I’m not really an animal lover. Sure, I like horseback riding and petting a cat and seeing
giraffes at the zoo, but I’ve never considered owning a pet, and I am that random person whose heart does not melt at youtube videos featuring kittens.
I don’t tell this to a lot of people – hardly any, really – because these statements make me sound cold hearted. And I don’t believe that is true of me. My heart is quite tender; it just happens to be directed towards God and people, not animals.
Then came July. My team was at a park, celebrating the birthdays of two of our members. A kid, probably in fifth grade or so, was hanging out and joined in our games. I didn’t see it first hand, but several eyewitnesses say that at one point this kid took a frog, grabbed it by the leg, and repeatedly hurled it against a tree until it was dead. People were horrified, and that shocked our Japanese friends. One teammate overheard two of our friends speaking to each other about the incident, and one of them said, “I guess they don’t do that in America,” as if the incident was quite common in Japan.
Having a heart that doesn’t melt at kittens and puppies has often made me feel like an outsider in American culture. The concept of, “Love me, love my dog” has made me not more affectionate to dogs, but better at hiding my feelings. Still, the American sensibilities have rubbed off on me. I wouldn’t dream of gratuitously killing a frog. The animals I kill I have a concrete reason for disposing of. Mosquitoes, centipedes, fruit flies, even house mice, I will terminate without batting an eye. But I am the one who defends spiders when my friends freak out. I don’t kill ants unless they are inside my house, and therefore like to bring friends. And I don’t kill frogs. I don’t have a reason to. They haven’t done anything to me.
And that is a smaller piece of a bigger picture that I am learning: Even when I feel like I don’t fit into American culture at all, I still carry American traits – in many cases those same
American traits that make me feel excluded – far more than other cultures do.