by Guy Somerset
Although it may be a surprise to those who have never visited the United States the American people, when encountered individually, are some of the best one will ever chance to meet.
In large measure ordinary citizens (as opposed to their governmental representatives and atrocious media) present themselves as being quite friendly, eager to interact as well as extremely generous. If by malign quirk of ill-fate a traveler should find himself out of gasoline on a lonely highway or destitute in some strange city there is no one he would more welcome seeing approach than an average American.
There are many explanations for these traits: liberality born of material abundance, pervasive Christianity (contrary a hostile political culture), or genetic homogeneity which still abounds across broad swaths of the nation. However an overlooked explanation for the merits of Americanism is a profoundly empathetic streak in the population which pervades most races, classes and professions.
Yet herein lies the greatest failing of these otherwise good people; though they feel passionately about most everything, they sometimes think rationally about very little. This accounts for itself in varying degrees but when the issue concerns living things, and more particularly animals, emotionalism is the only argument which carries any weight whatsoever with vast numbers of Americans.
Most recently this was evidenced by the ludicrous reaction in the United States to the killing of a lion by a "Big Game" hunter in Africa. One fully grants the manner in which this shooting occurred was callow, if not despicable, in a sense the prey was apparently neither stalked nor given a sporting chance in the hunt; instead having been lured into range by affixing raw meat to an idle Jeep. Still the response in America has bordered on lunacy.
Initially the identity of the shooter was broadcast widely and his business was boycotted, both extreme but acceptable practices. The man himself was derided on nearly every television program on each television channel; with such adolescent antics as his politics and sexuality being impugned by those who evidenced no understanding of the benefits to African people or African wildlife by such safaris.
Increasingly ominous, soon afterward social media was used to direct death threats to the hunter, both immoral and technically a crime. Furthermore his home address was provided by no less personalities than former Hollywood film stars, also potentially criminal. Encouragement was made in some quarters, not all of them obscure, that his family and even his children should be put to death as well.
To give the imprimatur of Officialdom to this rabble of nonsense the United States Federal government opened an "investigation"....not against the rampant illegalities conducted against the hunter and his relations, but against individuals involved with the hunt itself.
In the midst of this insanity the sportsman in question has gone into hiding, his livelihood at least temporarily abandoned, current whereabouts unknown. Recognizing the frenzied emoting of his compatriots, he is probably safer in Africa at the moment. Thus even an admirable trait given license to excess becomes execrable.
And although so many are quick to condemn a very few pause to make pertinent inquiries. For example, if the actual cost of the hunt was $55,000 as reported and there are over 600 such lion hunts per year mightn't the loss of approximately $33,000,000 in annual revenue negatively impact Africans, who are among the poorest inhabitants on our planet? Or, as some might suspect, are African people not as esteemed by international do-gooders as African lions?
Moreover, if tens of thousands of acres of land are protected reserves for animals given their commoditization what happens to faunae of that land once such animals are made worthless by banning (or stigmatizing into disappearance) such safaris? If these hunts, however distasteful in the case of individual lions, benefit the greater goal of defending habitats of thousands of lions isn't this an acceptable reality? There are millions of cattle farms across the globe and comparatively few bison farms; the reason being that one animal is of industrialized commercial worth while the other is not.
Alas, it is always easier to genuflect than to flex the neurons.
Much of this infantilized idealism belies a misbegotten notion the natural world is an anthropomorphic emanation of nobility. If indeed exists an animal "kingdom" it is populated by more depraved characters than are in Hamlet. Though it evades the American mind by dint of distance, jungles are inhabited by abject brutes amid ferocious beasts. How quickly such uncomfortable notions are put from the common consciousness notwithstanding nearly constant reminders...
Does anyone recall the chimp kept as a "child" who mutilated a suburban woman committing the grave offensive of standing near her own home several years ago? What of recent reports of lambs being slaughtered by (of all things) crows? Isn't it well established by now that despite their quirky smirks dolphins are in fact the rapists of the seas? Part of this stems from misplaced values granted animals by humans and part from the simple truism any animal has to be quasi-psychopathic to survive in the wild.
Similarly elephants are now banned from the largest circuses, a decision which satisfies an emotive need in the present to act as a savior but deprives future generations of children not so fortunate to reside near a zoo (which are themselves becoming increasingly endangered species) from knowing these animals any way other than in a book or on a television screen. Once the current generation which is well-acquainted with elephants passes will many of the succeeding heirs care enough to guard them?
Even concerning domesticated creatures there is disconnect in the popular mind with all too many well-intentioned people deeming pets "family members." As hyperbole this may be a charming affectation of speech, while as literal interpretation of status it chills the blood. Nonetheless, in America it is not unheard of to spend upwards of $5,000 on medical procedures benefitting a four-legged "relative."
Far be it for outsiders to critique how people spend their money, but we must recall this is the very same country in which multitudes of veterans - men and women who fought for and were injured in the struggle to sustain the nation - received no medical care of any kind from the government and died because of it. That anyone would have the temerity to intone on his or her pet as equivalent of human life in the face of these facts is not only despicable but indicative of widespread mental aberration.
Of course, the reasoning behind such juvenilia is very simple to deduce: acutely empathetic psyches want unconditional love and that is a thing only the lower forms of life can accommodate. Human love is never and can never be unconditional because that interaction requires parity. A comparable human being has feelings to hurt, has opinions of his own and routinely makes decisions which are in conflict with attendant humans. In other words, one cannot behave as an omniscient divinity toward another person as to a supplicating pet, but must take into account that other persona as well as his own.
Americans are a wonderful collection of people and they have many strengths which for the most part vastly outweigh their faults. Still there are times such as this when one might prefer they extend some of those sincere sentiments less toward their fellow animals and more toward their fellow man.
Visiting a forgotten elderly person or helping the sick who are in need may not be as satiating as weeping for a lost lion, but it will go much farther towardsfeeling satisfied within one's soul.
Guy Somerset writes from somewhere in America. He is a lawyer by profession.
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