As I was writing today, my partner called out: a coyote was in the barn paddock! We ran outside. The chickens and ducks were in an uproar. The coyote loped into the barn and we managed to corner it inside an old manger. What to do? I hate killing anything. But rounding up a live trap of a Sunday afternoon wasn't likely, and there was also the practical matter of convincing the animal into the trap. In the event, trapping it and moving it elsewhere would only send the problem to someone else. Letting it go wasn't much better: we had seen this particular coyote around the barnyard, and it had already taken five turkey poults (and the hen), two half-gown ducklings and 17 chicks. Killing it seemed the most practical thing. So much for Quaker non-violence, I thought.

So we called our neighbour and asked him to bring his shotgun. He killed it. It was a young male, scabby, emaciated and nearly furless from mange. Young male coyotes this time of year break off from their home packs and establish their own territories. I guess this particular coyote made an unfortunate choice. I regret having to kill him, but in the larger sense of having to kill anything. I have lived in the country long enough not to sentimentalize any animal, and this particular animal was treating our livestock as its personal buffet.

The (small) irony is that I was writing about Canada and the war in Afganistan; supporters of the war, I suppose, would draw analogies between the necessity of killing this coyote and the war on terror. I don't accept the analogy: people have moral agency and that spark of the Divine. Coyotes don't, or aren't at least concious of it.

At least, I think, the episode called my attention in a small way to how supporters of the war see it, and made me think about how I integrate concepts of nonviolence and peace into my own life. It is probably too easy to pass judgment on those who support the war from my safe perch on the other side of the argument. I came home from Meeting today self-righteous, riding my high horse, feeling generally provoked. I had reflected all this week about how this conflict had gradually and subtly transformed over this past summer from a "reconstruction mission" to a war. And then there was this from an article buried on page A15 in the Globe and Mail yesterday:
Many of the fighters killed [in Operation Medusa] — perhaps half of them, by one estimate — were not Taliban stalwarts, but local farmers who reportedly revolted against corrupt policing and tribal persecution. It appears the Taliban did not choose the Panjwai district as a battleground merely because the irrigation trenches and dry canals provided good hiding places, but because many villagers were willing to give them food, shelter — even sons for the fight — in exchange for freedom from the local authorities. . . But there are troubling signs that the area may be sliding back toward the same conditions that sparked the violent revolt. [Italics mine.]

Evidently, the Canadian government is upholding unjust governance against what the Afgani peasantry perceives --- rightly or wrongly --- as a liberating force, the Taliban. It is hard to imagine a more compromising position for the Canadian government, waging war in notoriously difficult terrain.

And so I went to Meeting thinking of this. Someone gave ministry: which side are you on, he asked, on the side of Christ and peace, or on the side of war?

Killing the coyote made me think of the old story of William Penn's sword: wear it while you can, said George Fox. We all want to be on the side of Christ, Prince of Peace, but we all carry the sword --- a sword of violence --- in our hearts. The thought of this is humbling. As I carry the peace testimony with me, killing this coyote reminds me that I am human too, and so are those who carry war in their hearts. They aren't the enemy and deserve better from me than my petty judgments.

No comments: