For reasons I still don’t understand, America has lost its damn mind about a dead lion. You see, recently some dentist from Minnesota went on a lion-hunting trip to Zimbabwe — which is apparently a thing people do — and he killed a lion that wasn’t in the designated hunting area. This is, of course, the most important thing in the world.
People are freaking out. Americans whose only experience with lions comes from zoos and nature shows and Disney cartoons are calling for this dentist’s extradition and/or death. They’re hounding the guy. They’re wailing and gnashing their teeth. Hell, before last week, I thought running out of mayonnaise was the only thing that could bring Jimmy Kimmel to tears.
Oh, shut up. It’s a lion. A lion.
But what does the average Zimbabwean think about the whole thing? A fellow named Goodwell Nzou, a doctoral biochem student at Wake Forest and a native of Zimbabwe, is expressing his utter bewilderment in a New York Times op-ed:
Did all those Americans signing petitions understand that lions actually kill people? That all the talk about Cecil being “beloved” or a “local favorite” was media hype? Did Jimmy Kimmel choke up because Cecil was murdered or because he confused him with Simba from “The Lion King”?
In my village in Zimbabwe, surrounded by wildlife conservation areas, no lion has ever been beloved, or granted an affectionate nickname. They are objects of terror…
When I was 9 years old, a solitary lion prowled villages near my home. After it killed a few chickens, some goats and finally a cow, we were warned to walk to school in groups and stop playing outside…
A week later, my mother gathered me with nine of my siblings to explain that her uncle had been attacked but escaped with nothing more than an injured leg. The lion sucked the life out of the village: No one socialized by fires at night; no one dared stroll over to a neighbor’s homestead.
When the lion was finally killed, no one cared whether its murderer was a local person or a white trophy hunter, whether it was poached or killed legally. We danced and sang about the vanquishing of the fearsome beast and our escape from serious harm…
Don’t misunderstand me: For Zimbabweans, wild animals have near-mystical significance… But our respect for these animals has never kept us from hunting them or allowing them to be hunted.
If you still doubt Nzuo’s bona fides, he lost his right leg to a snakebite when he was 11. Nature isn’t some abstraction to him.
Lions are not your friends. They do not sing Elton John songs. They’re wild animals. If a lion was in the room with you right now and it was hungry, it would kill you and eat you. Not because it’s evil or bad, but because it’s a predator. It doesn’t care how many hashtags you create to weep about one of its dead brothers. To a lion, you are #food.
You can believe in evolution, or you can cry over a dead lion. Pick one.
Clickhole had the perfect take on this whole episode of mass insanity: Great News, Everyone: Cecil The Lion Is Alive! (If you don’t get the joke, email me and I’ll explain it to you.)
I’m glad Cecil the Lion is dead. I’m glad that guy killed him. If I lived in Minnesota, I’d make Walter Palmer my new dentist. As he cleaned my teeth, we’d have a good chuckle over killing lions and making stupid people cry. How do ya like that?
P.S. That goes double for pandas. Yuck!
P.P.S. Make sure to check out the NYT commenters whitesplaining lions to a dude from Zimbabwe.
— Jim Treacher (@jtLOL) August 5, 2015