The growing outrage about the killing of Cecil the Lion has sparked a heated discourse questioning the sudden surge of attention about his killing when there are other larger issues in the world than the poaching of one lion.
It is remarkable to see how quickly people are making the killing of Cecil an either/or issue. On one hand, social media is full of opinions about how Cecil's killing is taking away air-time and Internet time from other more pressing issues: black and brown deaths in the United States; alleged selling of fetuses body parts by Planned Parenthood or the migrant crisis in Europe. There are equally strong opposing voices saying that people can be outraged about more than one cause whenever and however they damn please.
For the record, I am not going to tell you how to feel and for what cause.
I had no idea Cecil the Lion existed until a few days ago. So forgive me if I am not as taken aback by his killing as many others. To clarify, I believe the purpose and the way Cecil was hunted down and killed are heinous. I feel saddened by the incident but have no particular attachment to him.
What truly surprised me were the almost immediate expressions of profound sadness and demands to bring the killer to justice. There is even proposed bill to be drafted by an assemblyman in New Jersey.
As much as I am trying my hardest to remain neutral, I have to wonder about the zeal of celebrities such as Ricky Gervais, Mia Farrow, Betty White and Jimmy Kimmel, among others, condemning Cecil's killing. The last time we saw such a vocal stance about #blacklivesmatter was at the 2015 Grammys.
Why did the killing of Cecil trigger such a notable and apparent speedy reaction? And how could this be replicated to solve other societal challenges? If we could only be so effective to create change so quickly in other areas of society.
Issues that Matter
As the discussion about the merits of focusing our outrage on Cecil versus other issues that matter ensued, the conversation took a detour to include the now familiar controversy about #alllivesmatter.
One side says that #alllivesmatter is enough because it includes Black lives (and now also lions and wildlife). The other side says the hashtag #blacklivesmatter is necessary to highlight the fact that Black lives do not matter as much as other lives--in particular, white lives.
The social media soapbox match between the two sides promises to continue. How does the unfortunate three-ring circus of name-calling, condescending opinions and plain insults help move any issue forward?
When will empathy, healthy dialog and collaboration replace anger, judgment and contempt?
Is one cause more important than another? You decide. Could all of them coexist? Possibly. It all depends on how you want to spend your energy. By dismissing and belittling others' opinions, perspectives and concerns we are just as bad as those whose behaviors we condemn. We might not be using a gun or bow and arrow but we are surely crushing someone's soul with our demeaning actions.
Let's honor those we mourn--animal and human--and the causes we hold dear by empathizing, strategizing and mobilizing. Let the killing of Cecil be a catalyst for moving all issues forward and not use it as an excuse to stay in the merry-go-around of anger, judgment and contempt.