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.