We Need To Talk About Cecil

CeciltheLion

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.)

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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.

Looks Like SOPA Dropped the Soap

There is nothing in this world that I dislike more than feeling morally obligated to participate in a protest. They are usually just so time consuming and messy; and it typically just makes me more jaded about the world in general as a result of the number of people that are there yet unaware of why. I will never forget the time my boss sent me to a protest of some health care thing when I worked for the AFL-CIO, only to feel like complete shit about my own life afterwards because I was fighting for health insurance for a group of workers when I, myself, was not being given health insurance by my employer that sent me there in the first place. Protests can be effective, but they can also be very ineffective, and in many ways.

But this SOPA/PIPA deal is a whole other ball game.

You all know how I feel about the film industry. If you don’t, you can get an idea by reading the Open Letter to the Film Industry I wrote a while back when I was pissed off about how many hours my husband was working for not one red penny of extra pay. In a nut shell, the film industry ranks up there pretty high alongside protests with things in this world that I really dislike. Not only do I feel that it is in some ways responsible for the end of my career in academia (for there are few philosophers in Hollywood, and yet Hollywood is where the husband must stay); but so much about it just reeks of greed, insensitivity, and a way of thinking that is inconsistent with the moral right. The film industry days of Cary Grant and Gloria Swanson have been gone for a long time; replaced by an industry that identifies everything by the almighty dollar. SOPA and it’s lame ass cousin, PIPA, are just more of that.

Now I’m not going to sit here and give you all a Congressional rundown of what SOPA and PIPA are because you should know that. If you don’t, read the news or hit up Wikipedia; of course this will also require that you get your head out of the ground for a few minutes, which I’m not sure a lot of people are all-too-willing to do. So I won’t go much beyond saying that they are bills working their way through Congress that are intended to strengthen the film (and, in some senses, music) industry against online piracy. (And if you still can’t find the information, just read the Wikipedia on it; although at midnight EST, Wiki will be protesting as well by enforcing an entire-site outage for 24 hours.)

I will, however, explain quite clearly what is wrong with SOPA.

SOPA/PIPA is an utter violation of our First Amendment right to freedom of speech.

It is a slippery slope when you start writing bills that give people the opportunity to whistle blow or claim false copyright/piracy infringement on intellectual property, which SOPA and PIPA both do. Perhaps the most frightening aspects of the bill are in the consequences: that search engines like Google could be forced to stop indexing articles written by a so-called offender; that Internet Service Providers be required to block access to any site participating in or related to the supposed violation.

While I am all for an end to piracy, censorship and directly stripping the rights guaranteed as a part of being a “free” individual is not the way to do it.

So it looks like SOPA dropped the soap…

Yesterday, Wikipedia announced that it will be participating in an international protest of SOPA by “going dark;” today, Google followed up by committing to an inclusion of the protest on the homepage of Google products. At the latest check about one hour ago, over 7,000 additional websites have committed to go down, displaying nothing more than a message of protest when visitors visit the page from 12:00 am – 11:59 pm on January 18th. Hundreds of bloggers are jumping on the bandwagon as well – as writing, journalism, and blogging are among the most vulnerable groups that will be adversely affected by the proposed bills.

So it looks like SOPA has officially dropped the soap, for I fully expect that the outrage these bills have inspired will kill them quicker than the innocence of a new guy in the prison ward. As annoying as it may be to have so many websites we use on a daily basis down, and as stupid as it is that we have to launch an international protest over something that should be common sense – protest really seems to be the only morally right option.

There are better ways to protect the film and music industry without destroying the free speech of all.

To be honest, after being married to someone who works in the film industry, I am in no way surprised that it has made it this far. The film industry is run by primarily greedy, selfish people – people that care only about the bottom line dollar amount that makes its way into their pockets. They will screw anyone and everyone to get ahead, and the worst part is that the people that work within the film industry don’t even recognize this. The bias most people within the industry carry blinds them to a myriad of injustices that they unintentionally contribute to – from bad labor practices to unfair wages to these issues of censorship. But that doesn’t make it any less sickening to see the special interests of a handful threatening the rights and freedoms of everyone.

So, faithful blog followers, I’m sad to say that the B(itch)Log will be taken down for the 24 hour protest, and many of my blogging counterparts plan to do the same. I apologize for the inconvenience, although I’m fairly certain the only ones who will be truly inconvenienced are all these weirdos looking for photos of a Korean hooker. I hope the rest of you do the same as I am – call your local representative, take down your site, refuse to be censored. It is so much more difficult to get your freedom of speech back once it has been taken away. I hate protests. But I hate the silencing of my voice even more.