We Need To Talk About Cecil
I was called an idiot over social media today. Facebook. Comments. Big surprise.
I had commented on one of the hundreds of articles shared this week regarding the death of Cecil the Lion. If you don’t know what happened – i.e. you live under a rock – Zimbabwe’s, and perhaps the world’s, most beloved black-maned lion, Cecil, was shot with a cross-bow by a hunter that paid roughly $55,000 for one of his routine hunting excursions.
The details and the truth of how Cecil – a radio collared animal – was killed and beheaded are still to be uncovered, and the bullshit needs to be filtered out. The dentist who fired the shot, from Minnesota, claims that he was unaware it was Cecil, and that he believed he was paying for legal hunting led by professional trappers. But the semantics are muddied, and I’m sure it’ll be a while before everything comes out.
Today, news has broken that the many cubs Cecil fathered will likely fall the same untimely fate as their father; but not by the hands of poachers, rather the animal kingdom. As I scrolled through my Facebook feed this morning, I counted no less than fourteen shared articles explaining to us laymans of the world how the cubs will likely be killed by the new head lion of the pack, to assert his dominance as well as to bring Cecil’s bitches into heat (you know, so he can spread his own seed around the pack). One analyst actually referred to it as “like an episode of Game of Thrones” – as though we Americans are too stupid to understand a concept without it being analogized with a popular television show.
Not a single, however, called it what it is: what happens in nature.
What we do know is that the world has lost its fucking mind, yet again, over someone that has hunted for sport – more so now, I believe, because Cecil was so beloved. The man has had to close his dental practice for the safety of his patients; and the world of social media commenters has joined in the demand that he (the dentist) be poached in the way that Cecil was.
People have called him everything from murderer to limp dick, and Jimmy Kimmel broke down crying on air last night as he asked the dentist if erectile problems were the reason for hunting poor Cecil.
Some are even calling for the United States government to break its own laws and extradite the guy back to Zimbabwe; even after hearing from lion protection groups that the guy didn’t do a single thing illegally, at least as they can tell now; and it was the two “hired professionals” that had acted wrongly.
So before I go on, lest I befell the same sort of Internet mayhem as anyone else not clearly on the side of the majority: I think that poaching is wrong. I think that even legally hunting innocent animals is – at best – questionable. I am skeptical that selling licenses for hunting exotic animals goes back into a financial reserve to preserve endangered species, as many of the African governments claim.
To be clear: I think it was terrible and tragic that Cecil the lion was killed. And, I hope that the truth to what happened, and adequate justice, is found.
But, on the flip side, I am horrified by the way the general population is handling its feelings about this.
1. There are a lot of other animals and people dying unjustly every day, and no one gives a single fuck about them.
For every cause, there are twenty like it that go undiscussed. I know, I understand that.
This was like when people were doing the Ice Bucket Challenge, and all sorts of analysts and fundraisers came back and said “hey…hows about you guys spread some of that love over here.” The truth to the matter was that – logically – every dollar donated to ALS was a dollar not donated elsewhere; and while every cause needs funds, the love should – from a philanthropic standpoint – be spread around a little more evenly. That’s the problem with overly popular campaigns: they make things less equal, and more like capitalism.
There is no such thing as capitalism in social causes.
The same goes for this outrage of the death of Cecil the Lion. People – if they really cared about the social good of both human as well as animal society – would be spreading their outrage a little more evenly.
They would be calling out the murderers in positions of power who continue to commit genocides on a daily basis.
They would start online petitions and awareness drives to end death by starvation in their own communities.
Jimmy Kimmel would break down crying on air every time there is a mass shooting, or a race-related death (i.e. he would break down crying nightly).
But this is not what anyone does. What they do is they get really really REALLY fucking upset about one thing; one thing that happens to be really popular to be upset about. Then they go ballistic online and in other forums about it for whatever period of time everyone else in the world goes ballistic about it. Then it all sort of fades away and everyone forgets about it, going back to regular life until the next big popular thing to get up in arms over comes up.
People respond to that criticism by saying “well, you can’t spend all your time mad at the world.” OK, sure – that doesn’t seem healthy. But you know what else is unhealthy? IGNORING PROBLEMS THAT EXIST BECAUSE YOU DON’T WANT YOUR FEELS TO BE IN A JUMBLE ALL THE TIME.
I would never – not in a million years – do a cancer walk or an ALS run and yell as I went through it: “there are several other diseases you people are ignoring here!!” But the truth to the matter is just that: there are several other issues that no one knows of or gives a shit about. At. ALL.
Maybe, just maybe, people need to find the right time and the appropriate place, and start talking about that. They need to learn more and have more of a conversation, on a regular, if not daily, basis.
I have chosen routine Facebook comments. That’ll be totally effective …right?
(I am half-kidding.)
2. Death threats and public suggestions that a person be murdered make me think we aren’t much further along as a society than the lynchings that when on during the time of the Salem Witch Trials.
Jesus Christ on a piece of toast: we have not come very far as a society.
Mob mentality is still a very real, and very frightening thing. I already knew this, and I hope all of you did too. But beyond that, it isn’t just mob mentality, it’s lynching mentality. We – in America – are so quick to jump to conclusions, judge what we deem the appropriate responses to said conclusions, and grab our flaming sticks to go out on a witch hunt.
Do any of you know how many innocent men, women, and children lost their lives during the Salem Witch Trials because of mob mentality, lynching mentality, and public witch hunts?
There are a lot of times in recent history where tragedies have struck at the hands of others, and it’s obvious what happened and how it should be handled. And then there are other times that the facts are more muddied in speculation, or there are a lot of factors involved that need to be carefully weeded through by professionals before the lynching mob heads out with their guns and flamethrowers.
The most terrifying thing in all of it, though, is that we – as a society – just don’t trust anyone anymore. We don’t trust our governments. We don’t trust our laws. We don’t trust our law enforcement. All of this is with adequate and good reason, and yet rather than try to fix the problems with all of those so that we can trust our governments, and our laws, and our law enforcement again, we’ve somehow decided that none of that will be as good as taking matters into our own hands.
Arming ourselves with our guns. Sending our death threats. Banding together with flames in hand to fix matters without any sort of due process or time to let our emotions cool down a bit.
Ironically, this mob mentality is the state of nature that we created laws to prevent; and we don’t like the state of nature. We don’t like that when a lion gets killed, his cubs will be killed by the next incoming leader. We don’t like that the innocent fall to the hands of those with the bigger and better weapons.
I feel as though we need to remind ourselves that what makes us special in this animal kingdom on Earth is the beauty in our ability to reason, to think and to talk. Death threats, calling people limp dick, forming emotion-driven lynching mobs, all-the-while keeping silent about real and pressing issues going on around us all day, destroys that beauty of the human experience. Open your mouths, and say something reasonable. Open your mouths and talk about all these issues.
Cecil the lion was a majestic creature. All animals, except ones that have me inside their mouths, are beautiful. But human beings are – or have the capacity to be -beautiful too. We, after all, are just animals ourselves.