On Killing | Market-Ticker

How many of those calling for gun control have ever killed another living thing?

I mean up close and personal.  Not eating a hamburger that was in a package in the store, or grilling some chicken breasts that were all nicely-packaged in cellophane?

And I’m not talking about smashing a mosquito, spraying a hornet’s nest with wasp spray or similar or taking a shovel to a rattlesnake in the back yard either.

I mean killing something that is nominally able to process information and react to its surroundings.  Something that can process the emotion of fear.  And when I mean “you”, I mean you.

You did it.

With an implement of death that you wielded, whether it be your bare hands, a knife, a gun, or something else.

How often have you done it?

And has it ever gone wrong?

If you’ve never done it, you don’t know what “gone wrong” means.  If you have as a part of your life, you do, because you’ve experienced it.

And right about now, you know exactly what I’m talking about.

You can hunt with a gun for quite a while before something “goes wrong.”  But if you’ve hunted for a while, you’ve been there.  You shoot the animal and it doesn’t drop all nice and neat where it stands, like you see on the hunting TV shows or in the movies.

Uh uh.

You shoot, and the animal is hit.  But it doesn’t crumple in a heap.  It runs.  It screams.  It bleeds.  It is mortally wounded, but it’s not dead.  Not yet anyway.  And you have to finish the job, in one way or another.

Sometimes it’s through time; by the time you get where the animal ran to, it’s dead — or close to it.  Sometimes you have to fire again, at much closer range, because as an animal that knows death is knocking it’s too dangerous to get close enough to use a knife or other implement to finish the job.  And once in a while the really dreadful thing happens and you don’t find your quarry, but you know that you mortally wounded it and that it will die a horrible, painful death.

There’s still a certain detachment though about using a gun. Even a BB gun in the back yard shooting a squirrel.  It’s a distance thing.  Yes, you see the results, but the act still takes place at a distance.

You’ve seen the movies with swordfights and spears, right?  People get impaled or sliced open and they die, but they die pretty quickly and usually with a grunt, a groan or sometimes that look of shock as the spear pierces their body.  Same thing with guns in the movies; people get shot and they die, usually crumpling where they stand, blasted backward through doors or windows (which incidentally doesn’t really happen when you get shot), or once again with that odd look of shock on their face as the bullet pierces their body.  Ditto in video games, although the violence is often more-graphic and you can sometimes watch someone’s head explode (which again, with rare exception, doesn’t really happen either.)

That’s that movies folks.  It’s fake, like everything else on the silver screen.

Let me tell you how it really is, from the perspective of someone who has done quite a bit of hunting.

But most of my hunting, certainly in terms of number of things I’ve killed, has been conducted underwater.

With a speargun.

A speargun is a uniquely personal way to kill something.  The spear is attached to the gun by a thick nylon line, sort of like a fishing line but much more sturdy.  But the line is only about 15′ long, and the spear another 4′ or so.  The entire contraption is powered by big rubber bands.  The bands are loops of surgical tubing with a cord or metal hoop in the center that loops over a “fin” on the spear to provide propulsion.  The maximum range of this Rube Goldberg-style contraption is about 20′, but the spear is heavy and very sharp, and it easily penetrates whatever it hits, provided it’s alive.

You would think with such a short range that killing would be easy and efficient.

You’d be wrong.

It’s surprisingly easy to miss underwater.  If you don’t actually aim you will miss.

But if you spearfish you are forced to deal with the personal nature of death very quickly.  Spearfishermen talk about “stoning” a fish — you shoot it in the brain or the base of the spine and it dies instantly.  That’s the preferred way to kill, incidentally — quickly, quietly, and painlessly. It’s how we imagine that all the food we put on the table ends up there.  When you fish with a hook and line your quarry, if it’s small enough, is netted and ultimately suffocates when removed from the water.

When you hunt underwater, however, death rarely happens all nice, neat and easy.

See, a fish has a tiny little brain and an even tinier junction between the brain and spinal cord.  And if you hit the fish anywhere else, it will eventually die — but it won’t die instantly.

And while it’s in the process of dying, which is a messy, bloody thrashing affair, it attracts other things that are very interested in anything that’s dying underwater, and would very much like to finish the job and consume what’s left.  They tend to be a bit indiscriminate about what they bite from time to time as well.  We call those things sharks, and they have a unique capability to detect the wild and uncoordinated electrical thrashing that muscles make in a mortally-injured animal.  It’s like ringing the dinner bell to them.

So when you shoot a fish, and it doesn’t die right away, you don’t have the luxury of letting it expire on its own, nor does it happen some distance away.  You’re acutely aware that you have mortally injured an animal as the dark-colored blood fills the water (incidentally, it looks greenish-blue underwater at any sort of depth, not red) and the mad spasm of the fish, along with its wildly-looking eyes, are literally “in your face.”

And in order to avoid becoming an inadvertent meal for the shark who you just called to the dinner table you now must take your quite-large and sharp knife, which you carry for this exact reason, and efficiently finish the job you started.

You must reach and immobilize the animal you just injured and which is now attached to your gun by the spear and line, with one hand, and with the other you must administer the final blow that causes death. You must use your knife and drive it into the fish’s brain, killing it.  Having caused great suffering as the animal you shot did not immediately expire, you must end that suffering.  You must do it not only because you wish to eat that animal but because if you do not the odds rise substantially that you will be the one who is eaten.

You do not see this in the movies about spearfishing on TV.  There the spearfisherman always kills his quarry without much of a fight, just as happens when you see someone hunt a deer on TV.  You never see a TV show where a deer cries in agony because it has been shot but is not dead, just as you never see someone spearfishing that mortally wounds a fish but it does not die and wildly thrashes at the end of the spear while the fisherman climbs the line, hand-over-hand, with knife at the ready and when he reaches the fish he grabs it beneath the gillplates with a gloved hand and uses his knife to scramble its brain.

But that is the reality of death when one hunts.  It is the reality of death in general.  It is the grisly reality of the circle of life; the lion does not instantly kill its quarry, it usually first bites at the legs or other part of the body and knocks it down, seriously injuring it.  Then, and only then, does it get to strike at the jugular and finish the job.

We wonder why people burst into schools and start shooting.  Oh yes, they are all crazy, but there is something very sobering about taking life the way it really happens.  We, as mankind, used to all know this, because we all in some form or fashion participated in it.  If we lived on a farm we were very careful about how we killed that chicken or other animal for dinner, because we knew.  We had seen it go wrong.  We had hunted for depredation purposes to keep the coyotes and other wild animals off our domesticated animals and crops.  We had killed where killing had gone bad and it wasn’t neat and pretty like they show on TV — or in video games.  So when we killed that chicken for dinner we tried to do it gracefully.  But even then it occasionally went wrong.

Bless us oh Lord these thy gifts which we are about to receive from thy bounty through Christ our Lord.  Amen.

Ever wonder why Christians sometimes pray over their food before they eat it?  Many Christians don’t know why.  They think it’s simply a tribute to God.  Not so fast, grasshopper.  It’s also homage to the fact that you did what you had to do and sometimes it goes wrong; that life was taken and sometimes it’s taken in an ugly, screaming, messy way.

Today we claim to be “civilized”, but what we really are is desensitized.  It’s not that we play violent video games and watch movies and TV shows where people die.  People die all the time; it happens literally on a daily basis.

No, the reality is that the majority of our young people no longer live in a world where they have faced the reality of killing as it actually happens, whether by nature or through someone’s hand.  They don’t have that imprint of a deer that is shot and doesn’t crumple into the snow; instead it cries as it bleeds.  They have never shot a fish with a spear, not had it die immediately, and then with it wildly trying to escape grabbed ahold of it in the gillplate and driven the knife right into its skull, turning its brain into scrambled eggs.  They have never killed a chicken for dinner and instead of it being all neat and tidy had it escape from their hands in the process and become a bloody, nasty mess.  They’ve never had a coyote come into their chicken coop and kill one of their chickens, finding only feathers and the obvious signs of a struggle to the death, or shot one that was trying to get in and then had to shoot it again because the first shot stopped it — but it didn’t die right away and was screaming in pain.

We don’t undertake war the way we used to.  We used to go to war with spears and swords, and killing was a uniquely savage thing.  Most of the people who died didn’t die right away.  They screamed.  They bled.  They writhed on the ground.  If they were fortunate someone finished the job — today we call that murder, but then we had no way to fix a serious abdominal wound that was certain to fester and kill — slowly and very painfully.

Now we have a guy who sits in a trailer piloting a drone from 500 miles away.  He pushes a button and a bad guy dies.  Then, when people rush in to try to salvage the dying but not yet dead, he pushes the button again and innocents die.  Children.  Women.  Those who were not fighting.  We now shoot at the equivalent of the medics in WWII and call this “justified”!

Barack Obama has personally ordered exactly this sequence dozens of times.  The first death may have been of a legitimate terrorist who was going to kill innocent people.  What about the second, an act that in earlier wars would have subjected you to prosecution as a war criminal?

Where is the outrage?  Where is the horror?

Where is the reality in facing how we kill and how things die?

Our problem isn’t that we have too much violence on TV and in video games.  It’s that we don’t have enough real violence.  We instead have sterilized violence, where people die quietly if graphically.  Where our food is wrapped in cellophane at the store.  Where we go to the bar and order up a dozen chicken wings — and we ignore the fact that six chickens died to produce those twelve little winglet drumsticks!

I understand death.  I’ve dealt death from my hands.  It’s messy.  It’s nasty.  But it’s how life progresses.  I eat because I kill, and whether I do it directly with my hands, with tools in my hands, or whether I pay someone else to do it and wrap it up nicely for me at the meat counter, the fact of the matter is that I kill.

You kill.

We all kill.

But we have intentionally removed from our consciousness all of the ugly that inherently comes with killing.  And at the same time we have removed our understanding and respect for the fierce desire of that which is alive to remain alive.

We are now so depraved that we have calls in the media and political offices to cower in the corner and die when under lethal assault rather than assert our right to life and do whatever we’re able, with whatever tools we can muster, to stop that assault.  We nod our heads instead of erecting the middle finger at all who suggest such rabid stupidity.

We talk about “gun control” as if that will stop killing.  It will not.  It will simply allow more killing to take place. Consider that if deer knew how to use rifles we would probably not hunt them.  They know their piece of forest better than we do.  We go into the forest for a few weeks to scout and then to shoot.  They live there all year.  Who’s going to ambush who if they had rifles as well?

This is in reality about predators and prey.  We are all predators whether we like it or not.  It is our humanity that changes the simple “can I get away with killing this or might it injure or kill me” equation that is balanced every day in the woods among animals or the sea into something more-complex.  The lion does not care if the gazelle suffers as it dies; it is only concerned with the possibility of being injured while killing the gazelle, or not eating at all.

We, on the other hand, do care.  And part, but not all, of why we care is that historically we had to go kill ourselves in order to live.  We saw the animal that we ate die, and most of the time it did not do so very gracefully.  Even today, with all our tools and technology, when we go into the field or under the water to hunt, a good part of the time that animal does not die gracefully.  We are inhibited in slaughter because we’re human and for us it is more than simply about something to eat.  We’re selective beyond that of a lion, who will take anything weaker than it, because we feel beyond the simple emotion of pain.

We, the people, have done our level damn best to remove this from our children and ourselves.  We’re wrong to do so.  This is inherently part of what makes us human, and this experience is part of our humanity.  It must remain part of our humanity.

But for those who have not developed this reaction and inhibition, because we have so expertly shielded them from it with our chicken in cellophane, our bacon in a nice, neat package and our depiction of death in our media all neat, nice and without the suffering that usually accompanies people and things expiring (even if the blood splatters a lot), and then those people were unfortunate enough to suffer from a mental disorder or we drugged away the natural and normal emotional processes that keep our predation to animals, fruits, nuts and vegetables, we must recognize that there still remains in that deep animal mind we all possess, no matter how mentally ill, one final check and balance.

The coyote does not attack the lion, no matter how hungry he is, because he knows he will lose.  He instead looks for something without those sharp teeth and claws, even if he is ravenously hungry.

In short we would not hunt deer if they could use a rifle to defend themselves from us.

And sickos would not hunt us if they believed we were armed — whether we actually are or not.

Now you have something new to think about

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