Men, Prayer, Politics, Horses, Detroit
Dr. Walter Palmer, the lion killer from Minnesota, has emerged as the most hated man in America, and to some extent a large portion of the globe, thanks in part to the internet. The reaction to this vile act of aggression from an American has been nothing short of astounding. In case you just landed here from Mars and have not heard, Dr. Palmer paid $50,000+ to have a beloved lion named Cecil baited and lured from the safety of a national park in Zimbabwe to a private farm where he shot it with a bow and arrow, left it to wander maimed for forty hours, allowing him the exhilaration of tracking the mighty king of the jungle, before finding it and shooting it. The lion was then skinned and decapitated, it’s GPS tracking collar unsuccessfully destroyed.
A multitude of petitions are circulating calling for some form of action against the man. Twitter is full of comments, expletives and threats toward the man. Facebook news feeds aren’t much different, filled with disgust and rather creative requests for justice brought against Dr. Palmer. Even tearful talk show hosts are joining in the call for justice.
Dr. Palmer embodies virtually every quality, I use the term loosely, we have come to recognize as the ugly American. He is white, he is from middle America, he lives in affluence, he is privileged and he wields that privilege to his personal advantage in exploiting the opportunities afforded him for his own satisfaction, at the expense of others. In his case, what satisfies him is to exercise his privilege in a country not his own, seeking out and destroying the symbols of that country in gruesome fashion, only to return to his own country triumphantly and with bravado. This latest incident, just another in a long history of similar events associated with America, is unique in that it has evoked a massive response of bitter anger within the U.S. as well as the world over.
What, exactly, is it that we are so angry about? Could there be a bit of transference at work here? Yes, mercilessly killing any animal for sport is vile and disgusting in and of itself but why have similar actions not evoked such outrage in the past? Let us face facts here: Americans have been committing murder on foreign shores for a VERY long time, and not just innocent animals, innocent humans too. We do it for profit, we do it for ideology, we do it for vengeance. We do it in God’s name and we do it in XYZ Corp’s name. We do it as patriots. We do it as fathers, mothers, sons and daughters.
We do it in a vain attempt to maintain the myth of ourselves as Americans we so desperately cling to in a world we have built while cloaked in that myth, the myth that we are the land of the free and the home of the brave, that we only leave our shores as a nation to proselytize our beloved democracy, to protect the innocent around the globe from oppression and exploitation at the hands of evil forces. We are apple pie, guns (or bows and arrows) and butter, our shores a safe and welcome haven for the like-minded.
The rest of the world has seen through that myth and now we too must face our own truths. Dr. Palmer is the messenger we needed, a patsy if you will, that allows us to see, once and for all, our own ugliness. Perhaps it is the revelation of our own ugliness that is the root of our anger, Dr. Palmer merely the instrument. His actions as a big game hunter were, at their core, evil. A magnificent creature suffered needlessly, a creature for whom death must have been welcome after 40 hours bearing the wound cast upon him by the bow of an ugly American with perfect teeth. In continuing to turn a blind eye to our actions as a nation on foreign shores, we support the myth of ourselves as beyond reproach, entitled to roam the world just as Dr. Palmer does, imposing our desires, needs and psychosis on those we deem weaker than our selves. For democracy. For profit. For ego and for affirmation of the myth that sustains us. In these ways, we are all Dr. Palmers.
Tragedy, at its essence, is a call to transformation. In Dr. Palmer, we see ourselves and we are angry, we are disgusted and we demand change. Based on the global response, so does the rest of the world. We, as Americans must embrace the transformation offered us by this tragedy by abandoning the myth and owning our behavior globally. Let us drop the cloak of the American myth and embrace our own humanity, our own vulnerability as mere humans, at times fearful, at times sad, at times weak. A nation of people, much like all nations of people, filled with a desire to live peacefully, seeking to love what we love, seeking to live freely, bringing no harm to others.
The gift a wired world gives us is truth. It gives us the gift of transparency, the gift of connection to one another allowing us the knowledge that we are not alone in questioning loudly the myth we once took for reality. What Dr. Palmer did is ugly, but no uglier than the killings committed by Americans on foreign shores the world over. In the global condemnation of Dr. Palmers actions, we are united in agreement that his behavior is unacceptable. Will we now take that next step and proclaim our own behavior as a nation unacceptable?
A lion, an innocent in a long line of innocents, is dead. Facing the truth about who we really are as Americans is not easy, but entirely necessary if we are to, with humility, join the rest of humanity in the struggle to live as moral humans in an often immoral world.
© 2015 Nancy Kotting All Rights Reserved Reproduction By Permission Only