Friday, July 31, 2015

on Cecil The Lion and activism

This week on social media (Facebook and Twitter) the story of the dentist from Minnesota baiting and killing Cecil, a beloved and protected lion in Zimbabwe, went viral. As people all over the world expressed outrage at the questionably legal "hunt" I noticed another trend.

As the furor over Cecil's death increased, posts and comments began to pop up about other causes that "should be" more important than the death of a lion. Why didn't the story of Sandra Bland go viral? Why were starving children in Africa not getting the same attention as a wild animal? This quickly escalated to posts and comments seeking to shame people for being outraged at Cecil and not at other, more important, issues.

As people linked to more and more petitions seeking to insure justice for Cecil the lion, people naysayed the effectiveness of the outcry, quoting research that indicates that when people click and sign petitions on the internet, no real change happens.

I have a few things to say to all of this.

First, a big bow to each and every person outraged by what was done to Cecil. Killing a cow, dragging its freshly-dead body behind a jeep to lure a protected lion outside his sanctuary so that a dentist from Minnesota can shoot him with a bow and arrow? And then trail the injured lion for 40 hours to behead and skin him, leaving his collar (clear evidence that he was protected) and butchered body to rot? That is not hunting. There is no skill involved in that except happening to have the $50-some thousand dollars to pay for the butchering.

To anyone outraged by that, I say thank you.

Second, caring about Cecil the lion does not preclude caring about Sandra Bland and every other person victimized by police officers. It does not mean we don't care about children who need food. 

What it does mean is that something in Cecil's death struck a nerve and people responded. It's a GOOD thing. Awakening the empathy and outrage against injustice won't stop with caring about Cecil. I bellieve it will expand and have rippling effects that no researcher of the phenomenon of "going viral" can measure or analyze.

And to anyone judging what other humans respond to, what moves them to action, I say go look in the mirror and do some soul-searching about your own self.

We are all unique, the result of our own experiences and personalities and genetics and upbringing. That something strikes me as important enough to participate in a call to action is what makes me who I am. Thankfully we all have our special causes, the ones that move us to action, that get us to stop what we're doing in our lives to speak out, sign a petition, write a letter, vote.

And yes, sometimes social media swarms to create a wave of support. Instead of judging it, ranking the issues as if there is only so much empathy to be had, I believe we should celebrate the undefined thing that pulled so many people into one viral outcry.

That so many people care about Cecil doesn't say they care less about Sandra Bland. It means they still have a heart that can be moved. I believe the ripple effect from that is huge. 


Grey Horse Matters said...

I agree with everything you said. Just because we feel outrage for Cecil doesn't mean we don't care about anything else. I hope they do extradite the dentist and give him the works in the country he murdered that poor lion in. That was not hunting that was no better than chaining an animal to a tree and shooting it. He tortured that poor animal for his own macho bulls**t. Why? So he could be the big white hunter and hang the head and skin on the walls in his man cave. Along with the bear he illegally shot too and who knows how many others. This made me sick when I heard about it.

billie said...

Thanks, Arlene! I have been truly surprised that some people I respect and admire took part in shaming people for caring about Cecil. I still can't quite believe it.

I too hope the dentist is extradited. There should be a consequence for what he did.

Calm, Forward, Straight said...

Here is a link to Jimmy Kimmel's take on the senseless killing of Cecil the lion. I couldn't put it any better than he does. The more I know about humans...

billie said...

Yes, that has been going around on social media. Lots of folks identified with what he said.