The Command: An Opinion PieceNov 19, 2021 10:00AM ● By Karen Warrington
A side-top view of an adult spotted lanternfly (Lycorma delicatula) on a wooden rail. Early October. Southeastern Pennsylvania, USA. Image by Walthery via Wikimedia Commons https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Adult_Lycorma_delicatula.jpg
The storm had been billed as a nor'easter, though I have never been clear about exactly what a nor'easter is. For about 24 hours there were periods of pounding rain and significant winds. In some sections of the city, there was flooding that caused detours on major roads and motorists were losing patience with nature. But within days, the sun reappeared and I was busy gathering up the thicket of small branches that were scattered around my yard as a result of the storm that had not really qualified as a nor'easter when I spied a spotted lanternfly.
Without even thinking I smashed the Lycorma Delicatula into the grass while also being struck by how beautifully elegant the insect's delicate wings were. For a moment I felt triumphant because I had ground this invader into the earth. I had vanquished the enemy from China and Vietnam. But slowly doubts emerged. I started to question my fierce reaction. It was so immediate, and I felt mighty, all because people, who I think to know what they are talking about, said I should kill these beautiful flying things. The command had been given and instinctively I followed. Over centuries, many commands have been directed to us. Commands to maim, bomb, incinerate, enslave, and kill can and have been implanted in our brains. And, after a while, we act without thought. It becomes almost automatic. Maybe the spotted lanternfly is a dangerous invasive threat to the environment. And maybe my swift action in the backyard will save a farmer’s crop somewhere. But my instantaneous reaction, for me, was both a warning and a reminder of how easily we can be programmed to hurtfully react, to hate, or even kill without thinking.
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