This afternoon, in the grocery store parking lot, I saw a tiny mouse huddling and shaking next to a car tire. People were making jokes, along the lines of how to eliminate it. I knelt and picked it up by the scruff and petted it then I carried it across the highway to a wood and let it go.
If the hawk catches it, that is Nature. If a person kills it that is human nature—a pale stepbrother of the way of the wild.
Two afternoons ago, while driving home, I saw a stunning red-shouldered hawk perched on a dead rabbit in a field and tearing it into bites. On either side of the carcass stood two vultures, like guards, waiting patiently to clean things up. The next day, there was no record of the ballet I had witnessed.
My pal Ranger L., acting on a tip, raided a home on the Illinois River and discovered eighty stuffed, dead great-horned owls lining four shelves along the kitchen walls. The owls were killing the man’s fish in his pond—so his story went.
Nature versus human nature
The only animals on earth that kill for fun are chimpanzees and us, their DNA-linked cousins. Chimps wage war and deliberately kill rivals. We cousins, over half a million years, seeking ever more efficient means of killing our own, advanced from clubs to stones to swords to primitive muskets to rifles. . . to machine guns.
And now well-meaning people work at upheaving evolution, as if any human can go back “to the garden,” and now some people, armed with those machine guns, just plain like to kill other people. The kid in Florida, the man in Vegas: brothers. Our brothers. The first whites to invade this New World and bring along their slaves (“Slavery is in the Bible”): Brothers. Our brothers.
My brothers steeped in blood, your brothers steeped in blood. Our brothers Andrew Jackson and George Rogers Clark, red with the blood of destiny. The modern killers even have a union fighting for their right to kill other people. No other animal on earth is in any way devoted to killing its own, subjugating its own.
The deaths of teenagers are no more or less tragic than are the deaths of the elderly lined up and shot, in Cambodia, in Germany. The synonym for “human” is “killer.” If you believe God made us in his image (some patriarchal humans wrote that treacle—of course; the whole damn holy, full-of holes book is written by humans for humans about humans), then prepare for war. And stop bitching about it.
Nature versus human nature. Not an alliance, not even an unholy alliance. A war between two truths. One and only one of them will win, one by will, one by instinct. And yes, you have to choose.