My wife and I recently watched news coverage of the dentist from Minnesota who killed a rare black mane lion in Zimbabwe. The lion's name was Cecil. He was a beloved resident of Hwange National Park and a major tourist draw.
Now, I am not one to greatly mourn the death of animals, especially when so many people suffer across the world. Animals die in the wild all the time as part of the natural order. But I admit that I have never understood the appeal of big game hunting. Hunt for food? Sure. Hunt to control herd sizes? Absolutely. But hunt simply to kill? I don't get it.
Apparently, the hunters lured Cecil out of the park, and the dentist then shot the lion with a bow and arrow. But the arrow didn't kill Cecil, who survived for another 40 hours until the hunters tracked him down. They shot the big cat, then skinned and decapitated him. The hunters then tried to destroy the GPS collar that Cecil was wearing as part of university research.
My wife asked me why people do such things, what pleasure they derive from slaughtering creatures such as Cecil. I had no answer. While my attitudes about guns are well known, I have always tried to defend hunters. I acknowledge that there are some legitimate reasons for hunting, and I know many responsible hunters. But paying $50,000 to, essentially, shoot a prized fish in a barrel is a craven and gutless act.
What is the drive to kill? Is this dentist's thirst for the blood of innocent, exotic beasts different than the desire of James Holmes, Aaron Alexis, Adam Lanza, or Dylann Roof to murder innocent people? One can argue for the existence of evil that somehow manifests itself more strongly in these murderers. Mental illness may also play a part.
But I believe that the uniquely American worship of violence, guns, and killing is also responsible. According to a study published by the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee, an average American child will see 200,000 violent acts and 16,000 murders on TV by age 18. In a country with as many guns as people, we should hardly be surprised when another mass killing takes place.
We must not allow ourselves, however, to get numb to the slaughter and become complacent. Our gun culture is not natural — we created it and we can dismantle it. We were not created to butcher each other, or to stand by passively while others die. While I imagine this dentist will pay dearly for his illegal hunt, we should be decrying the culture that glorifies killing and raises children to believe that their worth can be measured by the blood they spill.
In a few weeks, Cecil will be forgotten, but the guns and far too many irresponsible gun owners will remain. It is time for common sense — time for us to tell the gun manufacturers and the NRA that we are tired of them profiting off senseless and preventable death.