Cross-posted at “Women On…”

This morning, I left for work just after dawn. I poked my head out my front door, and was greeted by the staccato pop! pop! pop! of shotgun fire from across the channel: Sportsmen taking potshots into the great flocks of game birds wintering in the wetlands on and surrounding Sauvie Island. That sound never fails to grip my heart and squeeze.

I hate guns.

My dad owned a pair of pistols and a rifle. They weren’t loaded, they weren’t kept at the ready in case some hoodlum broke into the house in the middle of the night intent on murdering us in our beds. In fact, the pistols were locked up in a metal strongbox.

Dad was brought up with guns; he grew up in a small town in Oregon where guns and hunting were part of the culture. He spoke proudly of earning enough money on his paper route to buy his first rifle when he was twelve years old. He treasured his guns as a connection to his roots, a memento of a time and place far away and fondly remembered.

But he respected their potential to create mayhem in the wrong hands…knew they really had no place in the sleepy, mid-century exurbs of Chicago. Dad’s guns lived in the back corner of my parents’ bedroom closet. We girls were sternly threatened never, ever to touch, look at, or interact with those guns in any way. Ever. So sternly that I don’t remember even being tempted to burrow into their hiding place to look at them. So began my hate affair with guns.

I’m no longer that frightened little girl, totally cowed by the demonic presence hiding in the dark reaches of my parents’ closet. But even in adulthood I have not acquired any love for or acceptance of the role of firearms in 21st century society. “Guns don’t kill. People kill.” Small comfort, really, when you think about it.

Today, with the sound of shotgun fire echoing in my ears, I wondered about mankind’s fascination with guns. And with killing.

We kill the animals over which, our religious tradition tells us, we were given dominion. We kill each other. For the hell of it.

What is wrong with us? Why must we kill? Why are we the only species on earth that has constructed such an elaborate ritual around the senseless killing of other animals? We call it “hunting.” We do it for sport. Not because we need the food. Not because these animals are capable of, or interested in, killing us if we don’t kill them. They don’t come looking for us. We take it to them.

We kill because we can. Because we want to. Because it gives us some kind of perverted feeling of power.

How sick is that?

Fall is my favorite time of year to walk on the dike. I go to see those stunningly huge flocks of birds flying in shifting waves across the marshes to the island. I go to hear their chaotic barking and honking. That sound always stirs up something wild and restless in me.

And when I think of some idiot dressed in camo with his designer dog at his heel, pointing a blunderbuss into those great wild flocks and blowing the life out of bird after bird for sport…for the fun of it…

I wonder where to hand in my resignation from this race that is truly beyond hope.

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