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"That's just the way things are"

posted Jan 3, 2013, 9:12 AM by Scott Slocum   [ updated Jan 3, 2013, 9:21 AM ]
When someone says "that's just the way it is—you should know better" they're trying to convince you to accept things as they are, rather than trying to make them better.

There are a lot of ways to make things better, but for some things it's necessary to improve the law.

There are a lot of reasons for not wanting to improve the law, including one reason that I wish would work better than it does: the idea that people should act out of personal responsibility to honor their neighbors. The argument against passing another law goes this way: "if you pass another law, you dumb-down the system: you make life more about avoiding penalties and less about following the Golden Rule. You fill up the courts, and you empty the churches." God must have said something about that, or the U.S. Constitution—or maybe it was on Hitler's secret agenda, or PETA's. I'm making these tongue-in-cheek references to unrelated but seemingly unchallengeable authorities (pro or con) in an attempt to make fun of the political chat I've been reading lately. The chat areas I'm referring to are in comment sections below online news articles.

One of the online news articles I re-read today was about a little girl who went out on a Saturday outing with her family and their little dog (Pioneer Press, by Dave Orrick, 10/25/2012). A few yards off the trail, near a culvert, the little girl's dog was killed by a lethal trap. Everyone was horrified. One of the few things a person who sets a trap like that in a place like that can be thinking is that "anybody who has a problem with it should know better."


Ella Knox, 6, with Schatzie, a 2-year-old Dachshund-Chihuahua mix, before the small dog was killed Saturday, Oct, 20, 2012, in a trap on public land in Kanabec County. (Courtesy photo)

About a year ago my little dog was killed the same way—out on a walk, playing, and exploring. "It was a perfectly great day until then." We were in a neighborhood open space that we trusted to be safe. A few yards off the trail, in a clump of grass, he was killed by a lethal trap that had been set there by someone who must have just been thinking that "anybody who has a problem with it should know better."

I told the story of my little dog's death to newspapers and TV news programs for two reasons: 1) to correct a terrible situation that I knew would continue to claim the lives of others until it was corrected, and 2) to help people "know better" about how to avoid this kind of danger. My dog's story went online, and in the comment section below each article, a few mean commenters told me that "I should have known better." Almost a year later, I'm reading a similar story and similar comments about a little girl who lost her dog the same way. Her family probably didn't hear my story or take heed of the advice my critics offered. I tried to help them "know better," but I didn't even buy them enough time to get this terrible situation corrected. I think people aren't going to pay much attention, because they reasonably expect dangers like this to be fenced off and marked with warning signs until they can be corrected.

Personal responsibility isn't going to do the trick, either. Almost a year after my little dog's death, the same lethal traps are still being set in the same, careless ways by people who still figure "that's just the way it is." They figure the Golden Rule doesn't apply to "idiots." They figure that "those people should just stay home, keep their mouths shut about things they don't understand, and stop trying to take away other people's rights."

Time for a fact check: nothing I've read in the Gospels, U.S. and State Constitutions, laws and records provides a "right" to carelessly kill people's dogs.

Unfortunately, "the way it is" is still a terrible situation that isn't getting any better through education or goodwill (and if Hitler ever had it on his secret agenda, he lost his chance to crack down on it a while ago). To the contrary, the little commenters (in their little comment sections beneath the news articles) are only getting worse—sometimes with the support of officials quoted in the articles above—planting false ideas and fears about "isolated incidents," "litigious societies," "second-amendment-type rights," "coyote attacks," "spreading diseases," and so on (yes, there is some truth to some of these statements, but only enough to make their falsehoods more believable).

The fact is that students straight out of Minnesota trapper-education courses figure they "know better," and they go out to set unprotected, hidden, lethal traps in recreational areas--contrary to the good, written, repeated advice of their instructors.

The only way society is going to make trapping responsible and careful is by requiring that in law. Never fear, responsible trappers, the only kind of law that will ever pass is the kind that's fair and effective for you, as well. For example, if society could have laws like the Ethics of the Minnesota Trappers Association, society would be doing very well.

I'd end my arguments here, except that the commenters are circling back to their arguments about how ethics are better than laws. So I'll circle back to the part where I pointed out how ethics, education, the Golden Rule, Hitler, etc. haven't resolved this terrible situation. Until there's law behind trapping ethics, my commenters and I will be stuck in this loop.