I was very young when I first heard the term conscientious objector. My parents were watching tv and someone was talking about some famous person who had refused to go to Vietnam. I’m fairly sure it was Muhammad Ali.
I was already a lover of words at the time, and the size of the phrase impressed me. I asked my dad what it meant, and he told me ‘It means he refused to go to Vietnam because he didn’t want to kill anybody because of religious reasons.’ I thought that sounded like a solid belief.
Even at that young age I wondered why anyone would ever agree to kill anyone, especially someone they didn’t even know, because someone told them to, for whatever reason. I vowed to remember that phrase in case it ever ended up being my turn to get drafted. I would be a conscientious objector. I was never going to kill anyone for any reason.
Eventually this idea of non-killing and non-harm extended into all aspects of my life. I had felt conflicted about eating meat from the time I realized that my meatballs had once been cows, and my chicken nuggets had once been actual chickens! The older I got the less meat I ate, until I ultimately gave it up for good. I was never again going to have a dead animal on my plate or in my body.
I had always been afraid of spiders and centipedes, and my first instinct would be to smush them or step on them. But the more I opened myself up to kindness and compassion for all living creatures the harder it became to reconcile that behavior. So, I put a cup over the bug and send it outside, or simply let it be. I won’t ever purposely squash the life out of a bug.
Now, my government is asking me to kill the Spotted Lanternfly. Ever since I heard the announcement, I’ve been hoping I don’t come across one. This beautiful, but invasive little bugger likes to eat plants and can destroy certain crops. I understand wanting to protect grapes, walnuts, etc.. I will report them, but I am not going to kill them. I can’t and I won’t. Don’t even try to change my mind.
I won’t tell you not to join the army, or eat a burger, or kill a centipede. Don’t tell me to kill a lanternfly. I am a conscientious objector. I will float like a lanternfly, sting like a bee.