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Alternative view to Wise Guyde

By Staff | Mar 25, 2016

Have you ever felt that it is easier to love your dog than it is to love your neighbor? (Even when the dog decides to eat your flip-flops?)

I suggest that in our culture we overvalue animal life (as we criticize Caesar Millan’s harshness) and undervalue human life (as we turn a blind eye to abortion and human trafficking). In that vein, I believe it is important to present an alternative to an idea that Bill O’Brien asserted in the March 11 “Wise Guyde” column. The article suggests that obtaining a higher stage of consciousness would lead us to believe that “humans are not necessarily superior to animals.”

One way to test an idea is to take it to its logical end. Let’s try that approach. There are a million examples of how humans and animals interact. They funny ones end up on YouTube and suck up too much of my time. Yet, almost any interaction would lead to a strange conclusion if we view animals as equals with humans. I’ll pick one example.

Imagine, a relaxing Saturday morning with a nice cup of coffee. You sit down with the latest issue of The Chronicle. Before you finish reading the headlines you notice a strange sound coming from the ceiling. Investigation reveals that a family of raccoons has taken up residence in your attic. If you believe that humans are not superior to animals then you have no special rights or authority over them. In that case, what are your options? Removing or killing the raccoons would be exercising dominion over them and therefore inconsistent with your beliefs. Staying consistent with your belief would mean that you share your space. It is probably a good idea to throw an apple up there every once in a while, because if they come down, well, let’s just say that you better be up-to-date on your vaccinations.

Now, you many think this is a silly story. I agree with you. Yet, it illustrates what I believe is a proper logical end when someone believes that humans and animals are equal. My belief system would allow me to exercise my authority and evict these animals. I even claim the right to kill them if they were rabid or if they posed a threat to my family or neighbors. (As a side note, I always hand down a death sentence to Stink Bugs. I invite you to do the same.)

Someone who believes that humans are not superior to a raccoon might object to my story. One might counter by saying, “Raccoons need to respect a human’s home just like we are expected to respect their nest in a tree.” There needs to be mutual respect. If the raccoons don’t respect my property then I can be consistent with my beliefs and evict them.” However, things start to get murky when you try to decide who owns the house. It is quite possible that raccoon ancestors lived on your property before your house was built, and if no creature is superior to another then why is your ownership of the attic more valid than theirs? That poor raccoon can’t file the paperwork with Jefferson County. Should he be punished for not having a deed filed with the county? Maybe laws should be changed to evict you and turn the property over to the raccoons.

To be clear, I do not believe anyone (including Bill O’Brien) is prepared to support such legislation. Yet, I believe it is important to consider the logical end of any idea. I should also mention that I consider Bill a neighbor and a friend. I challenge us all to think more deeply about the topic Bill presented. This is particularly important at a time when Shepherdstown is considering “Home Rule” and we may begin forming local laws (which always come from foundational beliefs within ourselves about how we value life and authority).

In the open marketplace of ideas afforded us by the First Amendment we should look for alternatives that balance human authority with compassion for nature. One of the many alternatives comes from the Bible. The Bible tells us that animals are a special creation of God, but they are not “one” with us. Humans were created with our own uniqueness (Genesis 1:27). The Bible says that humans have been given authority over animals (Genesis 1:26). Yes, even the authority over life and death decisions (Genesis 9:3). The Bible offers a model of how to be kind and compassionate to those under our authority. It tells us how God (who has authority over us) did not spare his own son to offer salvation to us (John 3:16-18). I submit this alternative view for your consideration.

Even my Atheist friends tell me that they could justify removing or killing the raccoons and remain consistent with their beliefs. They reach that conclusion by a different path, but end up at the same place.

As a final thought, I adore my dog. Yet, if there was ever a strange set of circumstances where I could only choose to save my dog or my neighbor I pledge to always choose my neighbor. Even if you are the guy who scratched my car last week.

Matthew Rohrer