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.


The Soul of a Nation: An Alternative View to Preventing the Ebola “Crisis”

DSC02073First, let’s get a few things straight:

In 2010:

  • 600,000 Americans died from heart disease, but no one called for us to ban fatty foods.
  • 73,000 died from diabetes, forcing Wilford Brimley to lose many people he knew, but no one called for bans against sugar.
  • 54,000 died from the flu, but no one called for travel bans from state to state or countries known to have the flu. It didn’t get reported.
  • A guy dies from Ebola and suddenly we want to close off all of Africa, take our kids out of school, and burn Texas to the ground (might not be a bad idea that last one).

People, perspective, please. You do understand the media is for-profit, correct? They have to scare you in order to get you to pay attention to them, that way advertisers will pay them more money and increase their profits. It’s not a coincidence that as viewership and subscriptions to traditional media waned around a decade ago that suddenly everything became ‘breaking news’ and a ‘crisis.’ Stop buying into their scare tactics, look up the facts yourself, and realize that even with the Dallas hospital totally screwing up the first known case of Ebola, an outbreak still didn’t occur.

Regardless, Thomas Eric Duncan passed away from ebola in the United States, sending panic and fear to everyone. Even though his death has much more to do with the hospital mishandling his condition (by releasing him the first time he came in), none of his relatives contracted the disease even though he was showing severe symptoms. In fact, to date, only two people have contracted ebola from the late Mr. Duncan, both of whom were nurses who were in close contact with him. More than likely there was a mishap in their sanitation and protection, leading them to contracting the disease.

Now, what Mr. Duncan’s passing and the nurse’s contracting ebola shows us is that while ebola isn’t really a threat to the US (even in west Africa you’re more likely to contract HIV than ebola) population, the CDC is really full of it. What I mean is their claim that if a highly contagious disease were to ever hit our shores, we’d be ready to stop it. If anything, ebola has shown us that we’re so ill-prepared that we might as well accept the inevitability of such a disease. We turned away a man showing all the symptoms of ebola after he said he came in from Africa, we allowed a nurse with a slight fever who had been in contact with Mr. Duncan to board a plane, and every step along the way we’ve shown more failure than success; were ebola more contagious, we’d be in trouble. Thankfully, this is not the case.

Yet, we still get the people calling for a ban on travel to west Africa. We’re told we should just stop all flights in and out. In Season 2 of The Walking Dead, one of the most horrific scenes is when Shane , to save himself, decides to shoot Otis in the leg, slowing him down and allowing the walkers (zombies) to devour Otis while Shane gets away. In a way, we have multiple people who want to take that approach to ebola, to just shoot west Africa in the leg, let ebola take its course, while we make a clean getaway. Except we’re asking the wrong questions and thinking the wrong thoughts. By restricting travel, people will just seek alternative ways into the US, which will of course lead to the disease getting here without us knowing it; now that could be a problem.

The one solution that hardly anyone is bringing up is sadly the most obvious one, but one that just sounds too liberal and too hippie to accept; why don’t we pump money into sending proper treatment to west Africa? See, Mr. Duncan passed away from ebola because he was, in essence, refused service at a critical point. Had he been treated, more than likely he would have survived. How so? Thus far, everyone who’s received modern treatment has survived, even those who were “near death” on their flight over from Africa. It follows, then, that the solution isn’t necessarily to try and restrict travel to and from these countries (as that’s simply impractical; we might as well try and put toothpaste back in its tube), but instead to pool our resources – we industrialized nations who pride ourselves in our civility and humanity – and then take a trip to west Africa.

Ultimately, such a move, while possibly expensive, would certainly cost less than attempting to prevent and contain an outbreak at home. Think of it this way; let’s assume that ebola evolves and becomes slightly more contagious (which could happen if introduced to a bigger, more mobile population). Imagine the cost it would have on our system, with people having to take time off work, not putting money in the economy, making massive claims on insurance, and possibly (in a worst case scenario), overwhelming some local hospitals. Certainly, in the longterm, it’d be cheaper to just send medical equipment and doctors over to west Africa to contain the disease there; which is what we’re doing, but mostly through private organizations. To my knowledge, there’s no real unified effort.

What does it say about the soul of our nation that we’ll beat the drums of war to gather a coalition of the willing in order to bomb a nation, but we really don’t do much in the way of gaining a coalition to heal a nation? We, who have vast resources, technology, medical equipment, and wealth opt to discuss hoarding it and blocking the sick from having access to it rather than taking the most logical – and cost efficient approach – and just send aid. Why is our first response to demand that we block access from Africa and not, “Wow, I guess we ought to send aid there so we can help those people?”

How selfish have we really become? The common argument is that people are worried about their children or their health, but what about the children and the health of those in Africa? Contrary to popular implied ignorance, children do exist in Africa, and they’re dying. Closing the borders might work for a moment, but eventually it leads to people starving (due to a de facto embargo), which leads to them finding ways around the borders, which leads to the disease spreading anyway.Buried at the bottom of an AP article with some African officials claiming border closings have helped is the admission that it’s had more to do with luck than anything else. In this instance, compassionate help is the best treatment. Certainly if we can organize governments to spend combined billions to fight unwanted and unnecessary wars, we are capable of organizing these same governments to spend money and effort on treating those dying from this disease.

We imagine the danger that ebola poses to our children, our elderly, to those who have weakened immune systems; but what of what it’s already doing to Africans? Should we be any less concerned? Would we not want the world to help us if our system collapsed and we found ourselves unable to help our countrymen, our neighbors, our families, our children? Would we not wish for compassion and aid? Why, then, do we withhold it from those who need it most? A nation that has lost its compassion to help other people, when it has more than enough means to accomplish such a task, is a nation that has lost its soul.

Compassion Isn’t Enough (from His Voice)

My friend Vernon Burger put up an excellent article called “Compassion isn’t Enough.” Vernon has founded a few orphanages in Africa and also works for other issues. I have never met anyone with a heart for the poor and the destitute like Vernon and I’m almost ashamed to say I am his friend, for I have done nothing compared to him.

Please go to his site and read his post. Here is the first part:

“And Jesus went throughout all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom and healing every disease and every affliction. When he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.” (Mt. 9:35-38)

True compassion will always lead to Godly action. Compassion is not only being “broken” over suffering, but it leads to action. Informed action. Holistic action.

One of the things that stuns me from helping to start orphanages and being involved in many social justice causes, has been the focus of so many organizations on the meeting of physical needs alone as the ultimate end of what they do. This was never enough for Jesus (see James 2). He had a higher and more holistic value of life.

As I was reading through Mt. 9 I noticed His compassion was driven by their helplessness. Yet, their helplessness was not even the main focus. Knowing that He had the answer (therefore the Triune sufficiency was the focus) was what allowed Him to even see their helplessness. He knew He had an answer!

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