When I was 10 years old, I took two eggs from a pigeon nest that was on my grandmother’s porch and threw them onto the street. The mother and father pigeons hovered over the smashed eggs, squawking in anguish over what I had done.
My grandmother, who saw what happened, told me if my conscience did not bother me then, it would bother me when I grew up. How right she was.
This childhood episode was on my mind when I wrote my essay “US Senate should condemn Inhofe’s cruelty” (published March 19 in the DailyMessenger), which describes what investigators from Showing Animals Respect and Kindness observed when they attended the live pigeon shoots held every year by Sen. James Inhofe, R-Oklahoma. The majority of birds aren’t killed instantly and are left to suffer without food, water, shelter or veterinary care. Some wounded pigeons are kicked across the ground or propelled back into the air to be shot again or are tossed alive into plastic bags along with dead birds for disposal.
I also brought my concerns to the attention of New York’s Democratic Sens. Kirsten Gillibrand and Charles Schumer; to U.S. Reps. Earl Blumenauer and Vern Buchanan — the Democratic and Republican chairmen of the bipartisan Congressional Animal Protection Caucus; to local Republican U.S. Rep. Chris Collins and to several other members of Congress. I asked them, assuming they disagreed with Inhofe’s cruel fundraising event, to express their disapproval to him. I concluded in a letter to Sen. John McCain, R-Arizona — I admire McCain’s courage under the most brutal conditions of confinement when he was a prisoner of war in North Vietnam — “Just as you cried out to God when you were a POW, I believe tortured animals also cry out to God in their pain. Please help them.”
After receiving no responses from any elected official, I faxed a letter directly to Inhofe on May 19.
Dear Sen. Inhofe: “I am asking you man to man, Christian to Christian, (I was baptized three years ago) to stop your fundraising pigeon shoots. We ask God in our prayers to be merciful to us. Just as God has dominion over us humans, we were given dominion over animals on our planet. They have the same right to mercy from us as we want mercy from God and Jesus. I believe the unnecessary killing, maiming and suffering of the birds at your pigeon shoots is a black mark in heaven for you. You can’t change the past, but you can repent, ask God for forgiveness, and try to make amends.
“I recently read an article that you and Sen. Cory Booker participate in the same Bible study. I would suggest you discuss with Sen. Booker the matter of the pigeon shoots and seek his opinion about the morality of such events. Certainly, the Bible teaches us to respect all life. Imagine God, Jesus and the angels observing the goings-on at your pigeon shoots. Do you really think they approve of these activities?”
To date, no reply.
Inhofe’s 2014 Democratic opponent, Matt Silverstein, posted on his campaign Facebook page: “The video I saw yesterday of Sen. Inhofe’s fundraiser where they kill hundreds of pigeons for fun was nauseating and has nothing to do with the Second Amendment, which I support, and it certainly has nothing to do with hunting, which I also support. In fact, every hunter I know expressed outrage and disgust at this event.”
Inhofe’s colleagues may think it is more important not to step on the toes of a powerful senator than to confront him with his cruelty. They remind me of a famous 1964 murder in Queens when Winston Moseley stabbed Kitty Genovese to death while dozens of neighbors, from the safety of their apartments, watched the attack and did nothing to stop it. They didn’t even call the police until it was too late.
I met Moseley in 1976, during visits to Attica Correctional Facility, where Moseley was serving a life sentence for the murder. At the time, Moseley was chairman of the inmate liaison committee, and I talked with him, other inmates, corrections officers and prison officials about Attica conditions five years after the bloody 1971 prison riot.
Moseley also commented on the sociological aspects of the Genovese murder, suggesting “perhaps the crimes of indifference and non-caring are the worst crimes of all.” These are words to ponder whenever we look the other way when cruelty and injustice exist. And it is especially tragic when those who are elected to positions of authority and trust will not interfere when a colleague engages in horrific wrongdoing.
Joel Freedman, of Canandaigua, is a frequent Messenger Post contributor.