Monday, September 26, 2011


                      "...any man's death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind;
                       and therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee."
                                                    John Donne  Devotions Upon Emergent Occasions

It was through ignorance and impatience that I killed the unhatched/unborn robin.  And it was through sheer neglect that I killed the tiny turtle with the pink flower painted on its tiny shell.  Sixty years later, I still feel some guilt, some sadness when I recall those killings.  I get a queasy feeling and I gently clench my teeth and I squeeze my eyes shut in apologetic acknowledgement of those long ago crimes against Life.  Small crimes.  Still, I think those small killings have left a tiny black speck on my soul--all innocence notwithstanding.
Over the years, I've killed ants and mosquitos and other insects as well as the occasional spider...but not so much any more.  Now, I shoo their peskiness away...or I leave them alone...or I gently remove them to an unobtrusive place.  I do this not because I am slouching towards Buddhism so much as because I find that I am moving, naturally, to a place of compassion for all living things.  Although, I still sense a snippet of ego in my actions/non-actions toward all life.
                                                And so I wonder:  Why am I not a vegetarian! 

In the long ago seasons of love (circa 1960 something) I killed a rattlesnake...days after I had been taught how to load and fire a little 22 calibre Smith and Wesson.   You see,  my gun-savvy husband was insistent that I should be pistol competant---living, as we did, off the grid, in the wilds of the New Mexican desert.  I didn't shoot the rattlesnake because he/she was threatening to bite me.  No.  It's not like the rattlesnake was invading my home or about to eat the quail that lived nearby.  Nor was the rattlesnake in the corral where it might have spooked one of the horses---thrusting its poison-filled fangs  into the leg of my Palomino.  No, the snake was by the side of a country road, far from any so-called civilization.  My husband spotted it as we were driving from one rural place to another.  He stopped the truck.  He handed me the twenty-two colt revolver.  He encouraged me (coaxed me) to get out of the car and to shoot the rattlesnake...

It was coiled up in rattlesnake fashion, next to a yellow chamisa.  I stood at a safe distance.  The snake looked at me.  I pointed the gun.  I pulled the trigger.  BANG!  The little bullet went through the snake's body several times.
I never shot the gun again.  I can still recall the place in the road where I killed it.  I can conjure the blue sky, the autumn foliage, the distant mountains..and I can still see the mangled piece of flesh that once was a creature---minding its own business, doing no harm, thinking about crossing the road...thinking about getting to the other side, perhaps.

I have a t-shirt that says DO NO HARM.  I got it in Greece during my weeks with the passengers of The Audacity of Hope/International Peace Flotilla;  a gathering of people who would not kill, joining together-from the far corners of our world to stop the killing and harming of others---to stop violence through peaceful means...wearing shirts that plainly said DO NO HARM.

Do peaceful means succeed in stopping killing?

TROY DAVIS was killed last week.  MURDERED

     "You never had time to learn. 
     They threw you in and told you the rules and the first time they caught you off base
     they killed you."
                                                    Ernest Hemingway  A Farewell to Arms

Troy was executed, murdered.  Despite the pleas and various peaceful protests and despite the petitions to stop the killing, the execution was executed. It was carried out in order to satisfy the decades-long cry from a few angry friends and some family members of the slain victim---an off-duty policeman.  The angry and unforgiving people were tireless (and ultimately successful) in their pursuit of retribution.  Retribution?  There is no righteous retribution to be found in the murder-for-murder form of punishment.  And in a justice system that is sometimes unjust, who can justify strapping a young man to a gurney and---in a semi-private "screening room"---injecting him with lethal poisons! 
People watched this spectacle.  Yes, they did! 
While hundreds of caring anti-death-penalty friends and strangers stood outside the death penalty prison with signs and prayers and petitions (petitions with thousand upon thousands of names of people asking the government of the state of Georgia to stop the execution, to have a new trial, to consider the "recantations" of the original witnesses and the clear evidence of reasonable doubt and the pleas from The Pope and Bishop TuTu and President Jimmy Carter) a few people sat in stone silence and stillness and watched a man be murdered thinking it would (at last, at last) assuage their pain or end the annoying, ongoing questions:  to kill him or not to kill him?  Guilty or not guilty?  Right or wrong?  Forgive or withhold forgiveness?

     "The world breaks everyone and afterward many are strong at the broken places. 
     But those that will not break it kills.  It kills the very good and the very gentle
     and the very brave impartially.  If you are none of these you can be sure that
     it will kill you too but there will be no special hurry." 
                                                        Ernest Hemingway   "A Farewell to Arms"

Forgiveness.  Now, we who cried when Troy died, we who signed petitions to spare his life, we who stood outside the execution prison must forgive those who---decades ago---rushed to judge him, tried him, found him guilty, sentenced him...It is up to us to find, in our hearts, forgiveness for those who wanted him executed, who held on to their anger, who denied him a new trial, a polygraph test,,,We must forgive the parole board, the governor's office, the Governor...the Supreme Court...We must "forgive them" for---in the words of a great man of love and peace (Jesus Christ)---"... for they know not what they do."

Or words to that effect.

I want to know that I am forgiven and that I have forgiven my childhood self for forgetting to keep water in the tiny turtle's habitat that I kept in the abandoned chicken coop in the back of my neighbor's yard and for my misguided notion that I could speed up the hatching of the little blue egg by wrapping it in a paper towel and placing it in a little metal bowl and warming the bowl with some matches my friend Margie stole from her brother's room...and for the unnecessary murder of the rattlesnake...and for the accidental killing of the jackrabbit in the road one night very late, driving home from an evening of idle conversation...

And while I'm at it:  I wonder if I might forgive myself for all my lazy or cavalier or thoughtless killings of... ideas, and friendships, and Time, and opportunities...And finally, let me strive to understand and to remember that, not  unlike Hemingway,
                "I know only that what is moral is what you feel good after
                 and what is immoral is what you feel bad after." 
                                                                              Death in the Afternoon


  1. Those without morals feel good after immoral acts.

  2. Any life taken is an act of violence or corroboration with violence. It is naive to pretend otherwise. On the same day that Troy Davis was executed, Lawrence Russell Brewer was put to death, as well. Yes. He was a thoughtless, racist murderer. But, his his breathing human body less valuable?
    Who are we to decide the ultimate fates of one another?
    I suggest giving this blog piece a good read:
    I have always felt that forgiveness may be unnecessary; but, that understanding truly is....., this offers perspective: