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The Lion’s Share

The Lion's Share

People around the world are revolted by the actions of Minnesota dentist Walter Palmer who while on a hunt in Zimbabwe, was involved in the killing of a lion. Not just any lion as it turned out, but Cecil, one of the most popular lions in the world and a tourist attraction for Hwange National Park in Zimbabwe. Cecil would have been safe had he remained on park grounds but he was allegedly lured out by Palmer’s guides, who tied an animal carcass to their jeep bringing the lion out onto the property of the ironically named Honest Ndlovu where Palmer shot the lion with a bow and arrow and 40 hours later finished off with a high powered rifle. Palmer then beheaded the lion and skinned him, taking them back to the United States as trophies.

Cecil, named after British businessman and imperialist Cecil Rhodes (for whom the British colony of Rhodesia, which later became Zimbabwe, was also named), was noted for his distinctive black-fringed mane. He often let tourists come within 10 meters of him to take photographs. Current estimates that the loss of the lion will cost Zimbabwe well over $10,000 a day in tourism revenue.

Cecil and another lion, Jericho, had GPS collars affixed to them by the Oxford University Wildlife Conservation Research Unit. It was they who were alerted that something was wrong when Cecil’s collar suddenly stopped sending signals on July 1. When the carcass was discovered, the GPS collar was missing and has as of this date not been found.

Comedian and late night talk show host Jimmy Kimmel put my feelings succinctly when he said that he wasn’t against hunting; if you’re doing it to put food on the table, to thin out the herd when the population can’t be supported or for cultural reasons. However, to shoot an animal just to hang it’s head on your wall or drape it’s skin on your rug is abhorrent. Over the last couple of centuries we have hunted literally hundreds of species into extinction and many more to the brink, including the African lion of which less than 30,000 still roam in the wild.

Some might say and with some justification that nobody mourns for the animals that the lions kill, including Cecil, but Cecil nor any of the other lions killed anything for any other reason but to survive. They kill for food, or to defend their territory – that’s it. They don’t kill to display carcasses, or to compensate for small dicks. All of the people I’ve known who have gone hunting have gone hunting to get food – deer, elk, moose. Nobody I know hunt bears, or mountain lions, or anything else. They consume what they eat.

Killing for “sport” is wasteful and cruel. There’s other reason for it other than to satisfy some sort of egotistical urge. There have been far too many photos posted on Facebook pages of smug, happy white faces posing with the animals they have killed. Folks like Ted Nugent, who have come up in support of Palmer, have no conception of what they are inflicting on the environment. Perhaps in order to qualify for a hunting license, you should first be hunted – put in a forest without any weapons, and then allow the inhabitants to press a button which will napalm the whole mother flicking lot of them. It would be no great loss.

In any case, even Nugent would have to admit that Palmer’s guides used illegal methods to bag this lion. They have been arrested and charged in Zimbabwe already. Zimbabwe is already calling for Palmer’s extradition. Palmer himself has gone into hiding, having closed his dental practice and issuing statements of apology.

Sorry, no can do on accepting the apology, Walt. You need to be accountable for your actions. I think the only way he can redeem himself is to go to Zimbabwe and face the legal system there. Palmer claims that he wasn’t aware that anything illegal was going on; I find that hard to believe but he should be allowed to have his day in court and prove his innocence or have its lack thereof proven by the prosecution.

Of course, being a hunter used to taking down animals with weapons they don’t have any sort of defense against, the odds might not be to his liking. Maybe if we make sure that the prosecuting attorneys are either mute or only speak Aramaic and provide no interpreters than maybe the odds will be a little more like what he’s used to. Or do we have to nail them to their chairs as well?

In any case, even though the Internet has moved on to other things to get its panties in a bunch about, the Palmer-Cecil case remains disturbing on a lot of different levels. I’m not sure what sort of extradition treaty we have with Zimbabwe but I imagine that the United States government would be fairly reluctant to have a citizen, particularly a white professional citizen, delivered up to an African nation to face their justice system and, let’s face it here, the courts of Africa are not known for their fair and impartial proceedings. In fact, it might be more fair to say that the courts are Africa are more notorious for their corruption. Of course, American courts are far from perfect as well.

Besides that, the message that seems to be getting sent by those that agree with the Palmer supporters is that American hunters should be free to go to any sovereign nation anywhere in the world, hunt down their animals with impunity and by whatever means necessary without fear of consequences. That simply will not do. Did Palmer break any laws? I can’t say – I’m not an expert in international law or the laws of Zimbabwe specifically. He may well not have broken any laws over there, in which case he should be acquitted which I would expect to happen with the world watching. However, I do believe that there is an accountability issue here and many of those who are screaming that Palmer should be left alone are the ones who scream loudest about accountability when it comes to birth control and poverty. Dr. Palmer should go to Zimbabwe once more and be accountable for his actions, although I suspect he has no intention of doing so. I’m guessing his plan is to hide out in whatever rathole he is in and wait it out until the outcry dies down (it already has) and re-establish his practice once again, resuming his life where he left off. It’s a cowardly move if that is indeed his intention. Then again, it doesn’t surprise me; a man who would kill a living thing from a distance for no other reason than to hang its head on his wall as a trophy seems to have a deficiency of courage and morality.

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And In the End…

and in the end

The Beatles were one of the great rock bands of all time, and they are a band I listened to throughout my life. Most of those who are familiar with me personally know that John Lennon is one of my all-time heroes, but it is surprising that the single lyric that I believe is the most beautiful and most important written in the 20th century was penned by Paul McCartney. It’s from the Abbey Road album and is simply put “And in the end the love you take is equal to the love you make.” What a beautiful sentiment. Even now, nearly forty years after I first heard it, just listening to McCartney warble it is enough to bring tears to my eyes. Of course, I’m an old softie in that regard.

And it is wrong. It is as hopeful a line as ever written but for most of us, there is an imbalance. Some of us take far more love than we make. Now, I don’t view this as referring to the act of making love; I believe it refers to love given and love received. Now, there are plenty of people who are close enough to balanced to make the line true for most, but when you think of Donald Trump, do you think he has given as much love as he has received? Or Mother Teresa? Or Ellen de Generes? Or even John Lennon?

Lennon was far from perfect. He wrote a song as hopeful as “Imagine” but on the same album  he excoriates McCartney with “How Do You Sleep.” The preaching of love and tolerance on one hand doesn’t mix well with the savaging he gives his old writing partner. I guess it’s easier to love people in general than people in particular.

Still, the sentiment is one to be admired. When I go out, I would like to have given more love than I receive. It’s not a desire to be a martyr or anything like that – trust me, I get plenty of love – but the world needs love, as Burt Bacharach – and John Lennon – have written. These days especially. Love seems to be in short supply. We may mock the hippies for their “peace and love” attitude, but I have to tell you they weren’t wrong on that score. Not that I’m ever going to embrace patchouli oil – that stuff stinks!

And I know, it’s so much easier said than done. I’m guilty of growling that people suck when I see them behave selfishly on the road, or elect another Republican to office. It’s easy to get caught up in the frustration, particular in an era when it feels like selfishness is encouraged and selflessness ridiculed. When being generous and kind is made fun of as a sucker’s game, we’re in trouble as a species.

That’s why we all need to take a step back. I don’t know if you believe in karma, but I do believe that the attitudes we send out are reflected back to us by the world. If you believe the world is out to get you then it likely is. If you believe that the world is a beautiful place then so it is. Sure, that’s not going to insulate you from getting burned – no matter how much love you send into the ether there will always be those who return harm. That’s the nature of the game folks. None of us are exempt from emotional hurt.

And yet what defines us is how we react. Do we lash out and say “Screw everybody, I’m hurt and now I’m going to hurt others instead of getting hurt” or do we get back on the horse and send out our love? Which one do you think makes the world a better place?

And that’s what it boils down to. Do we want to make the world a better place or do we just want to bitch about what a horrible hard place it is? It begins with us. We can’t force others to open the hearts and send good feelings into the world; we can only do it ourselves. We can’t legislate compassion but we can experience it. Rather than blaming the poor for their troubles, we can find ways to make their lives better, either through education or finding them work. Instead of getting angry at climate change deniers, we can take steps to reduce our own carbon footprints. Instead of complaining about politicians, we can actually go out there and find a candidate who is worthy of our support and go out there and vote for them. Talking the talk isn’t enough in this day and age; we have to walk the walk.

And in the end, we can show our love in all sorts of ways, using the skills and talents we are given. Singing a song out loud can brighten the day of someone who needs a pick-me-up; taking out some ice cold sodas to a bunch of guys working out in the summer heat is one way of spreading good karma even if you don’t believe in it; trust me, the act of doing someone a solid is enough to make you feel good for hours.

Lennon did write “All you need is love” and like McCartney he was wrong in that assessment; we need more than love. But we do need love, all of us. We crave it; we wither without it. A kind word or gesture can be as healing as medicine. Hugs can be the stuff of wonderful memories and can color our perception of life and the world around us. Some people write off serial huggers as kooks, but I think that I’d rather be kooky than rational in that regard.

The ills of the world are many and I don’t have any illusions that giving out more hugs and being kinder in general is going to cure many of them, if any. Maybe it’s just a karmic version of shouting into the abyss but by God I’d rather shout into the darkness than cower at it. There is far too much fear and anger and not enough love and compassion. I have to believe the world would be a much better place if we all just made the attempt to be sure that the love we make is at least a little more than the love we take. Isn’t it worth a try? The other way doesn’t seem to be working.