A couple of days ago, I had to kill an animal. It was brutal and it still troubles me. It seemed unavoidable, but that excuse doesn’t settle my mind.
We’ve tried everything we could think of to make the groundhogs go away—refilling their holes, chemical irritants, ultrasonic alarms—so they wouldn’t dig under the old rock foundation of our pioneer-era home. Nothing else has worked.
Punxatawney Phil might look cute in one of those Groundhog Day photo ops, but the animals are not cute when they’re undermining your sidewalks and trashing the old fruit room in the cellar, knocking bottles of peaches off the shelves.
Finally we caught one in our trap; it was betrayed by its fondness for cantaloupe. I wasn’t going to simply release it so it could go back to burrowing, nor did I have time to drive it into the next county to find a new home.
I shot it with a high-powered air rifle, hoping death would be quick. It wasn’t. As the animal struggled, it looked at me is if to ask, “Why did you do this to me?”
Perhaps I only imagined that part.
But its behavior that was problematic for me is instinctual, and I felt sad at having to kill the animal for natural behavior. There was nothing about the killing that felt satisfying. It made me feel diminished somehow.
Watching the suffering I caused made me wonder how people can callously and casually use a gun to kill another human being because that person “dissed” them or wore the wrong color tee shirt or took the parking spot they wanted.
Let me be clear: This isn’t a rant about guns or a call to take them away. I believe strongly in the right granted by the Second Amendment to the United States Constitution to keep and bear arms. I am a gun owner. I have nothing against hunting if someone plans to use the meat, though I see little “sport” in ambushing an animal from several hundred yards away with a high-powered rifle and scope.
Sometimes the conditions in our world today make me wonder if I need a close-range weapon in the home or to carry for protection.
But we have an obvious, urgent problem in our society with unstable, sociopathic people who use guns deliberately to hurt others. Maybe they’re willing to fire into a passing car just to prove their manhood because they think someone in that vehicle has not treated them respectfully—and they don’t care if they unintentionally kill a one-year-old child riding with a mother. Maybe they’re determined that if the woman they want will not have them, they have the right to rob her of life. Maybe they think that because their life is horrible they have the right to express their pain by gunning down as many people as possible before they are in turn killed.
Whatever the reason, they seem incapable of seeing or understanding the pain and extended suffering they cause to innocent people—not only their victims, but also grieving loved ones left behind.
The powerful gun lobby in this country seems unable to acknowledge or grasp the problem. The knee-jerk reaction is to wrap themselves in the Constitution and vow no one will take away their gun without prying it out of their cold, dead fingers. But unneeded gun violence is an ongoing tragedy that needs a practical, workable solution, not theatrics and threats. If background checks and seizure of guns from people with criminal records or psychiatric problems are not acceptable (and yes, I understand the inherent danger in these), then responsible gun owners need to come up with workable solutions before one-too-many tragedies bring on governmental restrictions they don’t want.
I don’t know the answer to the problem of gun violence, and I don’t know how our society creates dangerous sociopaths who don’t care about the damage they may do in other lives.
What does all of this have to do with shooting a groundhog?
It’s in the realization that some people seem to be able to kill without caring about the life they are taking away from another child of God.
We desperately need to find a cure for that.
Somehow I think it’s found in that old saying about doing unto others as we would want them to do to us. Every religious tradition I know teaches that life is sacred or should be respected. We need learn to how to treat others as if their lives are just as valuable as ours.
Someday we will all answer to God about how well we learned that lesson.