By Dave Lindorff
Sarah Palin and I may not have much in common, but we do share an early history of bloodlust.
We both got guns before we were teenagers. According to a report in the British Times newspaper, Palin took a shotgun at age 10, crawled through the grass in back of her house with it, took aim at a bunny “and blew its furry little head off.”
For my part, I got my parents to let me buy a single-shot .22 rifle when I turned 12, and proceeded to go out in the woods, alone and with friends, to shoot at targets, trees, and the occasional animal. A crack shot, I remember picking off what I thought was a dove perched at the top of a tree a good 200 yards away. I nailed it, but when I went to the base of the tree, what I discovered was a dead robin. Oh well.
A few dead animals later, near Thanksgiving, I got it in my head that I wanted to shoot my own bird, so a friend whose family had a rack of shotguns and I went out with two 12-gauges looking for turkey or grouse. We had bad luck all day, though my friend Bob almost shot a great horned owl that startled us, and which he mistook for a turkey (luckily he missed!). Late in the day, and about to head home in frustration, we flushed a grouse. As it started to take off, I got off a shot and hit it, but not very well. It went fluttering off into the brush. We chased it down and finally caught it. I picked the terrified animal up and held it in my two hands, feeling its heart beating frantically. The bird was bleeding from the shot that had perforated its body, and it was looking around in terror and struggling to get out of my grip.
At that point I started to cry. I felt like a monster. We didn’t know what to do. I suppose I should have just wrung its neck to put it out of its misery, but I didn’t have the courage to do that—to actually kill a living thing by hand. So I held it out, and Bob put the barrel of his gun to its head and fired. I was left holding just the motionless body. Its “feathered little head” was just missing.
That was the end of my hunting. That realization that animals feel not just pain, but terror, touched me deeply. I had always loved animals, but until that moment, I had separated my affection for cats, dogs, ponies and wild creatures, with the things that I would shoot. It’s not terribly logical, but somehow, when I was young looking at an animal through a gunsight reduced it to an object, instead of the living, breathing, feeling thing that it really was.
For Palin, though, shooting that first rabbit was just the beginning of a life of slaughter for fun. This Christian fundamentalist, who believes in creationism and the preciousness of prenatal human life, spent the intervening years since that first bunny kill shooting God’s creatures of all kinds: moose, caribou, and even wolves, which she has hunted from helicopter—probably the bottom of the barrel when it comes to sportsmanship.
Now I know there are probably millions of Christian hunters who have all kinds of rationalizations for why blowing away God’s creatures for fun is in line with Bible teachings —“man’s dominion over the animals” and all that stuff—but I have to say that I find her and their lack of introspection troubling. (At the time the Bible was being written, I doubt that hunting for sport even existed. People killed animals for food.)
No doubt the gun lovers of America will love Palin’s story, but there are plenty of Republican animal lovers who may be as revolted as I am at her love of the kill—particularly of those animals like wolves that are increasingly threatened even in Alaska, and that display such intelligence and such socially interconnected and developed lives.
Just as it is jarring to read that a woman who, as a top government official, actively opposes the teaching of sex education in the schools sees no irony in having her own 17-year-old daughter, clearly in need of some basic sex ed, get pregnant, it is jarring to me to see a woman who claims to be a devout Christian reveling in the slaughter for sport of God’s wild creatures.
Sarah Palin and I parted ways after our first few kills. Mine converted me from a pre-teen gun nut into an anti-war activist. Hers seems to have simply left her thirsting for more.
DAVE LINDORFF is a Philadelphia-based journalist and columnist. His latest book is "The Case for Impeachment" (St. Martin's Press, 2006 and available now in paperback edition). His work is available at www.thiscantbehappening.net