Karen Rivers

we are the angry mob.

Karen Rivers

I've been thinking about Cecil because everyone has and I read Facebook and I get swept up in the same things as everyone else.  Really, it's outrageous that a dentist from Milwaukee or wherever he is from paid someone $55,000 so he could kill Cecil.  It's also his bad luck that Cecil was tagged and named Cecil.  I spend a lot of time wondering how many people know how to pronounce Cecil and all the mispronunciations that are going on right now as we read the dentist's sorry-not-sorry because the truth is that he killed Cecil (OUR Cecil) and he liked it and boy are we mad about it.  We are so mad.  Other stuff is happening and we're mad about that, too, but not as mad as we are about Cecil and there's nothing wrong with that except all the things that are wrong with it.   


Look, right now, some wealthy American has paid a "guide" and a poacher to stalk an elephant through African Savannah.  Even while you think about clicking to another page to see if those Lands End dresses are on sale yet, he is lining up his shot while his guide holds his own loaded rifle so that no animals attack the wealthy American trophy hunter and the elephant is trumpeting in fear and now the trigger has been pulled and the elephant is in unspeakable pain and is crumbling tumbling (I can't find the right word) down in the dust, bleeding and in pain and the wealthy American is feeling a rush of adrenaline from that.  Ivory is so massively illegal now that I feel guilty about a very old bracelet that I have upstairs that belonged to either my grandmother or someone who had a garage sale that I went to before I knew about ivory.   Throwing out the bracelet is wrong because an elephant probably died to produce that bracelet but I would never wear the ghost of that animal on my wrist either so I keep it to remind me that I am a terrible person, too, but then I reassure myself that I am not as terrible a person as that wealthy American who right now is approaching that dead elephant on the ground and watching his eyes slowly cloud over and watching him realize that he's dead and seeing the rest of the elephant's family in the distance, keening and lowing and in despair, much like we are all in despair for Cecil, the crucial difference being that the victim of this latest gunshot is their brother/father/mate or maybe just their annoying co-worker who chewed his leaves in an unnecessarily loud way and talked too loudly on his cell phone during work hours when we are trying to concentrate on Facebook.  We have petitions to sign and things to be right about!  Surely he can talk to his wife later, at home, or whatever.  God.

Even while I was typing that, another entitled wealthy American with a gun that he's been practicing shooting since he was a child because all Americans have the right to bear arms and he's been bearing that since he was six and didn't really want to shoot a gun but it was important to his dad and his dad's dad and his dad's dad's dad and probably someone somewhere died so he could shoot that gun so he learned to shoot it and he got good at it and eventually he liked it and he liked shooting things and feeling powerful and big and so he shot bigger and more powerful things and that made him feel even bigger and more powerful and now look at him, he's a demi-god, down there on his knees in the low-growing shrubbery under the hot African sun, being protected by "guides" while he lines up the sites on his rifle and takes aim at a white rhinocerous and the sun is burning the skin on the back of his neck and he's so powerful right now in this second that he's practically glowing, the gun in his hand is heavy and sure and he takes aim and then, of course, blood, and a carcass so huge, I mean, what are you going to do with that?  So the guides cut off the head of the animal for him to check in with his luggage on the flight home.  No, that won't work, so maybe just take some pictures and post them on Facebook and keep the horn because you can smuggle that up your own ass or something, who knows, that gun is pretty powerful and so is money, because with it you can buy all the lives of these animals and now you've bagged an elephant and a white rhino and a lion so you are more than halfway there, to wherever you go when you get all five.  I suspect you go to hell.  Fingers crossed.  


But back to Cecil, who was famous, so effectively the Jennifer Aniston of lions, except a boy.  Why I didn't pick a boy movie star for that analogy, I have no idea.  Let's say he's George Clooney, but really he looks more like Jennifer Aniston with her lion-ish hair that she straightens so as not to confuse people with her innate mane-ness.  As Clooney, Cecil belongs to us.  Let's be clear.  He's tagged so scientists somewhere named him, like they name all tagged animals, and now he's basically beloved and we're so pissed about Cecil that we're going to say to that dentist, "YOU WILL NEVER FIX OUR TEETH AGAIN, YOU PRICK."  Which is right and just and good because he killed George Clooney, who is very cute, after all.  And then, fuelled by our internet-based outrage, we are going to sit in the air-conditioned silence of our offices where we should be doing work but aren't and we are going to slowly escalate our hatred towards Walter Whoever, a dentist from Milwaukee, and we're going to start saying, "Someone should shoot THAT asshole.  He's no Cecil."  And then someone who also has a gun and knows how to shoot it and likes hunting is going to say something like, "Let's hunt him."  And a chorus of voices in the quiet air-conditioned offices around the world will nod and say, "Yes, let's.  Or rather, you do it, because we are busy here in our quiet air-conditioned offices, but we support your right to hunt the guy who hunted Cecil who we hadn't actually heard of until this moment, so is less like George Clooney than we previously thought, but more like Joe Westerhouse, an extra from Pittsburgh who is just now walking across the set of a CSI episode being filmed in Ohio."  But it doesn't matter because we are right to be mad, it is good we are angry, and this will call attention to the fact that extras, I mean exotic animals, are being hunted all the time and it should stop, it needs to stop, it has to stop.  You won't get me disagreeing.  Stop the hunt.  I don't even like that they culled the deer in the next neighbourhood over from mine because the wealthy people were tired of their $50 shrubs being used as a deer salad bar, I mean, because they caused car accidents even though the speed limit in that neighbourhood is 30 and the deer move faster than that, let's face it.  


It's almost the end of the work day and right now our gun-loving, rich white hunter dude from middle America is raising his extremely expensive hunting rifle and taking aim at a leopard.  The leopard is a mother and she's just walked away from her cubs for a split second and she's thinking about feeding them because, after all, that's what mothers think about whether they are extras on Hollywood sets or leopards or actually even big stars, household names.  And the sun is hot and the cubs are asleep and she is fleetingly exposed in a beam of that golden sun and for a second the guides and everyone hold their breath because it's so beautiful, that leopard and her shadow stretching long and low on the dusty brown earth around her, and someone should take a photo but this is not that kind of tour, this is the other kind, and then there is the sound, the bang that knocks the hunter slightly backwards, but not far enough to hurt him -- more's the pity, as they say -- and then the leopard, who wants only for her cubs to survive is suddenly torn apart, the blood and the muscle of her splaying around her before she even realizes because do leopards know this is coming, that this is a possibility?  We know it's a possibility.  There's always the possibility of being shot, say at a movie, or in the mall, or if we're kids, then in the classroom, or even at Starbucks or by a wronged lover or by someone who we made angry by cutting them off in traffic.  But the leopard has largely been shielded from this and now it doesn't matter because she's dead and her kittens are staggering out of their den on their little kitten-legs which are still wonky and the hunter is feeling huge, he is so big now, he can't even, all he has left on his list is the Cape Buffalo, and then he'll have done it, he'll have achieved it, this thing he wants to achieve, the blood of all those animals running around him like a river of goddamn LIGHT.  It's incredible.  He feels lucky to be so rich and be such a good shot and to have such a good gun and such good guides who will protect him and for sunscreen because he'd hate to get skin cancer and die after all this amazing power he's accrued.  That would suck.   Cancer isn't choosy though, that's a fact.  Well, maybe he can pay cancer to stay away.  He'll worry about that later.  The guides skin the leopard and leave the body of the animal glistening in the light of the setting sun, the vultures already circling, feeling lucky themselves that this nice meal has presented itself so lovingly for their dining enjoyment.

In the meantime, everyone forgets that the dentist from Milwaukee is just another asshole with a gun and an inferiority complex that he tries very hard to overcome by shooting big, powerful, famous actors, I mean, lions, in Zimbabwe.   We've taken care of him.  We've told him on Yelp that he's no good and is a terrible person and a bad dentist and we've told our kids about him and if they go to school with HIS kids, well then, our kids can tell his kids that they are terrible, too. Better yet, maybe if we teach our kids to shoot, they can go shoot his kids, because isn't that fair enough?  He shot Cecil.  He shot the George Clooney of lions.  Cecil was ours and he shot him and an eye-for-an-eye, a tooth-for-a-tooth is not how it works here (or in Zimbabwe for that matter) but it's how it works on Social Media, isn't it?  We're really mad!  Don't forget.  Can someone grab me a latte if they are going to Starbucks?  Only one more hour, I have to stay awake til the end of the day, that's the challenge of working in this office.  God, it's hot out there.   What I really mean to say is that I hope no one is going to hurt the dentist's kids to make a point because there's a lot of rightness out there that is buoying people to do terrible things and making it seem justified and I'm really trying to say that it is not.  It isn't.  It really isn't.  Think about collateral damage.  You are better than this.  Isn't that the point, how good you are and me?  


OK, so now that rich, white, American dude who has been shooting since he was six and who fears his mother never really loved him and actually that's because he isn't very lovable, what with the shooting he does of everything that matters, well, he's found the Cape Buffalo.  He's found one.  He's found a lot.  Well, his guides have.  He couldn't even find his hotel in the rental car.  He should have taken a cab.  Africa.  Man, it's hard to figure out.  Anyway, it's worth it, even the fact that the airline lost his luggage and he didn't get upgraded to first class.  He crouches on the ground with a whole army of guards around him, protecting him from elephants and rhinos and lions and leopards which are all animals who would probably like to kill him because he's a terrible person, the worst, awful, quite a bit like a lot of other humans who like to shoot animals in Africa for a lot of money.   Now he takes aim and now he fires and the sky is shattered all around him while that bullet reverberates and I write this post and the sky falls down in flakes, big and blue and impossibly shiny and alive and the Cape Buffalo falls to its knees and I take a sip of my latte which has too much milk and not enough coffee and I write this thing about how awful this man is and his gun and the animals dying all over the African subcontinent and money changing hands, so much money, and what I wouldn't do for that money.  Well, I wouldn't kill an animal, but that's just me.  I wouldn't.   Actually, I think you shouldn't either.  I think you're terrible.  You're a bad person.   If you do that, I mean.  If you'd even think of it.   And typing that makes me feel better and more powerful all the time because I know that I'm right and the person with the gun is wrong and my rightness makes me shine, a veritable star in the sky, shining down on this mess down here, replete with guns and money and animals in pain who still don't know what actually happened, how it all ended like this.