Jamie Broder’s story of man vs. squirrel is one that, on the surface, appears to be a folksy and lighthearted telling of a frequent suburban conflict. Yet I find it a chilling one because it shows quite eloquently how humans can intellectualize the act of killing into a humorous event. It becomes eerily transparent how the use of mental concepts creates sufficient distance between a human and an envisioned foe to make killing not only acceptable, but worthy of telling and retelling as funny.
A man envisions a scenario for a leisurely pastime that pleases him. He sets up conditions to make it happen. Multiple creatures take advantage of his offerings. Some of the birds he accepts wholeheartedly; they fit his scenario exactly and so are deserving of the bounty he offers. Others creatures, which he finds less attractive either in appearance or behavior, do not fit his image so well; their worth is clearly less to him. The squirrel does not fit the scenario he envisions at all.
I am quite certain this man would find it horrifying to extend this way of thinking to other humans. Yet this story demonstrates that this way of thinking, this creating a desired scenario and feeling justified in killing those who do not fit that scenario, clearly exists. When a person neither realizes nor examines the judgments he or she makes, killing can easily extend beyond the backyard.
Louise Poppema, licensed wildlife rehabilitator