When I first heard about “Cecil the Lion,” I immediately thought about the movie “Born Free,” the emotional story about how a Kenyan couple raises an orphaned lioness named Elsa, and then are forced, sadly, to release her back into the wild.
It was a heartbreaking story, and one which pitted a loving relationship between ‘beast and man’ and the harsh realities of the jungle.
It was also a story about what happens when man magnanimously interferes with the natural order of things, denies a lion its rightful place on the food chain and forestalls the harsh realities of self-preservation in the wilderness.
In the case of Elsa, death only came knocking at the door – she survived and went on to rear her own pride. For Cecil, death came quickly and unexpectedly – like a thief in the night searching for a beholden and golden trophy.
Those two lion stories made me wonder why man is so fascinated by the sufferings of the “King of the Beasts.” Are lions any different from other animals? Is their death more illogical or harder to comprehend than say that of a deer or a bear, or even a zebra or a moose?
How about the death of man himself?
Oh yes, I forgot, lions are called the “King of the Jungle,” the most majestic, fiercest, and barbaric, meat-eating species of them all. For that, they demand the greatest respect and the most charismatic death imaginable.
Of course, a collared and protected lion hunted down and lured from its safe haven then butchered for sport should outrage everyone – unless, of course, you are a trophy game hunter.
But who ever heard of Cecil the Lion before this $50,000 trophy kill?
None of us – not here in America and not in most other countries around the world.
Even some of the people who live in Zimbabwe, that were interviewed, say they never heard much about Cecil the Lion. Some of them even said they didn’t understand what all the fuss was about – that sort of thing happens there on a daily basis.
But now, Cecil is – posthumously – a worldwide, phenomena.
If an unknown lion’s murder unleashes such outrage, anger and emotion in America, where is that same reaction when humans are beheaded, aborted, gassed, enslaved, murdered or put to death for reasons that even a lion itself may find intolerable?
Where was that same outrage when 4 Marines were shot and killed by a mentally ill gunman in Chattanooga last week? Where were all the Facebook and Twitter posts and the international condemnation at that moment?
It is absurd how society spins the murders and genocide of animals and humans against each other to suit and convenience its own insatiable desires or to deny or defend the atrocities of others.
Why do we mourn the killing of a King of the Beasts but show indifference to the barbaric fatalities of our own species?
Maybe we should ask ourselves why the death of a lion – that we never heard of before – infuriates us more than the slaughter of humans and invokes our higher indignation.
Could it be because we see the murder of the lion in contrast to our own inadequacies to prevent the killings of our own species?
Does that sound unsettling? Does it awaken some unnerving, raw insensibility?
Our love for animals is a wonderful thing, and we should be angry when a protected species is hunted down and butchered. And the people who are responsible should be punished.
But on the next day, when we sit down at our breakfast table, and pick up the newspaper and see another story of a group of Catholic schoolgirls murdered in Nigeria by Boko Haram, will we view it with the same outrage and disgust that we did for the murder of Cecil the Lion?
Will we go to Twitter and Facebook and post our disdain and cry out for revenge, or will we callously shake our heads then flip over to the entertainment section?
Will the White House press secretary announce an investigation and promise swift capture and extradition of the responsible parties?
It’s easy to be angry at one man who killed a defenseless lion – he’s an easy predator for society to hunt down and punish. But who wants to be bothered seeking justice and sounding the charge to avenge the slaughter and murders of thousands of innocent people who have done absolutely nothing wrong?
That would be a much harder burden to bear, and one which would interfere with the political, religious and economic aspirations of many countries around the world.
The death of Cecil the Lion may be a tragic story, but let’s stop making believe that it is the only tragedy in the world today.
Let’s not forget about the thousands of people who have already been killed and are still being slaughtered on a daily basis, but haven’t warranted the same social and multi-media coverage and Page One headlines.
All life is precious – not just a lion’s.
Maybe we should take some of that outrage we have for Cecil the Lion’s death – and apply it to where we can save lots of human lives in those other killing fields around the world.
Joseph E. Rathjen is a freelance writer and an Opinion Writer at 1World Online – America’s Fastest Growing Social Research Engine