Of Lions and Men

We have our heads up our collective asses. This is the only conclusion I can draw in the wake of reactions to recent news stories. Maybe it was ever so. But a lack of clarity and perspective is particularly dangerous now. If we value freedom, we can afford apathy no longer.

I felt bad about the news of the killing of Cecil the lion – for the majestic animal, yes, but mainly for Walter Palmer, the American dentist who shot him. I figured that he was probably the victim of corrupt guides who took an easier route than what they were contractually obligated to provide. When I saw responses on Facebook and heard of Jimmy Fallon’s television tears, I knew that whether or not Palmer shot the protected lion knowingly, his life is now shattered.

The reactions were just so vehement. A coworker of my brother’s ranted: “They need to put this asshole away and throw away the key!”  PETA President Ingrid Newkirk released this statement:

“Hunting is a coward’s pastime. If, as has been reported, this dentist and his guides lured Cecil out of the park with food so as to shoot him on private property, because shooting him in the park would have been illegal, he needs to be extradited, charged, and, preferably, hanged.”

Okay. I get being upset. But this is throwing rationality right out the window.

I wonder if Ms. Newkirk and those who share her sentiments feel the same way about another recent news item – the release of the covert Planned Parenthood videos. My guess? They won’t watch them. If they were forced to, they would not feel similar vitriol towards the people who systematically harvest human body parts for illegal sale. If the Obama administration is an indicator, they certainly won’t. They will simply denounce the reporters, deny that the story is real, and move on to their greater concerns.

Some people react with more intensity about a single dead lion than millions of dead babies in part because they value animals more than people. It is a symptom of a bigger problem. Spiritually, they are stunted. They worship the creation, not the Creator.

The marginalization of humans is nothing new. Genocide and war is as old as human history. The people who object to hunting or animal husbandry altogether assume much. They take it for granted that there will be enough plant-based food and goods if we eliminated reliance upon animals. The more thoughtful among those who share this mindset realize that human population would have to plummet for this to ever be a reality. They have no problem with that.

They seem to take it for granted that under such conditions they would remain safe from dangerous predators. They ignore the crop and property damage and the real suffering, both human and animal, that happen in places where hunting, both human and animal, is limited. They take it for granted that they will have access to needed medicines. Maybe they forget about the crucial part of medical advancement that is animal testing. (Not to mention the myriad societal components that must be in place for advanced methodologies to be available at all.)

The truth is that modern society, indeed all of the natural world, is a complex web of relationships. These relationships are not voluntary, they are necessary. Without them there is no life. There is an interdependence which is often harsh, at least as perceived by the mores of modern civilization. There is no consideration for injustice, tragedy, and suffering. It’s all strategy and utility. Life is, at essence, a giant cooperative venture, the purpose of which seems to be to counterbalance entropy.

We are distracted from this truth. Our outrage is selective and often misplaced. Sympathy flows to the snail darter, the spotted owl, and the catch-all “wetlands” rather than the property owners and others who might benefit from land use. Criminal perpetrators are sometimes treated with more respect than the law enforcement officers who protect their communities.

Proportionality and perspective are out of whack. We get incensed over the denial of a wedding cake for a gay couple, but look the other way as our leaders assist people who systematically kill and torture gays, Christians, or others they deem subhuman. We rally to support Planned Parenthood because of the “good” things they do. I have yet to hear someone defend Walter Palmer on the basis that he did a nice job on their crown.

It’s fair criticism to object to the comparison of unrelated issues to reach meaningful conclusions. Doing so is indeed a logical fallacy. I’m not doing that here. I’m simply placing the reactions to these news items in context. Walter Palmer is currently in hiding. His livelihood, maybe his freedom, is in serious danger. The Planned Parenthood videos did result in tangible action – Republicans moved immediately to block further federal funds for the group. The motion failed.

Whether or not you are personally outraged by the group’s practices, some of your tax dollars continue to flow into their pockets. It is perhaps not so hard to see how people might be upset to not only witness what they see as historically barbaric, but also be forced to contribute to the practice.

Outrage is in abundant supply, common sense and clarity less so. Extremism is on the march. Here are just a handful of examples going on right now:

1)  Planned Parenthood is selling human body parts, illegally, with seeming impunity

2)  Also without fear of legal repercussion, Louis Farrakhan is now inciting his followers to violence

3)  We are aiding the Ayatollah Khameini by turning on a $150 billion funding spigot and establishing only paper barriers to his quest to guide Iran to nuclear power status

4)  Our leadership refuses to stop the tide of illegal immigration, despite the strains on our system and the clear link between the Mexican cartel and anti-Western Islamic terrorist groups

5)  Our government is an overspending juggernaut, and we now owe future generations the equivalent of half of the wealth in the entire world

6)  More and more wealth is the hands of fewer and fewer people, and many of these people are not beholden to our governance (or any other nation’s)

7)  Our public schools are shadows of what they should and could be as they stubbornly cling to structures and methods that suited times gone by and fail to equip our youth for today’s world.

Our country is Balkanized, with tensions growing between demographic groups of all kinds. Increasingly, we lack a common uniting vision. That’s how we have become so myopic. We are soul sick. We don’t understand what truly matters. We often fail to respect the individual – we are too invested in groups and the misnomer “social justice.” This is problematic because groups galvanize around their particular agendas and disconnect from shared outcomes and thus become cancerous to the society as a whole.

The growing outrage continues to be channeled into unhealthy outlets. Bob Dylan sang: “You gotta serve somebody.” He meant that no matter what you do, you are supporting forces larger than yourself. In this case, you either serve the whole of our nation or you, wittingly or unwittingly, help to tear it down.

We must wake up and we must stand as individuals. If not, individualism, the hallmark of the American experiment, will die. We know what the alternative looks like. It looks like despotism and dictatorship. It looks like constant war and strife. It looks like social and technological regression. The spirit of creation, that part of ourselves that is “made in the image of God,” is diminished. These are our fates unless we take action.

Categories: Communication Skills

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