Thursday, July 30, 2015

The Mass Outrage Du Jour: A Headless Lion King in Zimbabwe and the Shelf Life of Bananas

It must be the heat. Let's face it real summer has arrived and as the humidity and temperature rises, so does the level of insanity both here and afar.

The mass outrage du jour is the tragic end of Cecil, the Lion King. It would seem Cecil, named after Cecil Rhodes, a British imperialist who made a fortune in diamonds off the backs off black Africans, had become quite the tourist attraction at Zimbabwe's Hwange National Park. He was also the subject of a study being done by an Oxford University scientific team who had collared him with a GPS tracking device.

None of that mattered--at least at first--to Minneapolis area dentist, Walter James Palmer. He had plunked down $50,000 plus in American currency to bag a lion and by God he was going to get his money's worth. It would seem professional hunter Theo Bronkhurst and land owner, Honest Ndlovu were more than willing to make sure it happened.

According to reports, Bronkhurst and perhaps Ndlovu cooked up a plot to lure Cecil off of the grounds of the park, where he was not only protected, but used to seeing grinning white people drive around in order to take his picture. One, or both of them baited a truck with fresh meat and enticed the 13 year old great cat onto Ndlovu's property which immediately made him, some would say, fair game.

Palmer first nailed him with a bow and arrow, but it didn't bring him down. After a 40 hour pursuit the dentist applied the coup de grace with a gun. In short order Cecil was beheaded and skinned, then the rest of his carcass was left to rot.

Dr. Palmer claims he trusted his guides and never imagined the kill was illegal. In addition he says he didn't know of Cecil's status as either the subject of research, or a national attraction until afterward. As innocent as he might have been, it doesn't mean he didn't immediately realize what had happened and try to dodge the consequences. Apparently there was a half baked scheme, concocted on the spot, to try to hide the identity of the kill. Local authorities say a person, or persons unknown in the party detached the Oxford tracking device and attempted to destroy it after Cecil bit the dust.

Bronkhurst has been charged with, "Failing to supervise, control, and take reasonable steps to prevent an unlawful hunt." If convicted he faces a $20,000 fine and up to 10 years in prison. No charges have, as yet, been filed against Ndlovu, who is expected to testify at the trial.

The public backlash has been predictably swift and irate. Late night TV host Jimmy Kimmel was close to tears as he ranted about the incident. Actress Mia Farrow went so far as to tweet the street address of the building the Doctor practices in. Larry Wilmore convened a panel on "The Nightly Show" to talk about the evils of trophy hunting. And, finally, seeing an opportunity to make yet another warped and odious political connection, Marco Rubio wondered why liberals were livid about a dead lion and not the heavily edited tape of a Planned Parenthood executive talking about fetal tissue donations.

The media hubbub has caused Doc Palmer to, at least temporarily, shutter his office and hunker down out of sight. He says he's sorry he killed Cecil, although his regret probably has far more to do with the sudden, unwanted, notoriety rather than his conscience. After all this isn't his first dance with wildlife authorities.

In 2006 he killed a bear in Wisconsin 40 miles outside of the area it was legal to do so. He then trucked the dead animal to the authorized kill zone in order to register it. The chicanery didn't fool anyone. Two years later he was fined $3,000 and hit with one year of probation.

At this time it's unclear if he sliced off ol' Yogi's head nearly a decade ago, although the odds are he did. It appears he has a fetish for that sort of thing. One can only speculate about the décor of his den and what his taxidermy bills run on a yearly basis.

I've said many times I have nothing against hunters so long as they have the decency to eat what they kill. In fact ages ago I accepted an invitation to go after some quail. The birds survived the expedition thanks to inherently bad marksmanship and several six packs of beer divided up between the party. A couple of us, however, did manage to take down a meadow lark which made the mistake of  zooming out of the tall grass as we closed in on a suspected quail bunker-tunnel complex. Luckily for all involved, the birds turned out to be poorly armed and our small, somewhat askew, patrol returned home without suffering any casualties.

That said, the suspicion here is if Painless Palmer keeps a low profile and doesn't get charged with some crime, he'll be back to yanking out wisdom teeth within two, or three weeks. That's about as long as it will take for the world of instant media to move on to some other breathtaking crime, or cause which will consume us all with equal passion.

Yes, there is an inescapable duality here. While the public's anger, horror, and disgust over the death of Cecil the lion is no doubt genuine, those vivid emotions have the shelf life of a bunch of bananas.

That's what we've come to in the internet age. It is, as they say, the nature of the beast.

sic vita est


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