21st Century Roadkill
It’s not just the animals anymore
It was a rare crystalizing moment when your thinking becomes razor sharp and forces you to stop what you are doing. During one of my frequent stops on the rural road I live on in the foothills of the Virginia Blue Ridge, while I paused to remove yet another dead animal from the hot, unforgiving road surface, I was seized by a grim 21st Century analogy.
Before I go further trying to adequately relate my roadside epiphany, I want to make a personal declaration for the public record: I will never again refer to the growing multitude of innocent animals who perish from our current addiction to automotive transportation as "roadkill". The term is vulgar and inhumane in it’s callous insensitivity to the suffering and death of so many sentient beings.
My experience in performing this difficult road service (ritual) has helped me to see these kindred spirits of our natural world in a different way. I’ve come to understand that these animals that I drag into the woods (a spiritual deed to offer a shred of dignity, while also preventing further unnatural death to scavenger species who inevitably arrive on scene) are only more "collateral damage" in the ongoing march of techno-industrial "progress", i.e., western civilization.
I was struck by the idea that the fate of these poor creatures may be the same as the hundreds of thousands and millions of humans who have gotten and continue to get in the way of American and European expansion, i.e., "national interests", over the course of five merciless centuries.
Whether the onslaught has been justified under the mantle of god-sanctioned "Manifest Destiny" in the post-Columbian 15th century, paving the way on this continent for 500 years of genocidal extermination of millions of indigenous native people and species, or as in the present U.S. and western nation imperial wars and ruthless corporate occupations ("Free Trade") around the globe, to spread "our way of life", ie., capitalism, materialism, consumerism, and evangelical Christianity. This while always conveniently extracting much lusted after material and human resources (slaves) - presently we’re after massive quantities of the devil’s life-blood in the form of oil in Iraq - thus we’ve been taught historically that all the violence and death along the way has simply been necessary and unavoidable. It’s just unfortunate "collateral damage".
This is undeniably pathological. It is mass cognitive dissonance in its worst manifestation. The accepted notion that our global Trail of Tears left behind by our metastatic expansion (read "destiny") has been a necessary price in creating a better world, is an absolute sick delusion.
As I was dragging this particularly large female raccoon off into the forest (I couldn’t look directly at this one to determine whether it was a nursing mother, meaning an entire family of raccoons had been instantly wiped out by one thoughtless speeding driver), my thoughts transcended the metaphoric and verged on the prophetic.
Here in the 21st Century, in the grand scheme of the evolution of life on Earth, can the argument be made that we can no longer draw a distinction between the death of a red fox or deer killed by a mindless, lumbering Ford "Explorer" here on U.S. soil to that of an Iraqi or Afghani civilian killed by an errant American-made "Hummer" driven by a U.S. soldier in Bagdad?
If there is a valid theoretical distinction to be drawn against this dreadful metaphor I cannot perceive it. The tragedy of all the violence marking our time has begun to blur all the lines. In acute Orwellian fashion, up has become down.
Don’t doubt for an instant that I am completely aware of the fact that this solemn view is apocalyptic. I like to believe that my world view is balanced and that my feet are planted firmly on the ground in reality. As difficult as it may be, I prefer to remain living and breathing in the natural world as much as possible
But now, in my 53rd year of life on Earth, I am experiencing very real fear. I am becoming increasingly afraid for my children, possible grandchildren, and all the innocent people and animals of the world, and for the well being of Earth herself. As a citizen, peace and social justice activist, and radical environmentalist, whatever the titles mean anymore against the pervasive flow of government propaganda and doublespeak that infects the minds of most Americans, quite likely a "terrorist", I am compelled to continue removing these animals from our roadways, dead or alive, and to work tirelessly against oppression and war.
As I view our world from the holistic, biocentric viewpoint, rather than the common homocentric (arrogant humanistic) viewpoint, I can think only of the literal millions of lives being sacrificed in the Orwellian madness of the Bush wars and upon our cruel, unyielding roadways at home in terms of being an ecological disaster as well as a human one. They are being sacrificed for the same reasons; ignorance and addiction to oil.
I will continue to stand for them all, believing that it’s not at all heretical to proclaim for the sake of life on Earth we must quickly find the wisdom and courage to bring an end to violence, war, and material obsession. We must find our way back to our earthly home, reorient the direction of civilization towards sustainability, and demand peace and justice for all beings.
We have met the enemy. And please, please, slow down for the animals.