3/28/14

WHY?

I’m not anti-hunting, but what is up with some people’s seemingly natural proclivity to kill non-human creatures that are smaller than them even if they’re not doing anything to you and you’re not going to eat them – you’re just going to stomp them onto the ground and leave them.  I’m mostly thinking of insects and why it seems fun to a lot of kids to kill insects.

When I was walking my dog this morning, I saw a worm crawling on the sidewalk and it almost automatically popped into my head that some kids would probably automatically step on it, not because they were scared of it, but because it was a small creature that they had the power to crush.

And then I started thinking what is up with that – the apparently natural inclination to kill small things – to stomp or squish insects to death, even if the insects are outside.  I recently saw one of my nephews, almost as soon as he saw a spider outside, repeatedly stomp on the thing, as though the death of the spider was both fun and necessary.

Some adults seem to have a tendency to automatically have to kill an insect as soon as they see it in their house ( I feel that way about mosquitoes), so maybe that translates to their kids as automatically having to kill it if they see an insect ANYWHERE, even outside. And maybe that combines with a natural tendency to crush things that we have the power to crush – and kids are too young to analyze where that tendency comes from and what it means and make their own choice of turning it up, toning it down, or otherwise controlling it – or at least questioning where it comes from and what it means.

As an adult, it’s not like I’ve never killed a spider before – I’ve killed a few big ones in my house – but then I feel guilty that I didn’t just manage to take the living creature outside and allow it to do its own thing.  Small spiders in my house don’t even bother me; if I see one I just leave it be.  If I saw one that I knew was poisonous then I’d probably kill it, so it didn’t kill me – but I wouldn’t kill one for no apparent reason other than controlling and causing death.

I have a memory from my childhood, in which me and one of my sisters and my mom were visiting my aunt who lived in Florida and were spending time in an area where we were fishing and there were little crabs walking around on the ground.  I was an un-athletic girl and didn’t have very good aim, so when I saw this one little crab a ways away from me, just staying in the same place, I thought I’d throw a rock in its general direction, so that the rock landing near it would make it start moving again. Well, the rock I threw ended up landing directly on top of the crab and crushed it into oblivion. I certainly didn’t feel like that was a powerful, successful accomplishment. I felt awful, upset and guilty, but kept those feelings to myself and didn’t tell anyone that I had accidentally managed to kill a crab. I certainly didn't brag about it.

Maybe I’m a contradictory mess though (and maybe I’ve always been that way) because even though my memory of guilt about accidentally killing a crab is true, I also remember torturing a few insects as a kid.  Not frequently and not thinking of it as purposeful torture at the time, but why did my sister and I once catch a fly in our house and tear off one of its wings and then the other and then just watch it, unable to fly, and then pick it up while it was still alive and flush it down the toilet?  And why did I once catch a daddy long legs spider and slowly tear off all of its long legs until it was nothing but a little round circle that couldn’t move?

***

My grandpa died early this morning and for some reason (maybe deriving from past memories combined with a poem I read last night called “After the Stillbirth, the Pioneer Wife Dresses a Rabbit” by Donna Vorreyer), I’m remembering a time way back when I was in junior high and had a pet rabbit and my grandpa seemed to think it was really humorous to tell me about the days when he was a boy and would snap rabbits necks.