Reminders can be rude.
A few days ago, I was driving along, thinking about my time in the woods last weekend. I had hiked into the forest with a near-full moon peering down at me through the clouds, a thin mantle of snow cloaking ground and trees. At sunrise, I had enjoyed the play of light and shadow, and the sound of ravens quork-quorking overhead. I hadn’t seen any deer, but had savored the hours.
What, I wondered, might I distill from those mornings? It was, after all, high time I wrote a blog post. Caught up in twin whirlwinds—the final copyedits on my book and the final month of the semester—I haven’t carved out the time to offer thoughts here.
Then my eyes focused on the pickup truck in front of me.
Affixed to the rear window was a decal: “If It’s Brown, It’s Down—If It Flies, It Dies.”
Yanked out of pleasant natural reverie into unpleasant cultural reality, I thought instantly of that whole genre of decals and bumper stickers—“Shoot to Thrill,” “Whack ’Em and Stack ’Em,” and the like—words and images that portray hunting as a perpetual series of lusty kills, or as a military seek-and-destroy mission.
I was reminded, too, of the discussion following my April post about hunting ads that make light of killing. There, several of us noted that such advertisements are used because they make money. They sell product.
But decals like the one on the truck in front of me are different. They do not sell product. Hunters who display them don’t make a dime off it. With no profit incentive, they are making a completely voluntary statement. To what end?
Several possibilities occurred to me:
- Perhaps they’re just engaging in an unfortunately public display of dark humor and aren’t thinking about the impression made on non-hunters. (With hunters flaunting decals like these, we don’t need any help from anti-hunters to make us look evil.)
- Perhaps they’re thumbing their noses at hunting’s critics, selecting such badges of identity precisely because they’re so outrageous. (Here I’m reminded of Calvin and another decal I once saw, on my way to a workshop on hunting ethics.)
- Or, most disturbingly, perhaps these hunters really feel that birds and animals are nothing more than living targets, to be gunned down as swiftly and furiously as possible. Perhaps they really believe that wildlife exists solely to be blasted. (Though hardly unique to hunters, such callousness points to deep value-differences among us, making it impossible to think of myself as part of a universal “hunting community.”)
I’d like a bumper sticker that tells the world why I hunt and how I feel about the wild creatures whose world I share. But I suspect I’ll never be able to summarize all that in a 10-word slogan.
I had a hard enough time saying it in 300 pages.
© 2011 Tovar Cerulli