I was six years old, playing in the garage with the neighbour kids.
“Kill it or spare it?” someone shouted in my ears.
I tried to recall their last few words from my memory. I think they’ve been discussing the fate of a may bug, and someone proposed an execution.
“I said kill it or spare it,” he shouted again.
I was startled. I didn’t get it. Why would we execute a bug in the first place?
But before I could come up with anything, the debate has moved on to the “how“. Not because we decided on the first question – but because someone proposed electrocuting it. Then it was hanging, but they’ve dismissed that one as silly because the bug was not heavy enough. Someone suggested placing it between two bricks and see how long it lasts. It was as if the question whether to kill was settled by the more complicated one of how to do it.
I finally found my voice and asked why.
“Why, are you a may bug lover?”
Am I? No, I didn’t like may bugs, they were annoying.
But do I have to love them as a species to oppose the idea of killing one? And do they spare the bug if I claim that I have sentimental attachment to it? Would they let it live not because it is wrong to kill, but because someone their own size is against it?
And most pressingly, should I risk my peers’ approval for a bug I don’t even like?
Someone suggested setting the bug on fire and everyone rolled with the new idea. They emptied a box of matches to place the bug in the box “so that it cannot run away” and it was so mesmerizingly cruel that they started doing it without any further ado. I watched in horror as they prepared a tiny pyre for the execution. I started wondering – perhaps in self-defense – where the leftover match sticks would go when we burnt the box.
At the end they didn’t do it. An adult came in and yelled at us.
We were playing with a box of matches next to barrels of gasoline.
This is what I think every time a populist referendum is called.