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Honoring Cecil

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Honoring Cecil


Whew. Boy, are we an angry country.

Seldom do I avoid the company of my fellow animal lovers. But this week, I want to put a continent of distance between me and those calling for the demise of the Minnesota dentist who killed a 13-year-old lion in Zimbabwe now known round the world as Cecil — beloved to citizens and the tourists who flocked to see him.

The dentist paid $50,000 to hire two hunters, who strapped an animal carcass onto their vehicle to lure Cecil out of his home in Hwange National Park, where it was illegal to hunt him. Then the dentist shot him with a bow and arrow. The Zimbabwe Conservation Task Force told CNN that Cecil suffered a slow death, surviving with his wound for 40 hours before the trio tracked him down and killed him with a gun.

Cecil was later skinned. He was also decapitated. Many of us would call this beheading an act of barbarism. Men such as that dentist call it a trophy.

“I’m honestly curious to know why a human being would feel compelled to do that,” late-show host Jimmy Kimmel said in an emotional monologue Tuesday night. “How is that fun? Is it that difficult for you to get an erection that you need to kill things that are stronger than you?”

You’ve no doubt noticed that I haven’t named this dentist. I want nothing to do with that witch hunt. Google “Cecil and dentist” and you’ll find his name easily enough, along with all the online threats and calls for his death that have sent the dentist into hiding.

Some of these threats may be coming from your Facebook friends, the same ones who like to post little hearts under pictures of puppies. After the first angry post I saw calling for revenge and listing the dentist’s name and phone number, I gasped. By the tenth one, I shut down Facebook and went for a walk.

Most people are good — I believe that — but there have been moments since the news broke of Cecil’s death this week when I have felt that our numbers are in steep decline.

Time magazine reported this gem of a statement from PETA president Ingrid Newkirk: “If, as has been reported, this dentist and his guides lured Cecil out of the park with food so as to shoot him on private property, because shooting him in the park would have been illegal, he needs to be extradited, charged, and, preferably, hanged.”


A high road with gallows — this is news to me.

The dentist is hardly the only American who fancies himself a modern-day Crazy Horse — who, by the way, would never have killed an animal for sport. In Smithsonian magazine’s June issue, Susan Orlean profiles “Lion Whisperer” Kevin Richardson, who has an extraordinary relationship with a pride of lions in South Africa.

She writes about the popularity of Cub World, where tourists can cuddle with lion cubs up to 6 months old, and then describes what happens to some of the cubs after they become adults:

The rest of the extra lions end up as trophies in commercial hunts, in which they are held in a fenced area so they have no chance to escape; sometimes they are sedated so that they are easier targets. These “canned” hunts charge up to $40,000 to “hunt” a male lion, and around $8,000 for a female. The practice is big business in South Africa, where it brings in nearly a hundred million dollars a year. Up to 1,000 lions are killed in canned hunts in South Africa annually. The hunters come from all over the world, but most are from the United States.

I’m not going to be one of those people whose eyes bug out as they yell: “Where was your outrage then?” This time, we can name both the hunter and the hunted, with enough gruesome details about Cecil’s death to give us chest pains. This time, it feels so real.

I’m also not going to demand to know why we aren’t worried about everything bad happening to people everywhere. We care about many things, every day.

I do appreciate this tweet from writer Roxane Gay, who is black: “I’m personally going to start wearing a lion costume when I leave my house so if I get shot, people will care.”

Speaking of tweets — the ridiculous kind, of which there are so many — Republican presidential candidate Marco Rubio chirped this: “Look at all this outrage over a dead lion, but where is all the outrage over the planned parenthood dead babies.”

Well, yes, we could play that game and join Rubio in making a mockery of the truth, but let’s leave such foolishness to this guy who thinks tweeting a non sequitur proves he should be leader of the Free World.

Yes, we are outraged over the killing of the lion named Cecil, whose only crime was to attract a wealthy human in search of his manhood.

How do we honor this majestic creature?

Here’s an address for you: http://www.wildcru.org. It’s for the Wildlife Conservation Research Unit.

They want to save lions like Cecil.

How about you?

Connie Schultz is a Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist and an essayist for Parade magazine. She is the author of two books, including …and His Lovely Wife, which chronicled the successful race of her husband, Sherrod Brown, for the U.S. Senate. To find out more about Connie Schultz (con.schultz@yahoo.com) and read her past columns, please visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at www.creators.com.

Screengrab: Paula French via YouTube

Connie Schultz

Connie Schultz is a nationally syndicated columnist for Creators Syndicated. Schultz won the 2005 Pulitzer Prize for commentary and was a finalist for the 2003 Pulitzer Prize for feature writing. She has also published two books: Life Happens: And Other Unavoidable Truths -- a collection of her previously published columns -- and ...and His Lovely Wife: A Memoir from the Woman Beside the Man, which chronicled her experiences on the campaign trail with her husband, Ohio Senator Sherrod Brown.

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  1. dtgraham July 30, 2015

    “Well, yes, we could play that game and join Rubio in making a mockery of the truth.”

    Connie Schultz is playing that game. What a disingenuous, deceptive, two-faced article by this writer. The differences between her and Rubio are simply their agenda, and Schultz feigning a little sincerity on the topic.

    She wants to tell us how she’s going to distance herself from those angry animal lovers and how she’s not going to engage in a witch hunt against the good dentist who she refuses to name. She then mocks the smiley puppy facebook people while wondering why they didn’t care about big game slaughter before, or other ‘people’ causes (all while claiming she’s not doing this in the classic passive-aggressive fashion). She then takes a shot at PETA and claims the exclusive club of good people (of which she’s a member) is dwindling, and strongly implies that the dentist’s critics are not in that club. She finishes with her strong endorsement of that lion costume tweet that encourages African-Americans to wear one for empathy.

    Yet, she’s on board for Cecil. Sure she is. The support for that thoughtless tweet is what this all comes down to. The right’s agenda is, “why are you angry about this lion when babies are being aborted?” Connie Schultz’s agenda is, “why are you angry about this lion when African-Americans are being killed by police?” The difference is that the right is at least honest about it. She’d like to be too but she knows the crowd that she’s writing for, so she feels that she has to fake it.

    She took the opportunity to advance her excellent, but unconnected, cause in a deceitful and dishonest manner. She really seems angry that people would actually take their gaze off the plight of their fellow black citizens for a moment in time and focus elsewhere for just a little while. She doesn’t seem to get that people can compartmentalize their compassion and concerns. Concern for one thing doesn’t lessen concern for another, and it’s an emotion that’s limitless. The walking and chewing gum analogy. In simpler terms—–give it a rest once in a while Connie. The world is full of things that we care about, including the discriminatory treatment of African-Americans…..and the 30,000 Cecils left in the wild.

    You don’t care about the latter. Not really. Just be honest about it.

    1. Dominick Vila July 30, 2015

      Excellent post!

      1. dtgraham July 30, 2015

        Thanks Dom. I’m not sure how you would explain endorsing Roxane Gay’s tweet while calling Rubio’s ridiculous. They’re about equally callous and apathetic and represent two sides of the same coin more or less. Doesn’t Connie Schultz have any sense of irony or self-awareness?

        1. Dominick Vila July 30, 2015

          I suspect Connie is well aware of the consequences of the stand she took on this issue. Or more accurately, her decision not to take an unequivocal stand. She tried to please everyone, and shot herself in the foot in the process.

    2. Maggie Schafer July 30, 2015

      Totally agree!

    3. Maggie Schafer July 30, 2015

      I love the way she wouldn’t name the dentist – as if no one knew anyway! She thinks that will make her better then and nearly 1M of us who are outraged by an act that is so typical of a rich pompous piece of garbage who really does not deserve to walk the planet. His demise would be a public service as what he does is destructive to wildlife and in that respect harms us all!

  2. GraceAdams830 July 30, 2015

    We should have less killing all around. There are several reasons why a pregnant woman might want to kill her unborn child: if her pregnancy is either life-threatening or likely to cause serious long-term disability, I feel the pregnant woman ought to have an abortion and NOT be expected to lay down her life for her baby. If she can not afford the baby or even feels that the sacrifice of her time etc. is too much to ask of her, then those in favor of forced parenthood ought to provide proper health care and as much paid leave from work (or community service employment program if she doesn’t have a job that permits such paid leave) as she needs to bear and deliver the baby and get back on her feet and living the sort of life she was trying to live before the pregnancy. If she is ashamed of her pregnancy, she may need mental health care in addition to obgyn.

  3. FT66 July 30, 2015

    They love their guns very much not only for protecting themselves, but also in “Sports Hunting”. This kind of mentality really sucks.

  4. 1Zoe55 July 30, 2015

    This writer can spare me the “pity party” over this dentist who seemed to think he was so entitled, because of his wealth and status, that he could hunt these beautiful animals. He has a track record, with photos of the animals he’s already killed. Maybe for the first time in his life, the dentist has been shamed out of his comfort zone. Maybe the rest of the world doesn’t give a damn about his wealth, his sense of entitlement, and his rich man’s sport. This story also dispels the myth of the merciful killing with a bow and arrow. His fate should now be to wear a scarlet letter, the letter “K” for killer.

    1. Maggie Schafer July 30, 2015

      Amen to that!!! His self serving moralizing made me gag. AND her moralizing using Marco Rubio who is about as moral as an Isis assassin also make me puke! The author would have done more service by saying nothing! He has honored nothing here. He has only tried to elevate herself and the who article is filled with me, how wonderful I am, what I wouldn’t do garbage!

      Connie, don’t quit your day job and if this is your day job, find another. You are not good at it but you are a typical Republican seizing an opportunity to promote Rubio!

  5. jwtm July 30, 2015

    What do you do about Cecil? You honor wildlife everywhere. That means leaving wildlife space to be wild. That means stopping human encroachment on land that used to be wild. That means stopping agricultural and suburban development, deforestation and diversion of freshwater to human use. That means, so long as human numbers continue to increase, increasing discomfort, privation and loss of liberty for humans.

    So the first, but not only, step is to stop human increase. Only when that has been achieved could we start thinking of ourselves as wholly adult.

  6. Dominick Vila July 30, 2015

    In this day and age, when food and clothing are readily available to everyone, there is simply no justification to hunt and kill wild life. Those who find pleasure pulling a trigger should consider a shooting range, or seek psychiatric help. BTW, The South African organization that organizes these “hunts” is just as despicable as the hunters. Allowing the slaughter of wild animals for a handful of dollars, with “guides” wearing animal pelts to attract their prey, does not say much for institutions like this. Global condemnation and a boycott should follow, with emphasis on shaming those who arrange these crimes against nature, and the executioners.

  7. prichard July 31, 2015

    I completely disagree with Connie about the public outing of this dentist / serial killer. Walter Palmer has two perverted addictions. One is flaunting his contempt for society’s values and sensibilities by torture murdering magnificent
    creatures most of the rest of the human race treasure. The other is inflicting
    prolonged terrible pain until his victim dies. His excuse that he didn’t know that Cecil was protected is preposterous. The baiting he paid for to lure Cecil was right on the edge of one of world’s most famous wilderness parks. Palmer recently pleaded guilty and was sentenced for lying to authorities about an identical crime in this country. He has gleefully posted photos of himself gloating over other the bloody bodies of several other endangered species. My worry is that this story will be allowed to blow over. Not only should Palmer continue to be publicly ostracized, he should be extradited to Zimbabwe for trial. Only when such creeps learn that they can’t indulge their sadistic lusts in secret and then go on with
    their lives with no consequences, will they stop paying people to help them kill “trophies.”

    1. dtgraham August 1, 2015

      Zimbabwe now wants him extradited to stand trial with the other two he was with that are presently in their custody. I hope that the White House will lean on whoever has to be to make this happen.


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