Lions, Tigers, and Humans, Oh My! About the Life and Outrage


Kevin Carter's famous Pulitzer Prize winning photo, 1993

Kevin Carter’s famous Pulitzer Prize winning photo, 1993

As everyone has heard, Walter Palmer of the United States shot Cecil the Lion in Zimbabwe, causing international outrage and making people hate dentists even more than usual. People are rightfully upset; the lion posed no threat to Palmer, he merely wanted to mount the head (and leave the body) as a trophy, the death served no purpose, and worst of all, the killing was illegal. People are (rightfully) calling for prosecution against him. Others have gone a bit further, arguing that we ought to capture him, hunt him, tie him down, and skin him alive. Of course, such suggestions are hyperbolic, but the rage is there.

Where we aren’t seeing any anger or rage, however, is over other doctors choosing to kill humans and sell their body parts. The videos are so upsetting that even Planned Parenthood’s staunch defender Hillary Clinton admitted that the organization ought to be investigated. Imagine if Jimmy Kimmel broke down in tears over this controversy, or Piers Morgan called for the killing and selling of the doctor’s body parts. Why is it that a lion – majestic though it is – gains more sympathy and attention than a human being, who is infinitely more majestic than a lion?

Rage also lacks in multiple other areas. There are no celebrities shedding tears over the fact that one in three people in sub-Saharan Africa face hunger and starvation on a daily basis, or that nearly half (46%) live on less than $1.25 a day. Africa remains a continent in crisis, but we avoid outrage because such outrage would demand action, and action requires work, and we’re lazy. It’s understandable and noble to be upset over the unjust killing of an African lion; but it’s inexcusable to lack any feeling or outrage over the death or suffering of an African human.

Rage lacks – at least for the white portion of America’s population – for African-Americans who live in fear of the police. A week can’t go by where we hear about another innocent black man (or recently, black woman) getting killed by the police under suspicious circumstances (at best). Yet, more energy is spent over the unjust death of a lion than the unjust death of a black man in an Ohio Walmart, or black child in an Ohio park, or black woman in a Texas jail cell.

The saying “life is cheap” isn’t exactly true; for Dr. Palmer to kill Cecil the Lion it has cost him his business, his reputation, and – hopefully – his freedom. The man deserves justice for what he has done, there is no doubt. Life, for Dr. Palmer, certainly isn’t cheap and comes with a cost. But, there is a certain truthfulness to the saying if we simply say, “Human life is cheap,” unless of course you’re Planned Parenthood, in which case human life is quite profitable.

Lord knows we can’t be outraged over every act of murder, over every loss of life, as we’d simply stew in anger for the rest of our days. It seems that as humans we sometimes require violence on our brethren almost as much as we require oxygen. Their blood is our water, their body is our bread in some twisted, evil, demonic version of the Eucharist. Perhaps, however, we should show some outrage over the loss of human lives. Not just hashtags on Twitter, but protests and – hopefully – action. Not on a legislative level, but on a personal, communal level.

We can ask the government to investigate Planned Parenthood (and we should require such a thing), but we can’t ask them to investigate the life of a woman considering an abortion. Only on the local level can a community come together and help such a woman and provide care. We can ask the government to send money and food to Africa, but we can’t ask them to do so in a sustainable way. After all, such an action is basically neo-colonialism, and colonialism is what got Africa into this mess in the first place. Until we begin to help Africans make Africa stronger on a personal and communal level, we won’t see much change. We can ask the government to put laws in place that keep police accountable, and we should, but there’s only so much they can do. Until the community – especially the white community – stands up against police abuses against African-Americans and other minorities, nothing will change in any drastic way.

Human life is valuable by virtue of being human. Human life is more valuable than any other type of life on this planet. That doesn’t give us an excuse to abuse such life (because we are dependent upon it, and they are still God’s creation and we are their stewards, not masters), it does mean that for all the noble and justified effort we put into preserving animal life, we ought to put at least as much into preserving human life. After all, when we cheapen human life, whether that life belongs to a fetus, a person of a different color, or a person of a different nationality, we inherently devalue our own life as well.

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