Of Mice and Men
I killed a mouse today.
I had been in a Cold War with my rodent adversary for close to two days, my attempts to trap without killing him failing against his superior awareness and agility; and when I say “superior awareness and agility” I’m really saying I truly believe the mouse could apparate like those Harry Potter kids, or move between dimensions, a la “Jumper”. My reaction time was rarely good enough to even attempt to capture him before he bolted in nine directions and scampered under the nearest large piece of furniture or into the closest crevice.
In an act of desperation, I resigned myself to purchasing mouse traps to conquer this masterful escape artist. I set the trap, and waited for the olfactory sirens of peanut butter and granola to lure my foe to his doom. Soon, I saw a quivering nose peek out from the crevice I’d deduced he’d been using to come and go. That nose grew as did his confidence; or perhaps, the peanut butter was too alluring and worth the risk.
He popped out into open floor, and froze. We stood there; face-to-snout, eye-to-beady-little-cold-soulless-eye. As he stared, I began to soften, feeling badly that I, the apex predator I am, was picking on such a defenseless creature. “I’m already master of this planet, right? Why not handle the situation a bit more diplomatically?” Then he darted into the trap. It didn’t spring. He ate the peanut butter, and emerged, unscathed.
The mouse now had to die for his insolence.
I waited for him to re-enter the trap housing for a second round of gorging himself on my grains and nuts. When he did, I crept up on him using all of the ninja skills I’ve accrued in my 24 years, and swiftly blocked the exit with a knife.
Flick. Pop. Death. After my carnal instincts had been subdued, my rage at being outsmarted by a mouse quelled from having exacted justice, I began at once to feel terribly again.
I had killed it. Taken life.
This was, by far, not the first dead organism I’d encountered, or killed. Yet, I felt guilty at having needlessly taken life. Save for the potential of carrying disease, the mouse was neither a threat nor food, so was its death truly necessary? Perhaps even more importantly, why do I feel badly, despite the unnecessary killing? It’s but a mouse, right?
Perhaps that is why the senseless killing of human beings is becoming so normal. Perhaps – through structural violence, institutional racism and classism, and other forms of systematic oppression – human lives are being devalued to the point of a mouse: easily and unnecessarily trapped, killed, and cast away.
The victims of oppression know they are not valued, growing up with an almost intrinsic sense of being lesser-than. Therefore there is no problem with taking life or with life being taken, for life in the eyes of many on the darker side of the moon is pointless and unrewarding; something to trudge through and from which there is little-to-no happiness to be gained. Living in Chicago, I have seen the escalation of violence and the subsequent dulled response to it. An infant was shot five times near my neighborhood, but instead of ceasing violence in an effort to prevent such tragic occurrences from happening again, anger and frustration took root, and more violence ensued.
I don’t think I’m saying anything novel here. My aim is to spark discussion around the reasons why we kill, and seemingly so easily. What are the variables – psychological, physical or otherwise – that contribute to marginalization, to violence? What can be done to reverse some of the damage? What responsibility or initiative must the oppressed take? I ask because it will start with us, the people. Clearly our elected officials are in no hurry to save the multitudes of black and brown people dying needlessly and senselessly.