In just about any discussion about the highly illegal killing of Cecil the Lion, you’ll always find that one guy who feels the need to express the “Who Cares?” sentiment. Not here to take anyone down a peg for it, I mean I get their logic (as they love to go over it in great detail whenever they are explaining how much they don’t care about this lion). They argue that it was really just one animal’s life, that a ton of other animals are being illegally hunted and killed every day, and that we only care about this one because it happened to be a bit of a local celebrity. Hell, even Zimbabwe itself doesn’t really care all that much about Cecil, so why does the West? I would argue that this whole situation represents more than that. Cecil’s death is symbolic of a greater issue that goes beyond the illegal hunting of animals, and the timing of it is what struck a cord with the world.
We are living in a society that has just begun to deeply analyze the destructive influence of privilege and the misuse of power from the wealthy. Obviously, the latter was a discussion that existed for a long time before, but it was mainly restricted to those who misuse their power in a political context. Only recently are we now pointing our critical cross-hairs on individuals who exploit the positions of power they are in to the every-day detriment of others. In the United States especially, that is the ongoing national conversation. So now, when we have this wealthy white man who would spend an enormous amount of money to illegally hunt down and slaughter a beloved animal for no reason other than to hang as a testament to his own masculinity, well that comes off as especially insidious to many of us.
This is a person with the freedom to spend over fifty-thousand dollars, and instead of using it to aid or benefit anyone, he uses it kill and mutilate the corpse of a defenseless animal. The account of the killing itself comes off as particularly perverse, as he first shot Cecil from afar with a crossbow and tracked him for over forty hours with his hunting party before shooting him down and dismembering his corpse. The knowledge that this animal suffered a great deal in his final hours is saddening on its own, but the thought that this was to the benefit of a man with way too much time and money, and who is more than likely a sadist, is seriously disconcerting. It almost moved late night talk show host Jimmy Kimmel to tears discussing it recently (although I’d imagine many Zimbabwe residents would role their eyes at that display of emotion), and that’s not because of a personal connection he developed with Cecil. It’s a feeling of disgust he has with people, Americans in particular, that comes through in his speech about Cecil.
There’s a specific culture filled with the type of person who does these kinds of things on display here. The type that talks big about freedom and the right for a man to do what he pleases with the money he’s earned; people who adhere to that mantra so thoroughly that they mistake freedom with permission to break laws. We can easily visualize them sitting around a fireplace, praising each other while waxing rhetoric about the nobility of manhood and brotherhood. They’d do so with the head of an animal they brutalized for sport looming over them, a trophy in their eyes but a symbol of something that is truly despicable to ours.
An unwarranted sense of pride, privilege, and warped conceptions about masculinity are what we’re being exposed to with the tragedy of Cecil. Cecil’s death was deeply saddening on its own, but the culture that fueled it is the same one that is making major waves in social discussion in America. Those that question why Cecil’s death is so upsetting to everyone need to realize that it is representative of a much larger issue that is affecting us all. Zimbabwe and most people in the West don’t care about some lion they’ve only just recently heard of, but they do care about the type of person who is responsible for killing it. There is a deep rot that exists within the power elite in Western society, and Cecil’s tragic death is like a cold reminder that it is just as abominable as we’ve all imagined.
Quote of the Day:
“She was a beautiful innocent creature, what’d she ever do to you?!”
– Tony Sopranos, The Sopranos