April 13, 2009

I wonder if many Nazis were birders. I have to imagine so.

Birding certainly accustoms one to the discourse of the fetishized ‘autochthonous’ and the hated ‘alien.’ Passer domesticus, Sturnus vulgaris, and Columba livia are the only bird species (out of roughly 1000) not protected by US and Canadian law. Furthermore, citizens are explicitly encouraged by the government to ‘exterminate’ or ‘eliminate’ these cosmopolitan pests.

I was chilled to find Herder’s organic racialism and Nordau’s Entartung so familiar when I first learned of them. Shocking to realize that one was brought up taking for granted rhetoric that has led to genocide.

The perverse thing is that birds actually do enact the nativist nightmare. Those alien species really do parasitically supplant aboriginal ones. Maybe the American white supremacists we hear so much about were home-schooled rural children who never got a dose of European history to counter their bird-ID merit badges.

I’ve rarely been sadder than on the day I realized that, not only did we bring House Sparrows to the New World: they are our avian analogue.

I’d write a book called The End of History and The Last Passerine, but I wouldn’t want Francis Fukayama to think I was making fun of him.


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