The Mouse That Squeaked

Killing is easy, in the abstract. Killing when you've seen a face, that's hard. Even if the face has a long nose and whiskers.

cute little field mouseA mouse has been ravaging the kitchen lately. My wife, being a soft-hearted woman, prefers live traps, and we'd used one successfuly before, but it was a pain and took forever. We tried smaller ones this time, without success. So she agreed to taking more drastic measures, and went to get a different trap, which turned out to be a glue trap.

Not long after we put it out, she came in and said despondently "it worked". We discussed ways of killing our hapless victim. She seemed sad, so I volunteered to do it. After all, I'm a man - killing is in my blood. Right? I was just going to throw it in the garbage, but she suggested drowning as the most humane. Whatever, there are lots of ways to wreak destruction on a small helpless creature. I went to the kitchen, prepared to 'take care of the problem' with no remorse - after all, its just a mouse.

A cute mouse. A cute, sad, mouse, with all 4 feet and its nose stuck in the glue. Scared and wriggling. My murdering man-blood ran cold as I began to regret my rash assignment. Crap, maybe I'm soft-hearted too. Backpedaling, I looked for the trap box, hoping it had a release mechanism. The instructions suggested, with pictures, that you just throw the trap in the garbage when "used", but in small print below it said "For humane release, use vegetable oil and a pencil".

Normally, one would not expect instructions involving vegetable oil and a pencil to make one feel relief, but this was an exception. We put on gloves, grabbed the trap and materials, and hopped in the car. Drove to a nearby park, doused the poor lil' fellow in oil, and gently pried up his stuck extremeties. He squeaked in thanks (well, that or terrible, terrible fear, but y'know, close enough) and ran off to hide under a leaf.

The metaphor to war here is so obvious I shouldn't even have to say it, but I will, cuz y'know, hammering home a point is hella fun. Giving orders to kill is easy, doing the killing is hard. There is a reason why war so often involves demonizing the enemy - because killing demons is far more bearable than killing humans.

Now, I'm not making some sissy Quaker war-is-always-wrong statement. It's sometimes right to kill. But I think its worth noting just how different the costs of visceral and abstract killing are, and thus the cost/benefit ratios. I can't help but wonder if this is a way we've gone backwards in the modern world. As killing decisions get more abstract (because of distance-killing tech, and larger armies with deeper command structures), do we kill more lightly? On the other (just as depressing) hand, historical people don't seem to have had much trouble viscerally killing those from other tribes.

Back to our mouse: dunno if the glue will cause long term problems, but hey, we did the best we could. He's got a better chance than if we'd drowned him. And if he does get stuck, well, at least I won't have to see it.

Share this