When I killed a mockingbird, I of course went and looked up what killing a mockingbird was supposed to mean in TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD. I figured it was some deep voodoo curse or something. Some backwoods Alabama legend where you kill a mockingbird and your family is cursed and your children and your children’s children.
Turns out, no, it’s just Gregory Peck being an asshole. What he’s saying is: if you are going to kill a bird, do not kill the mockingbird in particular. Kill a blue jay instead, because the blue jay’s call is annoying. Whereas the mockingbird creates beautiful songs.
Which– it depends. The mockingbirds around here aren’t covering nightingales or some shit like that. What mockingbirds do is move into an area and sing the songs of competing birds to fake them out. So a sparrow flies by, considers nesting, and then hears the song of another sparrow and thinks: fuck it; I’ll move on.
Except the mockingbirds on my street have been so successful at this that the only birds left are crows, jays, grackles and tits. Tough, guttural sounding birds who don’t give a fuck about the mockingbird; aren’t afraid of their own kind, or of anything. So the mockingbird just sits there all day croaking and rasping like a blue jay, only ten times as loud, on a branch right outside my bedroom window at 4AM.
You hear bird song that is not a mockingbird, you suddenly realize how rare that sound is. You are used to hearing the songs of ten different birds on a loop but louder and shriller than it should be. Somehow the belligerent tone of the mockingbird suffuses these songs. It sounds sweeter and more authentic from the sparrow, but you never hear the sparrow, because the mockingbirds, their strategy of loudly singing every other bird’s song louder and higher and harder, has driven these other birds away.
What is the fucking mockingbird hoping to accomplish here? What is the god damn beef with the sparrows? Are they concerned that there will be a dearth of berries or something? Every berry-bearing tree in Southern California is so heavy with fruit that the streets are black with overripe dropped berry juice. Why do the mockingbirds have to selfishly hoard these resources. There is plenty for the sparrows.
This is the society we live in. A society of mockingbirds. Money, pussy, respect– all going only to the loudest, the brashest, the most aggressive, the dishonest and salesmanly. The bird that will fuck you over is the one who wins. The rest of these delicate passerine birds are left to starve.