The Lion Sleeps Tonight
By Dale Ahlquist
Planned Parenthood has been caught selling baby parts and the headlines and talk show hosts are screaming with outrage. But not about that. About a guy who shot a lion in Zimbabwe.
It turns out that the guy who shot the lion is a dentist. His office is just down the road from my home in the otherwise uneventful suburb of Bloomington, Minnesota. He is now a marked man, a wanted criminal. His business is in shambles, his patients all scattered to other dental clinics across the Twin Cities.
Okay, it’s true that we all like to see dentists suffer, and that is perhaps the latent motive behind the worldwide blitz against this tooth-puller who paid $50,000 to some African guides for the privilege of bow-hunting the king of beasts. Open wider, please. This is going to hurt.
But then there’s that whole thing about hunting. Lots of people don’t like hunting for various reasons. I admit I don’t like hunting. But it’s not a matter of principle, it’s a matter of pleasure. Or lack of it. I tend to agree with Dr. Samuel Johnson who said that God gave us so few pleasures, it’s strange that hunting should be one of them. However, I understand that going back across the centuries, there is a tradition well-honored that involves the thrill of the chase, the bagging of the prize, the meat, the mount, the glassy-eyed memory of man versus beast. One of our most popular presidents, Theodore Roosevelt, posed proudly with the big game he shot in Africa. It contributed to his fearless and rugged image, a man with a zest for adventure. Nobody complained.
Though hunting is still very popular, fueling a huge industry devoted to the pastime, hunters themselves are a strangely marginalized lot, dismissed as unsophisticated rednecks and regarded not nearly as well as the animals they track down. They can be tolerated if they are going after crocodiles or monster carp or wild hogs, and other lower life-forms like themselves, in which case they are part of a freak show, but when they don costly gear and hire outfitters, they have entered the realm of Lex Luthor. They are bad guys of comic book proportions, making war on our precious planet.
But even if we grant that paying a lot of money to shoot an exotic animal that had been lured out of its protected area was wrong, that it violated a well-defined law or a well-defined ethical boundary, even if we grant that it may not have been done in good faith but with a certain selfish coldness, there is still the larger question: why is the outrage over the act so out of proportion with that over the abortion industry selling baby parts? But here is an even better question: what is the connection between the lack of uproar over abortion and the over-the-top uproar over lion-killing?
There is a connection. A few good quotations from G.K. Chesterton will explain it.
First, Chesterton says that if there is one thing worse than the modern weakening of major morals, it is the modern strengthening of minor morals. This explains why abortion is legal, but smoking a cigar in a public park is illegal. This explains why the modern world is more upset about the killing of one lion than the slaughter of millions of babies. It explains why their veins pop from their necks that a game hunter would stalk a wild animal in order to stuff it as a trophy, but they ignore the systematic dismemberment of live babies extracted from their mother’s wombs so as to save the best parts for resale. It is something of an understatement to say that their major morals are weak and their minor morals are strong, but that is still the essence of it.
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