May 5, 2010
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I read once about a German Shepard mother who gave birth to nine pups. Knowing she couldn’t feed them all, she searched her litter for the runts. Finding three, she picked them up with her yellow teeth and carried them over to the river. Blindly, they cooed to her in puppy whispers, blindly, they let out small sighs of sleepiness as she placed them on the river bank. And still blind, they were picked up in her yellow teeth, one at a time, put in the river, and drowned. Once the deed was done, the German Shepard returned to her other pups and licked them clean with her pink tongue.

Now, after reading this, I, similarly to the writer, passed this anecdote off as just the instinctual nature of the mother dog. Then, I imagined the story again, but with different characters. It went something like this.

A young mother gets home from the hospital with her newborn twins. Already on Welfare, and not knowing where the children’s father is, or if he’ll ever come back, she makes a decision. Doing some careful calculations in her head, she decides that she only has enough money to support one child. So she fills up the tub and drowns her baby girl. Once that’s done with, she goes back and feeds her baby boy, because she knows he’s hungry.

Can this be instinctual human nature? No, my conscience screams, this is so wrong, it cannot be human nature; we are not murderers! The mother should have put the child up for adoption, left it on a door step, anything, anything but kill it! We, as humans, find this story so abhorrent because it goes against our morals and exposes us to the presence of shame. But why do we find this second story so much more utterly repulsive than the first? In both stories the mother kills her offspring. The reason is simply because this mother’s actions go against all our morals while the German Shepard’s actions, do not. We don’t have morals for

dogs because, quite honestly, we believe ourselves to be intellectually superior. Such animalistic actions are far too barbaric to be acceptable for the modern human. Dogs are allowed a more instinctive nature, but our morals shadow our instincts.

Our lives consist of us scampering around on a web of these morals, trying not to fall through one of the holes. When occasionally, our moral strands slip from underneath us and we fall, we are filled with such a feeling that, once back up on the web, we rarely move at all, to make sure we never experience that emotion again. That emotion is shame. But clearly our morals don’t pertain to everything. Are we then just a society of irony and hypocrisy?

Today, my family and I sit at our table watching the news, we listen to the news anchor as she talks about the murder of a young woman. My dad and my mom sigh, and turn off the television. My mom thinks, “That girl had a mother.” The dad thinks, “That girl had a father.” We all think “What if we had known her? What it she was one of our family?” And we pause in silence to take in the tragedy. Then we all proceed to quickly say grace, and my mom and dad thank God for their three safe, healthy children. We place our paper napkins in our laps and, picking up a knife and fork, dig into the juicy roast chicken my dad has so carefully grilled to perfection. Ironic right? For a family who is so distressed about some solitary woman’s murder, its ironic that two different living things had to die just for us to conduct our night’s meal. That paper napkin came from a tree, that tree came from a forest, and it might even have had a family of animals living in it. But alas the ever present necessity of paper napkins trumped these animals’ need for shelter, and the tree was cut down. Now the chicken, like the young woman, also had a mother, a father, a family. But I do not feel any shame of hypocrisy as I wipe my chicken grease covered mouth with a napkin. Why is

that? Why does our web of morals only hold up humans? I cringe at the utterance of a murder, yet, over a billion trees have been cut down, and here I am printing useless words on their dead flesh, not feeling an inkling of shame. I don’t even give a thought to the fact that trees are the reason I am still living. Perhaps I need to be told, by killing trees I am contributing to the eventual destruction of human kind. That, if all the trees are killed, there would not be a sufficient amount of shrubbery to convert enough CO2 to O2 for the human population to survive. My mother, my father, my family, would die, their faces blue from lack of oxygen, and I contributed to their murder. Well, now I feel ashamed about the five plus pieces of paper I use every day. Similarly, only after thinking about the German Shepard story with humans, do I start to feel ashamed of the fact that I did not do anything to help those poor puppies because in my mind I am comparing them to that baby girl. So I think “I could have adopted them, I wouldn’t have minded finding them on my doorstep.” But without these human connections, the drowning of a puppy by its mother is considered nature’s way, the eating of meat, and the deforestation becomes survival of the most intelligent and technologically advanced. We don’t feel shame for these things because we have no morals attached to animals, no morals attached to plants. Our web does not support anything other than humans. How to we get out of this irony, this hypocrisy? We must accept everything onto our web, because once we do, moral strands, strained under so much weight, will break and we will fall onto the ground of our instincts. We will be free of the fear of falling through any hole, we will be free to move about without contemplation, we will be free of our shame. If we do no do this though, we will look out our window one day, and find withered nature, a withered world, and we will be forced to realize just how large the gaps in our tangled web are, and then we will succumb to a true shame.

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