Assassin's Lament

By Jon Hillenbrand In Photography, Stories


Many of you who have been to my apartment or seen me at work around bugs know that I have a particular sensitivity toward all of the creatures that inhabit the world. This is perhaps best elicited in my so called, “Catch and Release Program,” of bug wildlife management. Here are the steps:

  1. Person from another room screams
  2. I acknowledge the call and move into action to rescue the wayward insect
  3. Cup (transparent) and stiff paper or board are assembled as a makeshift cage
  4. Insect is identified
  5. Insect is stalked
  6. Insect is captured uninjured
  7. Nearest window is opened
  8. Insect is released back into the wild, or the nearest natural or semi-natural habitat

The problem is, if anything happens around step four which might freak me out or make me afraid for my own safety or the safety of my hands, I might skip the rest of the steps and enact Plan B which is much shorter. Basically it involves the extermination of the insect.

But that leaves me in a terrible position. I always feel bad. I know that as small as the insect might appear to be, it’s still a small life. And for as long or as short as it is going to live, it’s a lifetime for that insect.

Of course, my religious friends tell me that I’m crazy because compared to a human life, an insect life is nothing. And my secular friends tell me to just kill it and get over myself. I know with most parties, when step one occurs, it’s a call for an assassin, not a rescue squad. And the fact that I might be equally skilled at both techniques doesn’t mean that both are equally easy.

I read a book called, “Generation Kill,” where soldiers who were on the front lines of the invasion of Iraq spoke about killing. They said that it was the only thing about the military that wasn’t exaggerated or overblown. The action was intense and for many very enjoyable. Some soldiers felt bad that they hadn’t had a chance to kill someone yet. In the civilian world, this would be seen as distasteful or unsettling attitudes. But from my perspective, people in the civilian world kill indiscriminantly on a daily basis without regard. Mosquitoes get slapped, spiders get smeared, houseflies get, well, missed because they are impossible to kill.

I know my religious friends will get angry at me for again comparing the ease of killing insects with the ease of killing humans in a war. But I think both attitudes are achievable with the right set of circumstances and surroundings. The problem is, I’ve found that most insects can be caught and most can be released back into the wild without incident. And when I see someone killing an insect because it’s just too much of a hassle to catch and carry them outside, I can’t help but worry for the fate of the morality of society as a whole.

1 Comment
  1. […] sure there’s some sort of life lesson to learn from the massive striped spider which has been constantly making a web on the side of my car door.  But I really don’t care […]

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