I often wonder, when someone speaks very casually about a deer they shot and gutted, or some farm animal they castrated, or anything of that nature, How can they do that?

When I was a kid, I had a pet mouse named Charlie who escaped and started fucking shit up all over the house. My parents were like “screw this” and set traps, which I immediately set off myself to prevent Charlie from being killed. I couldn’t stand the idea of his tiny dead eyes popping out of his head, his neck crushed beneath the hammer of a mousetrap. Killing anything was simply against my nature.

Fast forward to early adulthood. There’s a mouse infestation at my place of work, and my employer refuses to do anything about it, so I’m forced to do something about it myself. I set traps, stomp them as they run by, smack them with brooms, drop heavy objects on them…and think absolutely nothing of it.

I still can’t clean a fish. It grosses me out and always has, but I imagine if I had to, in order to survive, I’d eventually think nothing of it and it would become as mundane a task as wiping down the kitchen counter or washing my car or making a box of macaroni and cheese.

People can be trained to kill with no remorse. We are all born with this capacity, to some extent. Violence, death and survival are a part of life.

The impetus for this post was my bafflement at the Facebook post of a friend who set a humane trap for a mouse in her house. She captured the rodent and released it outside. What? I thought. Just kill the thing!

And then I remembered Charlie. How did I go from being unable to accept snuffing out the life of this destructive little creature who often bit down hard on my finger and drew blood to “Just kill it?” What other violent acts am I capable of committing, with the right amount of desensitization? Sky is the limit, I would imagine.

We visited a slaughterhouse in South Dakota when I was, oh, seven or eight. It looked like something out of a horror movie. Skinless cattle hanging from hooks, drained of blood. I was flabbergasted. Sickened. And then we went to the little diner next door, which was run by the people who owned the slaughterhouse and ate burgers made from those very same cows(well, the ones who came before them, anyway). That was the day that I accepted and understood, in some rudimentary way, that the food we ate every day came from the suffering and death of other creatures. I respected that, and I still do. I’m grateful for that experience. It desensitized me, but it was a valuable lesson. If you’re going to eat meat, I believe you owe it to that creature you’re consuming to at least be rudimentarily aware of how it came to be on your dinner plate. You are drawing sustenance from its death, after all. Like Shang Tsung from Mortal Kombat sucking the souls from his opponents and gaining strength from them; more or less the same principle, though eating a Whataburger in your car isn’t quite that grandiose.

Sometimes things go haywire and you end up with a Jeffrey Dahmer or a Ted Bundy. Or a CEO or politician who thinks nothing of crushing the heads of those beneath him underfoot as he climbs his way to the top of a pile of (figurative)corpses. Human beings are capable of absolutely anything. Do not let yourself believe for one minute that you’re exempt from reverting back to a state of primitive savagery when the facade of enlightenment and modern convenience is stripped away. You might even eat your neighbor, if it came down to it. Well-done, though, please. Like chicken. Internal temp of 165° Fahrenheit, just to be on the safe side. Slather some BBQ sauce on that motherfucker and toss it on the grill as the world around you descends into post-apocalyptic chaos.

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