Every July our town hosts the Monster Shark Tournament, and most of us put up with it with a shrug and the comment, “It’s good for business.”

We walk past the table set up by Vineyarders Against The Shark Tournament. The nice young ladies solicit signatures for petitions and hand out brochures about how sharks, in earth’s wacky cycles of evolution, are 400 million years old, yet are now imperiled.

Well, how much do we care? We’ve all been thrilled by that mighty movie, Jaws, in which El Monstro devours pretty girls and little kids and Craig Kingsbury (remember the papier-mâché mock-up of his head bouncing from the sea)? Finally the deranged shark rears up with his grin big as a Buick grille beside the putt-putt vessel containing Robert Shaw and Richard Dreyfuss and Roy Scheider, who utters those famous words, “You’re gonna need a bigger boat!”

The best adventure movie of all time! And it was filmed right here on Martha’s Vineyard!

All along, I myself have been sitting on the fence of this shark tourney issue. I’ve even thought it was hypocritical of the anti-sharkers: If any of them were other than righteous vegans, how could they object to others killing? I mean, if they themselves consented to wholesale slaughter to render filets and chops and osso bucco on their tables? I even wrote e-mails to that effect on their message board. I know: I have a penchant for the obnoxious.

Yet now I wish we’d all take a new, clear-eyed look at this shark event. Most of us have viewed, at least once (and we may have pledged to avoid this spectacle for evermore), the colossi of demolished shark carcasses dangling from chains in the parking lot along the waterfront, gore and guts sliding to the asphalt, while the hunters stand by to ascertain which of them are the day’s lucky winners.

Is this a good thing? Is this Very Vineyard? I’m thinking it’s Not So Very, and maybe you’re thinking Not So Very as well.

Every generation in every century flops about and is forced to consider what’s wrong and what’s not working. We no longer host gladiators fighting to the death in amphitheaters, with Christians and lions thrown in for the fun of it. Hangings in the town square as an occasion for picnics and noise-makers and staggering consumption of ale is no longer an entertainment option. No one in this age places thieves and adulteresses and those who’ve used the Lord’s name in vain in pillories and, on a calmer note, no one may blow smoke in our faces, nor are men allowed to pinch women’s fannies as a means of flirtation.

So, not to clobber my beloved readers over the head with a dead shark, but “without sharks, smaller fish take over the ecosystem, causing habitat destruction and eventual catastrophic damage to the global ocean network.” (I’m quoting from the newsletter of Vineyarders Against Shark Tournaments: they know more about this stuff than most of us do.) About 100,000 sharks are killed every day. That’s a lot of sharks!

Fellow and sister townsfolk, sometimes we need to put our cash registers aside, and thank Mother Nature for all things great and small.

But you know what could prove the most miraculous and decisive change of all? The shark hunters themselves, out there in the middle of the ocean, need to pause as they raise their guns to blast their catch to smithereens. “Decisions and revisions which a moment can reverse,” wrote T.S. Eliot.

It will happen, this paradigm shift, whether it’s this July or in a future July. We’re all God’s creatures, and now that so many creatures are threatened, we too stand vulnerable and exposed. We’re all of us — even the Monster Shark boys — in possession of hearts and minds that can be cracked, smacked or gently pried open.