No Offense, but Have Yourselves a Merry Christmas

Christmas has always been my favorite time of year (you’ll notice I didn’t call it Xmas, or “the holidays”). It’s the season of chilly nights, snowy days

Text and Photography ©Jim Robertson

Text and Photography ©Jim Robertson

and cozy mornings by the crackling fire, that I long for during the dry summer months. The Solstice —with its leafless trees, longer days and promise of spring—adds its magic to the spell. To this devout unbeliever—this compassionate atheist—the arrival of winter has always been known as Christmastime.

Make no mistake; I don’t believe in virgin births, any more than I believe in Santa Claus or the Easter bunny or the talking walnut. It’s all a bunch of anthropocentric hooey. But I think it’s sad that Americans aren’t supposed to say “Merry Christmas” any more.

I wouldn’t expect store clerks to assume their customers are all church-going Christians. I for one am not and never have been—my church is the DSC_0082wild forest, mountains, rivers and oceans. Yet I still think of the giving season simply as Christmas. When I’m out shopping for Christmas presents, I’d rather hear a hearty “Merry Christmas” than a sheepish “happy holidays.” Instead of spreading good cheer, the latter comes across as an embarrassed, “the capitalist corporation I work for will fire me if I’m caught wishing you a Merry Christmas.”

I enjoy all kinds of Christmas music—as long as it’s joyous—and all sorts of Christmas decorations, particularly those that celebrate trees and greenery. I’m not offended by manger scenes, especially the ones that include lots of animals bedded down on nice dry straw. But the religious slant can definitely be taken too far. I get irritated when someone includes a cross in their Christmas display.

To me a cross is a symbol of cruelty, suffering and death, not peace, love and generosity. It doesn’t belong anywhere near Christmas. I’ve never believed in needing savior to achieve redemption. And I’m already painfully aware of man’s inhumanity to his fellow man (not to mention, to the pigsDSC_0101 and turkeys, as well as the ducks and geese I hear being shot at out there as I write this—all in the spirit of holiday feasting).

Not that I think anyone’s ever coming back from anywhere, but I can identify with this memorable line in the Woody Allen film, Hannah and her Sisters, when Max Von Sydow’s character, Frederick, laments about the garbage on TV: “You see the whole culture. Nazis, deodorant salesmen, wrestlers, beauty contests, a talk show. Can you imagine the level of a mind that watches wrestling? But the worst are the fundamentalist preachers. Third grade con men telling the poor suckers that watch them that they speak with Jesus, and to please send in money. Money, money, money! If Jesus came back and saw what’s going on in his name, he’d never stop throwing up.”

I’ve never thought of December 25th as the birthday of any god-incarnate or the day that reindeer can fly or when Santa visits every house in one night. But I’ll always call it Christmas—the name for a season that ought to last all year long. It’s not just a holiday—the spirit of selfless giving should be a year-round sentiment.

Oh, and if anyone up there really is listening, all I want for Christmas is world peace for all beings— and enough freaking snow to ski on.

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Be Thankful for Hunting Accidents

Text and Wildlife Photography ©Jim Robertson

Text and Wildlife Photography ©Jim Robertson

In response to a favorable comment to a post about a goose hunter who shot his 45 year old son in a hunting accident, one Facebook reader replied:

“I find it disheartening that so many anti-hunters take such psychotic joy in the death of human beings…I find this sort of cheerleading just as bad as the hunters that flaunt their kills. Show some compassion for a change.”

To which I responded, “It’s not that anti-hunters don’t have any compassion; just that their limited supply of it is focused on the original victims (in this case the geese). As police reported about the incident, ‘The two had Canadian Geese decoys spread out in front of their blind…’ Yes, this was a tragedy for the hunters…but they were out there to cause pain, suffering and death for an untold number of geese—a gentle species who care for one another and mate for life. Yesterday afternoon, after the constant blasting of shotguns earlier that day, we saw and heard a lone goose calling mournfully for its lost mate. It is not a game or a sport for the geese—is nothing short of heartbreak.

Hunting accidents are a good way to remind the public about the lethal violence inherent in the “sport” of hunting. To reach the average viewer, the media has to frame everything in the context of how it affects a person. Most people are anthropocentric and have little or no compassion for non-humans. If a human doesn’t get maimed or killed once in a while, people continue to believe the misguided notion that hunting is just a friendly, social hour for traditional family-values proponents; “ethical” conservationists (claiming to be doing the animals a favor by killing them); or worse yet, those fashionable so-called locavore foodies who think of wildlife only as a source of flesh to stuff in their trendy, goateed, hipster gob.

What real harm is there in cheering on the underdog (or deer ordsc_0112 goose or wolf) with remarks like, “What a shame,” “One less hunter out there,” “Another Darwin award,” or “Now he knows what the animals went through.” A mite insensitive, perhaps, but people’s attitudes during wartime can turn rather ugly. And make no mistake; hunting is like war to the animals and those who advocate for them. No doubt the otherwise compassionate Allies cheered as their enemies were eliminated. After all, how much compassion did Hitler and his ilk deserve anyway?

Still, in one way, devoted anti-hunters can be compared to fanatical wolf hunters who won’t be satisfied until they attain their ultimate goal: the total annihilation of their quarry. Yet anti-hunters and other compassionate misanthropists aren’t really planning to march out there and off all hunters. They know that the end of hunting won’t come about merely through  hunting accidents or people violently targeting them. There’s too much pro-hunting propaganda out there and too many hunters breeding mini-Me’s as ready-made hunting partners to one day take over the tradition.

Never mind that folks can get together in the out-of-doors to take a hike, watch birds or photograph wildlife—without taking any lives.

No, hunting isn’t going to end because of a high hunter body count. Not unless those who survive are willing to learn from others’ mistakes and lay down their weapons once and for all.

Now that’s a vision of the future to be thankful for.

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Sunday Go-a-Huntin’ Day

Living near prime wildlife habitat means that at any given moment you might get to see Vs of migratory ducks or cackling Canada geese flying right overhead. If you’re lucky, trumpeter swans might be among the waterfowl feeding and calling in the nearby estuary. And wood ducks or hooded mergansers might pay your inland pond a visit while searching for a quiet place to nest.
The down side of living near a natural wonderland? Being awakened Sunday morning at first light by the repeated volley of shotgun blasts, as though all-out war has been declared on all things avian (as is currently happening this morning). The Elmers out there (no doubt dressed in the latest expensive camo-pattern—a fashion statement apparently meant to impress the other Elmers out there) must be reveling in the fact that the dense morning fog allows them to “sneak” (in their loud outboard motor boats) up close enough to the flocks so that a large number of birds will end up dead, winged or otherwise wounded when they stand up and spray lead.

Duck hunting is the ultimate betrayal. It happens well into the winter, long after about other any hunting season is over, when the birds are congregated in flocks on their wintering grounds. And it happens often on lands supposedly set aside as wildlife “refuges.” Pro-kill groups like Ducks Unlimited (DU—an acronym, or perhaps an abbreviation for “duh”) insist that they have the animals’ best interests in mind. But when it comes right down to it, all they really want to preserve land for is to have a playground for killing (just listen to them scream if you try to propose a refuge closed to hunting).

Interestingly, they always seem to choose Sunday as their special day for bird killing. It’s no secret that most American hunters count themselves as good Christians. In choosing to hunt in lieu of church this time of year, they must feel closest to their gods in the killing fields.

How is this any different than a follower of Santeria sacrificing chickens? Both practices are equally bloody and violent. And the practice of Sunday go-a-duck-huntin’ probably claims more victims.
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Who’s in “Season” Now?

I just came in from a long walk with our dog. For the most part, it was completely quiet out there. Not a breath of wind today, only the sound of our footsteps and the dog’s hot breath as she dragged me from scent to scent. Just as I started to consciously appreciate how peaceful it all was, the silence was extinguished by some damn neighbor shooting his gun.

What the hell was he shooting at? Who’s in “season” now? Deer and elk “season” are over. There’s an ongoing open season on ducks and geese, but this was no “pop, pop” of a shotgun; it was the echoing report of a high-powered rifle.

Coyotes can be shot on sight year-round, but thanks to assholes like this guy, there’s not much chance of seeing them out this time of day.

No, whoever it was, they were probably just firing off their gun for the fun of it. All’s I know is, it was fuckin’ irritating—and I’m sure the local wildlife found it even more annoying than I did.

Text and Wildlife Photography ©Jim Robertson, 2012. All Rights Reserved

Text and Wildlife Photography ©Jim Robertson, 2012. All Rights Reserved

Hunters: the Brainwashed Masses

Never underestimate the power of brainwashing when it comes to transforming peaceable children into violent hunters of helpless beings. If we are to assume that most children are born innocent, with a natural affinity toward animals, then brainwashing is the only explanation for their conversion to hunting. Of course, peer pressure and the mind-numbing power of constant bombardment of violent movies, TV and video games are clearly culprits in a kid’s overall corruption; but those are all just contributors to the overall brainwashing process.

There are four basic elements involved when a person is brainwashed:

  1. A severe traumatic shock
  2. Isolation—being taken away from the people or surroundings where the person feels secure
  3. Programming—hearing what the mind controller wants the subject to believe, over and over and over
  4. The promise of a reward

Applying this formula to the average animal-loving young child, in order for them to be brainwashed into thinking hunting is a normal, acceptable activity, they first need to suffer a traumatic shock. Well, surely seeing their first living, breathing deer, elk, goose or rabbit shot down (whether by gun or bow and arrow), then bled-out and butchered right before their eyes would qualify.

The isolation they would feel would be both physical and emotional, with no one out there to relate to or share in their sorrow for the poor animal so unnecessarily murdered by someone they’ve always looked up to.

The programming would have gone on well before the child witnessed the carnage. After the kill, it would become even more intense as the father (or mother) figure struggles to make their murderous act seem justified.

And the reward comes in the form of enthusiastic praise and back-patting when the child makes their first solo kill.

Before you know it, the once caring young person is fully indoctrinated into the sportsmen’s way of looking at animals—as objects to be “harvested” or “culled,” depending on its species or the whim of its assassin.

Text and Wildlife Photography© Jim Robertson

Text and Wildlife Photography© Jim Robertson