Editorial: Of lions and men

Horrible atrocities have taken place in Zimbabwe, and they have nothing to do with a 13-year-old lion.

You would be excused for thinking otherwise. The reaction to the poaching of Cecil the Lion for sport by a Minnesota dentist has been impressive, to say the least. Protesters filled the street outside the office of Dr. Walter Palmer demanding justice and his extradition to Africa. An angry Internet mob swarmed the dentist’s online presence, bottoming out his business ratings. Death threats have been issued. Big game hunting in areas outside the national park where Cecil lived has been suspended. Major U.S. airlines have declared they will no longer carry “trophy hunter shipments” on their aircraft. The dentist is in hiding.

While we agree that there is little to celebrate about the unwarranted and unprovoked death of a king among beasts, some perspective is in order.

While we agree that there is little to celebrate about the unwarranted and unprovoked death of a king among beasts, some perspective is in order. Zimbabwe, home of Cecil, also is home to some of the worst and most shockingly overlooked human rights abuses in the world. Its citizens are faced with a corrupt government that wipes out any and all opposition, a history of massacre, an unstable economy, government torture and arrest — not to mention a variety of diseases and environmental challenges. The local bishops long have been at odds with President Robert Mugabe, who has utterly defied every principle of basic human rights.

In light of this blatant assault on humanity, the fact that a collective international multitude should point its righteous anger at the sub-Saharan country only in the wake of the death of one lion is beyond the pale. Would that cases of human barbarism be able to effect such a response.

Speaking of cases of human barbarism, the story of Cecil stands in contrast, too, to atrocities being committed on our own shores. This summer has seen the advent of multiple undercover videos detailing Planned Parenthood’s barbaric handling and selling of the organs of aborted children in this country. While there has been an outcry of sorts, the corresponding backlash has been fierce and vocal. The media have tread lightly, for the most part sidestepping deep investigative reporting. Politically, a bill to strip Planned Parenthood of its considerable federal funding was defeated in a Senate vote in early August. Lawmakers have pledged to continue the fight in September, but it will be an uphill battle against the abortion giant’s propaganda machine.

In the cases of both Zimbabwe and Planned Parenthood, what’s astonishing is the stunning selectivity of our nation’s collective outrage. What should provoke the biggest outcries — the brutal treatment of our African brothers and sisters and the abominable handling of our own children as commodities — is relegated to the status of “business as usual.” According to Sen. Elizabeth Warren, this is because the American people are “sick and tired” of the attempt to defund Planned Parenthood. We would argue that it’s because the American people are too used to walking the path of least resistance. When stacked up as one, the problems of the world are a daunting pile, and the temptation to avert our eyes is strong. It simply is easier to focus on the minute instead of the major, on the safe rather than the challenging. In short, on the Cecils.

The call of the faithful, then, is to take the other path. To stand up for the weak and the oppressed, even when it’s difficult. And to fight the major battles to which others may be tempted to turn a blind eye.

Editorial Board: Greg Erlandson, publisher; Msgr. Owen F. Campion, associate publisher; Beth McNamara, editorial director; Gretchen R. Crowe, editor