deer or quail, or anything, really - I'm even basically opposed to killing fish for sport. I was quite the fishing enthusiast back in my school days, too ('fishing' was one of my listed under in my senior yearbook photo). But I never kept anything I caught, partly because most of what I caught came from the Hudson River, literally right next to the GE plants responsible for making the Hudson the "the most PCB-tainted water body on the planet". The fish, mostly rock bass, perch and various sunfish varieties, were often covered with sores and tumors - yum. There were places I could go to catch fish that were edible, but I could walk to the river from my house in just a couple of minutes. And even when I did catch edible fish I never kept them; I had no need to. I didn't need them for food, didn't want to put them on my wall, etc.. I've been fishing since then, but I still throw it all back.

Anyway... I recently got into a little discussion about hunting, on a wingnut blog post about Cheney's hunting accident. Since I'm not a Cheney sycophant, the other posters immediately assumed I'd never fired a gun, owned one, taken a shooting course, had a hunting license, or been hunting - just another sissy city-boy liberal, I guess is the assumption - and therefore, I had no right talking about the Cheney incident because I was out of my element. Well, it was fun to correct them and say that yes, in fact, I have done all that, and some of my relatives still do; hunting is not yet a GOP-only activity. The goal posts immediately moved somewhere else, of course.

What got me thinking, though, was this: yes, I've done all that; I know all about guns and gun safety, hunting and being a big macho slayer of smaller animals. But these days I have zero interest in doing it again. I no longer think of the animals that I used to shoot as little animated targets; I realize that they have their lives to live, just as I have mine. That they don't know how to speak or type an email doesn't give me the moral authority to kill them as a way to boost and soothe my own ego (a.k.a. "for sport"). I'd rather feed squirrels and birds then kill them. I have absolutely no interest in killing a deer or a bear. And if ever offered, I'll politely decline the chance to shoot farm-raised birds. Yes, I'm sure it's a great challenge to hit a fast-moving bird from 100 feet, and I'm sure the VP takes great pride in the accomplishment; but beyond a test of hand-eye coordination that I can duplicate with a copy of Half Life 2, the point of killing birds eludes me. I don't need to stand on a pile of little corpses to feel like a man.

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