For lack of anything else to do Wednesday night, I decided to stir the proverbial pot a bit.
In Zimbabwe, nearly 100 out of 1,000 children die before their 5th birthday. More than 13 MILLION people live there, and many of them are starving to death. More than 16 MILLION children in the United States don’t have enough nutritious food to eat.
Poke around and see what pokes back, so to speak. And with a few thoughtless key strokes, I said what needed to be said about the celebrity outrage surrounding the death of Cecil the lion who was shot under dubious circumstances by dentist Walter Palmer.
“Am I the only one who wants to say sod off to Jane Goodall and Jimmy Falon and Jimmy Kimmel and whomever else wants to jump on the bandwagon?” I asked Facebook. “Where are you with your celebrity and sway and platform and outrage when children are raped and murdered and tortured EVERY FREAKING DAY in this country? Worse things happen to actual human beings all the time but no one says a damn thing until they can milk the publicity and ride the bandwagon.”
Four days of outrage and tweets and statements to the media, then Goodall’s op-ed in the New York Times, and I was finally pushed over the edge. A lot of ink has been spilled over a lion. Yes, Cecil’s death was sad. I do not care for sport trophy hunting of endangered animals. I was sorry to see an animal of such majesty killed and then stripped of its dignity. It was like losing the real Mufasa. But, seriously, I am over the hoopla. And according to my Facebook page, I am not the only one. But there were a few people who didn’t like what I had to say at all. Two days of arguing with and amongst friends has resolved little. I have been called “judgmental” and a “character assassin.” Well call me what you want, but I’m still right.
There was just something about several statements from the cause celebre that rubbed me the wrong way.
Goodall wrote, “Only one good thing comes out of this – thousands of people have read the story and have also been shocked. Their eyes opened to the dark side of human nature. Surely they will now be more prepared to fight for the protection of wild animals and the wild places where they live. Therein lies the hope.” I think we all know there is a dark side to human nature, we live with it, and in it and it flashes across our screens every single day. Now, what are we going to do to help change that?
From the fingers of Sharon Osbourne came this bit of cheer. “I hope that #WalterPalmer loses his home, his practice & his money. He has already lost his soul.” Which is funny, considering she is married to a man who made a lot of money after biting heads off live doves and a live bat.
And let’s not forget Piers Morgan, whose singular talent is his rudeness, “I’d love to go hunting for killer dentist Dr. Walter Palmer, so I can stuff & mount him for MY office wall.”
This? This is what celebrities have used their political capital for? Not the fact that Zimbabwe’s living conditions are so deplorable, so hopeless, that government officials there are willing to use the blood of their big game animals to create a big revenue stream to help support their country?
Entire families, many of them headed up by children, are starving to death in Zimbabwe. Regardless of whether they live in villages or cities, many children there do not get to go to school and few have decent homes to live in. Women and their young children are imprisoned together, their children tortured to obtain forced confessions from their mothers. Zimbabwe hospitals often don’t have medicine to help the sick, AIDS is a sweeping epidemic affecting adults and children and many people don’t even have access to clean water or toilets.
What a wasted opportunity to make a real difference in human suffering. Because, yes, animals should be protected, but human lives are more important and failure to discuss, recognize and address human need only further separates us from our humanity.
Where is the celebrity outrage when women are raped or beaten, where are the most listened-to people in America when children die from lack of mental health care or food? Because, let’s face it, celebrities matter to society. They hold so much political capitol that the Obama administration even has former “House” heartthrob Kal Penn working as its official Hollywood liaison. There are a lot more under 30’s listening to the politics of actors and rock stars than the world views of their parents, communities or churches.
These Cecil-outraged celebs have inflamed their fans to a fever pitch, and more than 400,000 people have even signed a petition demanding justice for Cecil. And now, that dumb hunting dentist is receiving death threats. How does that even make sense, Mr. Morgan? People justifying one murder with another? Actress Mia Farrow apparently tweeted his address so people would know where to find him. Why on earth does Ms. I-Will-Let-Woody-Allen-Molest-Our-Children Farrow think she has any moral high ground to claim here?
Do you know how many people signed a petition demanding justice for Sandra Bland? Oh, you haven’t heard of her? She is the woman who was jailed after a traffic stop and was later found dead in her cell. According to “USA Today,” only 6,000 people have signed a petition seeking answers on her behalf.
And maybe because I worked in and with the media for so long I am cynical. It certainly seems like a lot of folks were hopping on the Cecil bandwagon to get some easy publicity. What better way to up your followers and clicks and ad revenue than joining in on the outrage?
And again, cynical me, thinks many celebrities only champion “feel good” causes instead of controversial ones. Their agents and managers and public relations teams steer them away from issues that have the potential to become divisive. Because sometimes, we show our support — or lack thereof — with our wallets. Just ask Jane Fonda and Bill Cosby.
The way we treat our children, our aged, our sick and our weak is what really defines our human nature. And celebrities have real power to impact the way society perceives the value of human life. I think that a lot of them missed the point with Cecil.
You can learn more about Zimbabwe at SaveTheChildren.org.