Thursday, July 22, 2010

The American Way of Death

We are a nation of killers.  "Killer" is often a term of approval in our culture: "That's a killer app!" "Ooooh, he's a lady killer!" Etc.

We are the only nation to have used atomic power to annihilate fellow humans. 

We have malamorphosed from euphemistically "patriotic" wars like the one we ended with the A-bomb, to endless wars of invasion at the whim of our elected leader.

We have interpreted our Constitution to guarantee every citizen the right to possess the means to kill. 

We kill with greed.  One of the richest fossil fuel companies in the world, for months now, has been killing every form of marine life in the Gulf of Mexico. The perpetrators of the lethal oil gush have not been penalized in any significant way.  Tacit approval.

We kill with arrogant glee.  See the pictures of the former governor of Alaska giddily displaying the bodies of wolves killed by machine-gunners in helicopters.

We kill with hate.  "Pro-life" fanatics slay abortion providers on orders from whatever hideous god-voices they hear.

We kill without compunction or compassion.  Our missiles, bombs and drones routinely miss their targets, slaying batches of innocent civilian men, women and children.  We say "oops" and call the victims "collateral damage," refusing to be bothered counting numbers.

We kill out of fear.  Here in the southwest, everything from javelinas and rattlesnakes to dark-skinned humans who might  be "illegal aliens" are fair game.

Blessed by the Second Amendment, sanctified by Patriotism and inspired by the movies of the great John Wayne, we shoot first and ask questions later. If we ask questions at all.

With all of the humans on the face of the earth, and all other living things on the planet, we share an infinitesimal sliver of universe capable of sustaining life as we know it.  Within the cosmos, our tiny planet is a mere pebble; the portion of it that sustains life is like the veneer of varnish on a desktop globe of Earth.  The interdependency of the millions upon millions of life forms is complex beyond our complete understanding, at least for the present.  But we know it's there.

Years ago, here in New Mexico, an avid hunter, roaming what is now the Aldo Leopold Wilderness, shot a wolf.  When he reached it, the animal had not yet expired.  He watched "a fierce green fire" die in the wolf's eyes.  Aldo Leopold -- for he was the hunter --  introduced the land ethic to American public discourse and pioneered the concept of setting aside natural areas, and all of their wildlife, as protected oases for the benefit of all.

Others, however, continued to hunt the Mexican gray wolf almost to extinction. Finally,  using wolves bred in captivity, land management officials began a program to re-introduce the wolves to the wild.  Today, poachers are busy killing them off -- especially the alpha males, whose deaths virtually assure the ultimate destruction of entire packs. Even on the state regulatory boards, there are those who quietly approve the actions of the poachers.


Last June a female sea otter was frolicking just offshore in Morro Bay, CA.  A Second Amendment Patriot killed her with a single bullet to the head. Like the Mexican gray wolf, the sea otter had been hunted nearly to extinction.  Even with protected status, it has returned to but a fraction of its former numbers.


Law? Philosophy? Consilience of life? Endangered species? 

Liberal elitist nonsense.

Fire when ready, boys! It's the American Way.


  1. Thomas:

    Interesting and provocative commentary. I'm sure you will hear from the Second Amendment crowd.

    There is one factual error, and errors have stirred me to write editors, because I believe that an editor who wants to be trusted has the duty to get the facts correct when they issue commentary.

    Leopold did continue to hunt for the remainder of his too short life. There are numerous photographs of him and his students, family and friends hunting during his years in Wisconsin. The Leopold archive is on line--so that's not hard to check.

    The lesson from the wolf killing was not to quit hunting, but to stop needlessly killing predators which play a vital ecological role. We still have to contend with those who want to kill all predators to "save" game animals. That's factually different, but is still in line with your commentary.

    Leopold also understood that over populations of deer are a serious problem and in later years struggled with Wisconsin deer regulations up to his final days.

  2. Thanks, Annonymous friend, for flagging a misconception I had toted around for far too long.

    The error has been removed from the post.