by Brendan Beery
I watched part of “The Cycle” this afternoon on MSNBC. The youngsters in charge huddled in a sort of groupthink to propose that, no matter how wrong the slow slaughter of a gorgeous mammal might be, all the murderous blowback against the perp – a Doctor Walter Palmer, DDS – is a tad out of proportion. A lion, after all, is just a lion. Surely there are human-on-human injustices more demanding of our passions.
This misses the point. For many of us, the trouble isn’t about Cecil (as tragic as his end was) or even about the evil dentist. We’re not galled because Palmer is an asshole; we’re galled because Palmer is normal.
What Palmer did to Cecil is not so much an outrage as it is an allegory. It is a tale – almost as stirring as time-tested mythology – that teaches something so base about us that it seems dangerous to behold its truth. We must swat it away like a swarm of bees – with the desperate intensity that only self-preservation can cause.
Sure, there’s the injustice – the injustice of a brave and pure beast getting felled by a square-toothed, pasty pipsqueak with a tiny dick, two guides, some bait, and a spotlight. Sure, there’s the love of animals, who at least have some motive to kill when they do, and who are therefore so clearly superior to humans in every way saving intellect.
The worst thing about Palmer and his act, though, is that Palmer and his act accurately reflect all humanity; they are life on this planet writ small.
Cecil is life – passive, worthy, businesslike, noble life, free from the uniquely human impulses to use without purpose and jubilate in thieving the investment of all time in the life force of other beings. And Palmer is us – the thief, the user, the narcissist, the human. Palmer is all about Palmer, and humanity is all about humanity. What Palmer did to Cecil is what our species is doing to the planet. And that is too real for anything but rage, because in rage we can remit unto another the shame that we know – unspeakably – belongs to us all.