Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Broken Wing

A few years ago I was walking down JFK Street in Harvard Square when I saw a fairly large bird struggling along with a broken wing. The poor thing was in obvious agony and also very frightened, as its avenue of escape from meddling humans was totally debilitated. I stopped traffic for it as it fluttered and staggered across the street to a little park.

As I stood wringing my hands and watching the bird, others gathered around, similarly distraught and useless. Should we scoop it up and try to bring it somewhere to be treated? But scoop it with what, and put it into what container and where could we find treatment for a wild bird?

As we stood with our stricken faces and our helpless strategizing, a young man approached the circle. He assessed the situation in ten or so seconds: suffering bird, pathetic human beings. He walked over a few steps to a big municipal garbage can, picked it up, and with a pained expression on his face, smashed the bird under the garbage can.

The others in the circle were flabbergasted. And yet no one had any words of condemnation for the young man, who was obviously quite miserable about his choice, and who walked away in the most depressed imaginable posture with hands in pockets. How could we argue with his unilaterial act of annhilation? Would it have been better to meander endlessly around our limited options while the bird suffered? Was smashing the bird dead the most merciful course of action?

I have considered that scenario many times since it happened. I still don't have clear answers for questions like, "when does the democratic process do more harm than good?" and "was that kid exerting violent power or tender mercy?" and "should we have berated him for not even saying what he planned to do?" among others. But now I know, because I read Wally Nut's blog,

that this young man may just have been a Boy Scout at one point in his life.

dead bird


Blogger Wally Nut said...

Thank you, Peace Bang. I never could have thought up such a "best use" of the "crush the bird" song's influence. Did the young man, perhaps, "take on" the karmic violence, accept the suffering onto himself, in hopes of alleviating the suffering of the bird as well as the "pathetic human beings"? Is such a sacrifice well advised? Had he consulted with the group, he would have spread the responsibility around, and would not have had to take it all on himself, which would have had the effect of diminishing the power of the sacrifice.


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