Her fist shot out suddenly, whipping away from her in a horizontal arc, pivoting rapidly along a suddenly outthrust elbow, until her knuckles struck the glass window with a sound not entirely unlike that of a gunshot.
I stood looking down at her, arrested in my forward movement by her sudden and entirely unexpected action, and by the resulting bang, so loud against the surrounding hum of muzak and chatting shoppers.
I’d been walking through one of those big-box pet supply stores, a basket of feline edibles held easily in one hand, on my way to the cash-wrap, and from there to whatever other errands awaited me. I’d given no conscious thought to the two old women in the aisle ahead of me, only what it took for my brain to navigate a course between them while instructing my mouth to deliver the “excuse me” which is common courtesy. I had only managed the preliminary smile and the beginnings of a nod, when the one to my right, the one who was not busy studying a display of bagged dog chow, flung her closed hand against the glass beside her – hard.
And that was when I stopped.
I watched as she pulled her bony little fist back, folding it against her chest with her right hand protectively around it, almost in the manner of prayer. I glanced at the glass display window she had struck, and through it, at the two domesticated rats resting in a pile of shavings, one with brown and white markings, and the other a light tan color, bright eyes looking back through the glass at us.
I looked back at the elderly woman again as she turned her face up to return my gaze, her pale blue eyes wide and full of malice as she hissed, “Disgusting things!”
I walked away.
Only moments before she had seemed to be just another grey-haired lady in a blue sweater. Someone’s sweet old grandmother perhaps, just out with a friend, running errands and enjoying the day.
Now she was revealed as the worst kind of bully, and I have little tolerance for that sort.
Had I lingered even a moment longer, I would surely have lost my temper.
I wanted to scold her, to publicly humiliate her, to lash out at her and frighten her, the way she had tried to frighten two little creatures who care only to nibble and play. I am not one to give in so easily to anger, but in the darkest forests of my mind, the Big Bad Wolf had swallowed down little red riding hood’s sickly grandmother, in a few large bites.
She’d certainly left an unsavory knot in ‘my’ stomach.
So how have we come to find ourselves in a world where grandmothers menace, without provocation, animals which are tame, caged, and completely at our mercy?
How did we get here?
Did the glorification of cartoon violence on television somehow convince the elderly that it was okay to bash pets with brooms and umbrella handles?
Maybe, but I doubt it.
I think it goes back much further than Saturday morning cartoons.
I think it started when we decided we were better.
“Better than the other animals.”
No, I apologize, I am being unclear. We are not “better” or “superior” than the animals, but are to be understood as altogether different, and not counted among the animals at all, at least according to the dominant mythology of the western world. And the animals, well…, they are mere “things,” placed here, for our use, for our consumption and amusement.
So then, by that ‘logic’, it should be fine to threaten some domesticated rodent in a glass box. It hasn’t got real feelings and it hasn’t got an immortal soul. And even if that particular rat wasn’t carrying the plague, there must be one somewhere, out of immediate reach, that is.
Filthy – Disgusting – Thing!
I feel that I must clarify, at this juncture – I am no Vegan.
Animals die to feed and clothe me. Some few, I have killed myself, when I thought it necessary. Where possible, I consume only the meat of animals I know to have been raised and slaughtered in an ethical fashion. I do this because I think there is more than enough unnecessary suffering in the world, and because, quite frankly, I think the meat tastes better when it comes from an animal that did not die in terror.
You should also know that, in addition to being a polytheist, I am an animist. I believe deeply, that everything has, according to its nature, thoughts and feelings and a spiritual substance of its own.
Does this make me a hypocrite in your eyes?
Is the person who moves knowingly through life, taking what he must, and honoring the lives that are sacrificed for his own survival, is that person better or worse than one who barrels unthinkingly through the world, giving not a second of consideration to those who have fallen that he may survive?
An interesting question, but let us consider: not one man, but millions.
When a person suffers from the delusion that other people are not real, that they are mere playthings to be used and disposed of, we call that person a sociopath.
What then, should we call a race which carries the same delusion regarding all other forms of life? More importantly, how do we treat that condition?