I recently joined one of those Next Door Neighbor Social Media Sites and have been enjoying getting a sense of who lives in my ‘hood and what they are asking for and giving away. Lost Dog! Found Cat! While the former leaves me with a saddened heart the later gives me solace in knowing my neighbors are looking out for one another. Free Loveseat! Free Ostrich Fern! Wet Food for Starving Cat! Yeah, I love my neighbors!!! They are generous and warm-hearted…maybe even ecologically friendly. Contractor Needed! Ushers Needed! I see they are creative too.
Silly as it might seem, I feel more connected to those who dwell nearby even though I never see behind their four walls. My walks in the ‘hood are now infused with a bit more curiosity and eagerness to greet my neighbors as we pass one another on our daily walks.
And then IT comes in. Missing Deer Head! I am taken aback, wondering what this means. Is it the name of a play, maybe for the posting that beckoned Ushers Needed? The posting tells me otherwise. It says that someone had “…shot the buck of his life…” this spring and that the head with antlers was in his backyard but is now missing. He goes on to ask if we have “…seen or heard of a deer head that showed up somewhere?” And I wonder why is it that a deer’s head, without the deer’s body, could show up anywhere? To whom did this head really belong?
Before I know it my fingers are tapping out “Maybe the deer’s spirit came and took it back.” And I hit send. Unable to retract my reply, I start to wonder if this was inappropriate for this Neighborhood Social Media Platform. After all, there have not been any conversations other than solicited advice.
I begin to imagine what the “owner” of this Missing Head might reply. Would he reply at all? Would he find humor in it? Would he be outraged, believing I overstepped my boundary? And then I began to question our perceptions of boundaries and what conversations seem to get shut out in our society.
It is a commonly held, and generally accepted, belief in our society that as long as we are licensed to do so, we can kill. We can then share the information about the kill wherever, whenever, and however we want. For me, as a person who equally values all species, I was shocked to see such a blatant display of the joy that killing this animal gave this man. I don’t know his reason for the hunt but I can say with confidence, that as a city dweller (in particular), he did not need to take this life for his survival. And so why do we find this behavior to be acceptable?
And why does the voice that questions hunting often get criticized as soft-hearted or intrusive? As for the soft heart, why do we fear that? This reminds me of how the qualities we consider to be feminine are shrugged off as emotional and unfitting for so many of our cultural activities. I believe that if we fully expressed the softness in our hearts, our world, let alone society, would be a more loving and accepting place. As for being intrusive, I believe it is considered as such because hunting (a very clean word for killing when it is not needed for our survival) is considered to be a personal choice. And in some ways it is. But so is raping, or abusing a child. So when do we call it fair to step in and voice what we see as an injustice?
When one views a socially acceptable practice as an injustice, and openly expresses that perspective to the “perpetrator,” they are often considered to be speaking out of line; to be dabbling in someone else’s business. But when does someone else’s business become our business? If we always kept our unpopular beliefs to ourselves, slavery, as it once was practiced, would still exist. Women would not be showing up to the voting booths, and girls in China would still have their feet bound.
We look back on the pioneers who led those conversations and applaud them. This applause seems to be absent when the pioneers of (hopefully impending) paradigm shifts are in the process of introducing new conversations that challenge current, acceptable practices that they find to be unjust.
Entering new conversations can be scary and awkward. They can be confronting and very uncomfortable. But experiencing these sensations does not justify not entering these conversations. After all, the deer whose head is missing and all the other victims of unjust, yet acceptable, practices experience sensations that are much graver than anything we will experience when we are in challenging conversations and pioneering new paradigms.
As all of this is running through my head, I head back to my computer and see a new posting on the Next Door Neighbor Social Media site. It is not from the owner of the missing deer head. It is from an appreciative neighbor who thanked me for my post. I write back to him and let him know I appreciate his heart.